The Mail

Who Defines Tradition?

Louis Menand, in his overview of Charles King’s e-book concerning the progress of cultural anthropology, explores why folks “not solicit the knowledge of anthropologists” (Books, August 26th). His reply is that there was a “swing again towards biology” to elucidate cultural phenomena. As an anthropologist, I see it otherwise. The defining shift was not from tradition to biology however from science to literature. Anthropologists determined that their discipline was not a science, and that it shouldn’t make scientific claims. A technology of self-styled postmodern anthropologists, fearing that categorizing human teams was inherently oppressive, insisted that anthropology turn out to be a type of literary criticism. (See particularly George E. Marcus and Michael M.J. Fischer’s influential e-book, “Anthropology as Cultural Critique,” from 1986.) One consequence was the fragmentation of the sphere, which in flip diminished the authority of anthropologists to drive coherent public debate about tradition.

Will Reese

Portland, Ore.

California Burning

I used to be happy to examine forest fires from the attitude of neither the lumber trade nor conventional environmentalists (“Trailblazers,” August 26th). However Nicola Twilley’s article oversimplifies the related science: there is no such thing as a consensus on how extensively we should always skinny forests or use managed burns to forestall megafires. Furthermore, it’s questionable whether or not the aim of creating each California forest seem like “a calmly wooded park” that “must be tended like a backyard” is cheap, and even fascinating. As a substitute of pursuing these unsure goals, we should always spend money on a surer answer: burying energy strains, which have been the principle offender in lots of current California fires.

Lucille Lang Day

Oakland, Calif.

I stay 100 miles by automotive—fifty by way of the trail of a wind-driven fireplace—from the Sagehen Creek Subject Station, the place the Forest Service is implementing prescribed burns. Our seventy-year-old small farm was inside spitting distance of the King megafire just a few years in the past. Everybody right here lives half the 12 months with luggage packed, vehicles gassed up, and animals prepared for roundup. I’m always shocked on the lack of sense on each the federal and the state stage in relation to addressing the fires. Limiting managed burns as a result of the smoke violates air-quality requirements is absurd. The King fireplace crammed the air with thick smoke for weeks; you would hardly breathe.

Sallie Reynolds

Backyard Valley, Calif.

The Finest Intentions

Andrew Marantz describes Huge Tech wizards soaking away their guilt in sizzling tubs at Esalen whereas brainstorming options to the issues of connectivity habit (“Hassle in Paradise,” August 26th). Their feel-good meditations recall to mind Werner Erhard’s Starvation Challenge, a company based, within the late nineteen-seventies, ostensibly to finish world starvation. On the time, the Starvation Challenge focussed on elevating consciousness about the issue, relatively than on giving meals to hungry folks. Marantz writes that “somebody” should assist the Huge Tech titans convert their feelings relating to the best way that expertise is affecting the world into “accountable actions” to enhance it. However nobody can information Silicon Valley leaders; they have to be motivated by an inside sense of what their innovations are taking away from us all—the desire and the thoughts.

Kathe Jordan

Berkeley, Calif.

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