Linking consumption and poverty

Anders Burman opposes simple explanations, such as environmental degradation being a result of
“the locals” ignorance, their poverty and lack of “development”.  Even within the field of environmental management he believes it is easy to draw quick cause and effect conclusions.
- I like to get my students to question our own way of living and to realize how we, through our patterns of consumption, actually cause environmental degradation and poverty for people in other parts of the world. I want to highlight how this is part of a global system where the “development” and the environmental benefits a small part of the population enjoys in fact are far from independent of the poverty and environmental degradation other people are forced to live in. Our field trip to the e-waste dump in Accra illustrated this relationship quite clearly, particularly as we found a Swedish cleaning appliance amongst the electronic waste. How did it end up in Accra? Why? Whom does it benefit?

The social anthropologist is born and raised in Sweden, but ever since his first visit to the Bolivian Andes in 1996 he has spent as much of his time there as in his home country. Even if he sees Bolivia and Ghana as two very different countries, he sees many challenges they both share. 
- Both countries have a history as suppressed and exploited European colonies. And it is interesting to see how many of the environmental, social, economic and political problems both countries struggle with today can be traced back to how they were violently incorporated as extractive colonies. Political ecology offers an interesting perspective to study this type of countries, and discover that what can appear to be local problems in facts stems from conditions that are far from local. And when it comes to further similarities between the two countries, I can add that my Bolivian wife loved strolling the markets in Cape Coast, there she felt at home!

Burman has his doctorate from University of Gothenburg and has held a postdoctoral position at the Department of Ethnic Studies at Berkeley, University of California. His publications span from studies of activism, “traditional” knowledge and gender politics to de-colonization and production of knowledge. He currently holds a position as Associate Senior Lecturer at the Human Ecology Division at Lund University.

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