A group conducting a new study on natural (climate-related) hazards and cultural transformations was awarded a grant of nearly $1 million by the National Science Foundation Interdisciplinary Behavioral and Social Sciences Research program. Among the co-principal investigators for the four-year project is Dr. Eric C. Jones, anthropologist and assistant professor in the division of epidemiology, human genetics, and environmental sciences at The University of Texas School of Public Health El Paso Regional Campus. The School of Public Health is part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
The study will examine the consequences of extreme climate events such as droughts and floods. The consequences could include famine, displacement, and increased violence. Climate scientists already predict faster global warming, which could contribute to these events. Investigators will try to understand how societies have responded to and created solutions for these conditions with the idea that previous societies that have survived have had resilient solutions. The research will be conducted worldwide on over 100 societies using secondary data including present-day countries, traditional societies of the recent past, and ancient societies.
The research questions include broad topics such as: How often do events have to occur for humans to plan for them? Do unpredictable hazards lead to different cultural transformations than do more predictable hazards? Under what conditions are contingency plans overwhelmed in the face of natural hazards that are more severe or more frequent than normal?
This interdisciplinary research project will employ theories and data from a broad range of fields, including cultural anthropology, archaeology, psychology, geography, and climatology, in order to compare and contrast a diverse set of populations subject to different levels of frequency and predictability of natural hazards, with special attention given to hazards that have impacted food supplies.
Principal investigators for the study are Dr. Carol R. Ember, president of Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) at Yale University, Dr. Benjamin Felzer, assistant professor at Lehigh University, Dr. Michele J. Gelfand, professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, Dr. Eric C. Jones, and Dr. Peter N. Peregrine, professor of anthropology at Lawrence University. The senior personnel are Dr. Teferi Abate Adem, research anthropologist at HRAF, and Dr. Ian Skoggard, research anthropologist at HRAF.
Read the full abstract here: http://nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1416651&HistoricalAwards=false