The High Plains Society
Applied Anthropology

Building a Sustainable Enterprise: Engaging Debates and Debating Engagement

P.J. Puntenney

A vital dialogue is occurring addressing anthropology’s place in and interface with society at large. It has become evident that anthropology is at the transduction point between our knowledge of local systems and landscapes on one level, and that of a worldwide network of information, ideology, and justice on the other. Paradoxically, the human sciences are just beginning to understand the multidimensionality of the social dimensions of global environmental issues in terms of constantly changing interpretations of reality, cultural hybrids, identities, and the linking of knowledge with action. A new model for governance is emerging as a complementary principle to sustainability where the focus is on building civil society’s capacity to negotiate diversity. Kofi Annan wrote in the U.N. Millennium Report that the three greatest challenges facing the international community are “freedom from want, freedom from fear, and the freedom of future generations to sustain their lives on this planet.” Identifying where anthropologists can make a difference will depend in large part upon our capacity to unequivocally engage in leadership roles in the major policy arenas. To negotiate tangible options, as anthropologists we must challenge embedded assumptions by asking tough questions about what our own ecological and social footprint as a profession and as a discipline is. Are we creating genuine value for society or appropriating value from it? Do we want to take on the responsibilities of shaping our nation’s policies on sustainability? What is our response to Kofi Annan’s invitation to the sciences to work with the U.N. in achieving the Millennium Development Goals over this century?

High Plains Applied Anthropologist No. 2, Vol. 23, Fall, 2003 pp 182 – 195

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