Message #186:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Does The Classical Stereotype Hold?
Date: Thu, 15 May 1997 22:56:52 -0700


From:  Brian Kenny 

An interesting story on NPR today discussed the differences between
ecologists and economists.  Eco is the Greek word for house or home.  An
ecologist is a person who studies the home planet (earth), while an
economist studies the value and the management of the home culture and
its productive output.  These two groups rarely get along. 

The archtypal charactertistics of these two groups are widely known or
imagined.  It seems that both groups tend to divorce man from nature. In
the case of the pure ecologist, Homo Sapiens might be a part of nature
-- but more often than not -- she or he is a cancer or blight upon
natural order.  The natural order is pure and moral, and must be
preserved at all costs whether it be benign, neutral or red in tooth and
claw.  Man must not interfere with nature.  In the case of the pure
economist, nature is unimportant but nature's products and productivity
can be characterized as divisble units which can be valued, ranked and
compared with human activities and measurable productivity.

It is obvious how these two groups can be at complete odds.  Recently,
however, several individuals have atempted to merge the two fields.  The
hybrid studies man and nature and places a value and rank upon their
existence and service.  Some say that the value of the environment might
be infinite because without it man would cease to exist.  The hybrid
looks at the value of the environment in terms of the goods and services
produced -- How much would it cost to achieve the clean condition
created by a wetland if the restorative work had to be performed by
human effort?  What is the value of a tidal basin?  How much oxygen does
a forest produce?  

I believe the NPR story reported that the hybrid valued the environment
as worth 335 (?) trillion dollars of good and services per year; oceans
and estuaries represent the highest volume and highest value-producing
components of the ecosystem while terrestrial components (wetlands,
forests, rangelands, etc) rank much lower.  The story noted that human
goods and services are worth 327( ?) trillion dollars per year. [  I
hope I got those dollar figures correct ].

I paid close attention to the story because of my on-going international
management interests in the environment and the ecology of the planet,
especially as environment and ecology might persist or not persist in
relation to large-scale development projects (dams, roads, bridges,
wetlands cut and fill activities, creation of cities and clusters of
human habitation, etc) and vis a vis human consumption and activity. 

I look around the undeveloped Sonoran Desert and laugh when someone
tells me that it is pristine -- introduced species and fire histories
abound and can be read across the hillslopes; some stands of forests
look healthy, but timber density is high and few large old yellow
ponerosa pine remain since the time cattle were introduced into the
forests for grazing.  We have directly changed both the urban and the
developed areas; we also have changed the undeveloped desert and forest
and probably none of it is pristine -- it changes all the time.  Given
constant environmental change and human interaction with our natural and
cultural environments, it would be interesting to take the hybrid
approach and seek a methodology that measures a continuum rather than a
static snaphot of the vitality and health and the goods and services
produced by environment and man.  But, I am not sure how such a study
methodology would be organized at this point in time.

As a final note, I wonder if ( in the classical juxtaposition ) the
analogy would hold true that archaeologist is to cultural resource
manager as ecologist is to economist?  I ask this because I saw a local
television news report a few days ago that pitted local well-known
avocational archaeologists against the development of private property. 
The developer can destroy the archaeological site, but has hired an
archaeological monitor in the case human remain are encountered.  The
avocationals live and walk near the property on a daily basis and decry
the fact that someone would dare deprive them of no-cost open space
within which to walk, and, archaeological sites.  The avocationals would
not value the sites (infinitely priceless ?) while the CRM manager and
the developer have agreed on the price and value of orderly change from
one state of condition to the next.

It seems to me that appropriate preservation will take place only when
we can make compelling arguements for properly valuing the productivity
and health achieved by digging some sites for redevelopment, some for
educational venue, while leaving others as recreational open space, and
yet others as the undiscovered potential that establishes the ethos and
mental template defining our national reserve of cultural patrimony