Do We Adapt To Our Environments Today?

Julian Steward believed that humans shape their lives, as well as their culture, around what their environment provides them.  I believe, that in present day, that is absolutely true.  Since the industrial revolution began, we began living unsustainably.  We take far more from our Earth than the Earth can regenerate.  We are stripping our planet of it’s natural resources and polluting it with toxic fumes as well as toxic waste.  Our groundwater is polluted, leaving the runoff to enter our oceans, further destroying their ecosystem.  We have slowly destroyed everything we lay our hands on.  However, in this time of destruction and pollution, people are trying to implement new ideas to work with their environment; well, what’s left of their environment.  We are changing the ways we live, because our environment is taking a turn for the worst.

Arizona is a state that is extremely hot and doesn’t get a lot of rain.  Due to the increasing temperatures throughout the year due to climate change, Arizona See the source imageis facing even higher temperatures and an increase in the lack of rain.  This lack of rain calls for residential water restrictions.  Therefore, many residents have converted their yards in a way that compensates for both heat and the lack of rain.  This conversion is known as xeriscaping.  Xeriscaping is a form of landscaping where extra irrigation is not needed.  The plants are native to their ecosystem and are adapted to the hot, dry conditions.  This adaptation saves water and money.

Another adaption technique humankind has invented due to an increase in temperatures is as simple as a white road.  Asphalt get extremely hot in the summer.  Cities, such as Los Angeles, California,  have been experiencing increasing temperatures because of the amount of dark roadways and congested areas.  Therefore, they have begun to paint their road ways white to cut down on urban warming.  Just making the roads white alone provided drastic results.  Some places noticed differences as high as about thirty degrees.  This just goes to show that we are coming up with ways to adapt to our environment.

One last example I’m going to share, is something I personally use everyday.   With the growing plastic problem in our world today, it is important to cut down on your amount of plastic waste.  A compaSee the source imageny called Lush Cosmetics has created a shampoo, conditioner, lotion as well as other items that don’t require a plastic bottle.  I constantly found myself throwing bottle after bottle of shampoo and conSee the source imageditioner away.  Then I found that I could buy this item that didn’t require a bottle and it worked just as well.  They contain all natural, vegan ingredients that you can pronounce (ones that don’t cause cancer, like you find in a lot ofSee the source image products today).  They also don’t test on animals, which is nice because I do not enjoy animal suffering and tears in my products….Some of the options even allow you to cut off the size piece you want as if it’s a piece of food.  The price will then depend upon the weight.  They also provide an option that does have a bottle as well, however, you return the bottles to the store and they reuse them.  So there’s no need to discard the bottles.  Companies are even promoting products that are adapting to our changing environments.

Julian Steward made an interesting point that people’s environments shape the ways they form their ways of life and their culture.  I feel, that today this is absolutely true.  Our environment has taken a turn for the worst.  We are trying to find ways to lessen our footprint as well as adapt and mend our environment.



The Nuer, the Kula Ring, and Modern Day Society

Both the Nuer culture and the culture of the Kula Ring have a different view from Western culture of what life should be like. However, structural functionalism would argue that the individuals in every society, works together to function as a larger, more connected society. Each social institution has it’s own important function in that society. For example, religion provides individuals with guidance, families provide individuals with nurturing figures and understanding the means of reproduction, and politics provide individuals with order and governing. Radcliffe-Brown would even argue that everyone in society is interchangeable and easily replaceable. Roles can be learned and created within a social level. People can be taught the ways of society and learn the roles that need to be attained in order to function as a whole society. This is something all cultures can share. Aside from the theory of structural functionalism, Western culture revolves around money and material goods. The more money owned the better. In our lives, the majority of us, are too focused on making enough money to support ourselves, making enough money to purchase unnecessary material goods, and making enough money to brag about having money. Money in the Western society rules everyone’s lives. If you don’t have money in Western society, you are singled out and kicked to the curb. You are looked down upon and you aren’t able to experience the beauty in life because you are unable to afford to do so. Without money in the Western society, you will more than likely not be able to survive. With money follows greed. A lot of people in the Western society like to accumulate their goods and keep their goods to themselves. The Western culture isn’t usually the generous, sharing type. Of course, not all people in our society are like this. However, it seems to be the majority who are. Greed is a reoccurring theme in our society. Returning to structural functionalism, Radcliffe-Brown could argue that greed is passed down through our society through learned behaviors. If your parents are greedy, you may, unknowingly obtain their greedy impulses. The Nuer people and the culture of the Kula Ring throws our Western society for a loop.

Money is to the Western society as cattle it to the Nuer. The Nuer people live their lives off of trade. Money does not exist in the Nuer culture. The Nuer people worship their cattle as if the cattle were money. Cattle is at the center of their society, just like money is at the center of ours. However, the Nuer people aren’t a greedy bunch. They take the things they need and they don’t take more. They take excellent care of their cattle along with their families and never second guess themselves. They have been living this way since the beginning of time. They have a tight knit culture with moral values and sustainable practices. Not only can the Nuer people survive without an accumulation of goods and money, the culture of the Kula Ring can survive too.

The Kula Ring is also a trade system. One specific good goes in one direction around the ring and another specific good gets transported in the opposite direction around the ring. This is also comparable to the cattle in the Nuer culture. In their culture, sharing is everything. Even if one individual only has twenty dollars, and someone asks for twenty dollars, that individual would happily give them their only twenty dollars. In that society, it can be everything to have nothing. The more giving an individual gives, the happier and better life that individual lives. Their society is not about money and power, it is about giving and living the best lives you can live. Our Western society can learn a lot from these two cultures. I know I have.


Nuer Society VS Modern-day Industrial Society and the Environment

Within the novel by E.E. Evans-Pritchard, The Nuer, a culture exists that will astonish any modern-day, industrialized citizen.  However, as an ENVS student, reading about the life of the Nuer people makes me extremely excited and interested to further educate myself about their culture.

The Nuer people live off of their land and they work with their land.  They take only what they need, never more.  They are proud people who value their community and their family.  The Nuer men are exceptionally protective of their cattle and they care greatly for them.  The cattle is at the base of the Nuer culture.  Their ways of life along with their diets rely on these cattle.  They also have an organized way of life; the men know their duties, as do the women.  This can softly relate to Durkheim and his take on the division of labor.  Durkheim believes that order is maintained when the people in a culture or society know their place or job, and have a collective conscious.  People who think collectively as a group and share the same interests, will become more successful as well as content. Also, there is little to no confrontation in their society. Only when there is a cattle or land dispute with opposing tribes, blood may be shed.  This is completely different from modern-day, industrialized society.

Today, our modern, industrialized society is destroying our land.  Unlike the Nuer, we don’t work with our land, we manipulate it.  Constantly using pesticides, insecticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, etc.  We make animals reproduce at unnatural rates only to pump them full of antibiotics and then send them to slaughter at less than a third of their lifespan.  Even our runoff is toxic, it is causing our water to be filled with nitrates, arsenic, lead, phosphorous, mercury, and even antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals. People are becoming deathly ill and are having neurological problems just from drinking their tap water.  Also, the majority of people in the modern-day industrialized society are extremely unhappy.  They work themselves to the bone, never see their families, and then at the end of the day, they don’t even make enough money to make a decent living. Durkheim even touches on the fact that the division of labor in an industrialized society expresses inequality and therefore,  people are miserable.  I have only touched on a minuscule amount of problems we are facing in our industrialized environment.    The Nuer people do not seem to experience any these problems.

Our modern-day society can learn quite a lot from the Nuer people and their culture. They may have some extremes that are taboo in our society today (like putting a hole in their cattle’s neck to drain some of the blood, stitch the hole, and then later consume the coagulated blood), but they sure know how to sustain the land they are living off of.  We are too focused on producing more and more stuff to make more and more money.  We live too fast and do not take the time to value the environment surrounding us.  We do not value family, community, and life like the Nuer people do.  If we, as a modern-day society, learned to live off our land, and take only what we need, then we wouldn’t be facing the atrocities we are today.


The Nuer. Pritchard, Evans, E.E. First Published in 1940