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Lecture explores challenges facing indigenous peoples of east Africa

Expanding human populations, land misuse, terrorist threats and changing weather patterns due to global warming are threatening the livelihood of the indigenous people living in the Chalbi Desert region of northwestern Kenya, according to anthropologist David Wright, Ph.D., from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Wright will speak about the high stakes of developing a sustainable economy amidst ecological and political clashes at Indiana University Northwest on Friday, Jan. 28 from 5 – 7 p.m. in the Library Conference Center. The IU Northwest Anthroplogy Club will serve pizza and pop following the lecture.

This talk, which welcomes the public, will outline the paleoenvironmental and historical backdrop for drought in the Chalbi Desert basin. Recent results of new research into landform desiccation events will be presented coupled with an anthropological analysis of past and present lifeways in this area. The use of a multidisciplinary research methodology to understand and alleviate social crises will be discussed and members of the audience are encouraged to participate in a discussion addressing to what role projects of this nature are to assume in directing public policy initiatives and donor community funds.

Wright said that his goal is "To make anthropological studies accessible and meaningful to the lay-community and to be able to connect the past with the present so that modern policy makers do not forget historical lessons of human actions and their consequences."

New research in the Chalbi Desert of northwestern Kenya brings to light the ramifications of accelerating environmental mismanagement on both a local and global scale. Anthropological and geomorphological studies of land use practices in the region are beginning to show that human settlements, largely facilitated by mission-based philanthropy projects, have outstripped their ecological capacities.

Furthermore, the impacts of greenhouse-gas induced global warming are now directly impacting rainfall regimes throughout the northern equatorial zones in Africa. The threat of desertification in this region has set the stage for an environmental and demographic catastrophe, the precedent for which was witnessed during the great drought and famine that devastated the region in the 1970s. However, the identification of this region as a potential flash point for cross-border clashes and recruitment area of international terrorist organizations make the stakes of maintaining stability and developing a sustainable economy higher than they have ever been.

Wright earned his doctorate from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His dissertation research focused on the interface of humans and climate during the middle to late Holocene in Tsavo National Park, Kenya. He was the recipient of a Fulbright International Institute for Education fellowship in 2000-2001 and a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant in 2003-2004. Wright’s research interests include environmental anthropology with a focus on human/climate interactions, applied anthropological techniques for directing third world development projects and mitigating resource-based conflicts, climate change and paleoenvironmental reconstruction based on isotopic and sedimentary proxy analysis.

For more information, please contact the IU Northwest Department of Anthropology at (219) 980-6607.



Media Contact:

Kim Kintz
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