Endangered Peoples of Southeast and East Asia: Struggles to Survive and Thrive

Endangered Peoples of Southeast and East Asia: Struggles to Survive and Thrive

Endangered Peoples of Southeast and East Asia: Struggles to Survive and Thrive

Endangered Peoples of Southeast and East Asia: Struggles to Survive and Thrive

Synopsis

The tremendous cultural diversity and distinct ways of life of many Southeast and East Asian peoples are in serious jeopardy today because of varying combinations of economic, political, and environmental threats, often linked to severe human rights violations. Endangered Peoples of Southeast and East Asia introduces 14 endangered cultures, from the Kubu of Central Sumatra in Indonesia, to the Ainu of Japan. The most pressing issues of these marginalized groups--such as the impact of tourism, prohibition against whaling, or dislocation due to nuclear testing--are brought to light by anthropologists based on their own extensive field work. The cultural and historical information provided here is not available in any other printed source.

Excerpt

Barbara Rose Johnston

Two hundred thousand years ago our human ancestors gathered plants and hunted animals in the forests and savannas of Africa. By forty thousand years ago, Homo sapiens sapiens had developed ways to survive and thrive in every major ecosystem on this planet. Unlike other creatures, whose response to harsh or varied conditions prompted biological change, humans generally relied upon their ingenuity to survive. They fashioned clothing from skins and plant fiber rather than growing thick coats of protective hair. They created innovative ways to live and communicate and thus passed knowledge down to their children. This knowledge, by ten thousand years ago, included the means to cultivate and store food. the ability to provide for lean times allowed humans to settle in larger numbers in villages, towns, and cities where their ideas, values, ways of living, and language grew increasingly complicated and diverse.

This cultural diversity--the multitude of ways of living and communicating knowledge--gave humans an adaptive edge. Other creatures adjusted to change in their environment through biological adaptation (a process that requires thousands of life spans to generate and reproduce a mutation to the level of the population). Humans developed analytical tools to identify and assess change in their environment, to search out or devise new strategies, and to incorporate new strategies throughout their group. Sometimes these cultural adaptations worked; people transformed their way of life, and their population thrived. Other times, these changes produced further complications.

Intensive agricultural techniques, for example, often resulted in increased salts in the soil, decreased soil fertility, and declining crop yields. Food production declined, and people starved. Survivors often moved to new . . .

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