Anthropologists argue field must play a vital role in climate change studies

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Posted June 21, 2013
Mathews studies climate change effects in the forests of Oaxaca.

Mathews studies climate change effects in the forests of Oaxaca.

Anthropologists can and must play a vital role in climate change studies, a UC Santa Cruz professor and a former UCSC doctoral student argue in an influential scholarly journal. The role of anthropology in the study of climate change has long been overlooked, they write.

Andrew Mathews, associate professor of anthropology, and Jessica O’Reilly, writing in the online journal Nature Climate Change, note that the mammoth challenges posed by climate change require the collaboration of experts from both the natural and social sciences. O’Reilly received her Ph.D. from UCSC in 2008 and now is a research associate at Princeton University and teaches at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Minnesota.

Such cross-disciplinary approaches to research are a hallmark of UC Santa Cruz since it was founded 48 years ago.

“We suggest that anthropologists are particularly well placed to contribute to understanding and responding to these challenges,” Mathews and O’Reilly write along with their eight co-authors. The article, “Contribution of anthropology to the study of climate change,” stems from a workshop led by Michael Dove and Jessica Barnes of Yale University, which a year ago brought together a group of anthropologists who work on issues related to climate change.

The authors identify three ways that anthropological research can aid, enrich, and deepen contemporary understandings of climate change.

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