Ecosystem Concept in Anthropology

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30 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 9 μήνες)

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(The Ecosystems Concept In Anthropology


January 10)


Briefly, the ecosystem concept as developed by
Odum

includes:




The ecosystem is a pyramid
-
like and
integrated whole consisting of living
organisms (the
biota
) and the
surrounding physical environment s
uch as
the sun, water, wind, climate, and
topography (the
abiota
)




The ecosystem is a whole greater than
the sum of its parts; every thing is
connected to everything else. This is the
principle of
interconnection
.




The ecosystem functions according to the

laws of physical science. This includes the
first law of thermodynamics
, which
states that the amount of energy in the
universe is constant and you cannot either
create or destroy energy.




It also includes the more important
second law of thermodynamics
,

which
is the idea of
entropy
: the use or
consumption of energy transforms energy
into waste, or energy that cannot be used
by life.




Natural ecosystems seek dynamic
equilibrium or
homeostasis
: Different
parts of components of the ecosystem are
constantly

disturbed or perturbed, but the
life forms of the ecosystem have
developed strategies that allow them to
adapt to these changes or pulses in
nature. The environment seeks balance,
order, and stability, as it becomes more
mature and complex.





This model

became known as
cybernetic
ecology

or
ecosystems ecology

and it
shaped much of the work by early
ethnoecologists like
Conklin

and
Rappaport
. It was called cybernetic
ecology because
Odum
focused on the
flow of energy in ecosystems and energy,
as per the
emerging science of
computing, could be described and
treated as bits of information.
Cybernetics also presumes that nature
has self
-
regulating feedback loops that
maintain a more or less stable state of
equilibrium and order.


Roy A. Rapapport

developed

among the
first applications of ecosystem theory to the
study of anthropology. He did so by:




Conducting case studies in New
Guinea by developing measurements
that gave him data on the flow of
energy and materials in the local
ecosystem.




Like the
self
-
r
egulating

and
enclosed

ecosystems in Odum’s
model of nature, Rappaport describe
the culturally constructed ecosystem
as self
-
regulating and self
-
enclosed.




The Tsembaga culture Rappaport
studied used a ritual festival called
kaiko
to regulate the populat
ion of
pigs in the ecosystem so as to avoid
ecological breakdown. The kaiko was
like a self
-
regulating feedback loop.




Also, the Tsembaga did this even if it
was not the most efficient use of
calories and energy. The rituals
helped to maintain, regulate,

and
control the relationships between the
different local groups in another
example of a self
-
regulating feedback
loop.




All these cultural and ritual practices,
Rappaport argued, had material
effects on the environment: The
Tsembaga regulated the pig
pop
ulations, frequency of war, and
ratio of people to land through these
practices. This was yet another
example of how a cultural system
followed the rules and logic of a
natural ecosystem