The High Plains Society
Applied Anthropology

Living Deliberately into the 21st Century: Messenger, Witness, and Connector

Kate H. Brown

It is not easy to live responsibly with the knowledge that our daily lives contribute to future ecological disasters and social injustices world-wide. People of good conscience ask ourselves what is the nature of our ethical responsibility and how might we best express it. The internal and external constraints to positive action are real. The potential of our impact is small and often confused by contradictory aims. Moral agency is daily strained by the experience of seemingly endless hindrances as we navigate between good intention and actual behavior. This commentary offers three humble examples from the work of applied anthropologists who have chosen to use our skills, theory, and intuitions to respond to the awareness of our interconnectedness with the future health of the planet. One, in the tradition of anthropologist as “messenger,” incorporates material about the future of the world in her teaching and public presentations. She frames factual details about a variety of emergency ecological and social problems within an anthropological perspective. Another colleague chooses a more private venue to express her concerns. Mindfully, as a participant observer, she “witnesses” with reverence the weekly death of wild animals run over by cars travelling on her seaside road. I end with a portrayal of my own role as a “connector,” describing my work with others on an urban agriculture project in the Midwest.

High Plains Applied Anthropologist No. 2, Vol. 20, Fall, 2000 pp 179 – 184

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