chapter  6
53 Pages

Culture and Ecology: The Use of Biological Concepts

ByJohn W. Bennett

This chapter offers three interrelated definitions of cultural ecology. The first was concerned with social policy: cultural ecology is that field which examines the consequences of human actions toward the physical environment for the environment and for humans, with a view toward modifying or controlling these consequences. The other two definitions concern the scientific means of accomplishing this. The first step is a brief historical review of the major theoretical positions in the line of development leading to cultural ecological studies in anthropology. There seem to be five: anthropogeography, environmental or ethnographic possibilism, Stewardian cultural ecology, cultural ecosystemicism, and adaptive dynamics. Looking at the five approaches in terms of the models of explanation, possibilism was not fundamentally different from anthropogeography in the joint use of a linear causal model. In possibilism, the "cause" of the human use of environment was culture; or, culture selects from environment to cause, or create, a cultural style based on that environment.