8 Sustainability as a Relative Process: A Long-Term Perspective on Sustainability in the Northern Basin of Mexico

John K. Millhauser, Christopher T. Morehart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The notion of “sustainable development” has drawn attention to the precarious balance between populations and natural resources in terms of current and future needs. Approaches to the study of sustainability that focus on socio-ecological systems may obscure the fact that what is sustainable at a broad scale may not be optimal for an entire population. Political ecology offers a complementary lens to investigate how relationships between humans and their environments unfold within historically situated structures of power. Archaeology provides a means to extend the historical gaze of political ecology to account for long-term patterns of sustainability at multiple scales. This paper applies an archaeological approach to the historical political ecology of the northern Basin of Mexico. Specifically, it focuses on the people who settled in the wetland environment of Lake Xaltocan and their dynamic relationships with each other, land, and water over the last 2500 years. Over this time, local actors have adjusted to a variety of external constraints, from ecological change to political upheaval. A long-term perspective reveals how politically-situated actions transformed Lake Xaltocan physically and conceptually and how the sustainability of local regimes was unevenly determined by access to power rather than the husbanding of resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-156
Number of pages23
JournalArcheological Papers of the American Anthropological Association
Volume29
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

Keywords

  • Archaeology
  • Mexico
  • Political Ecology
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

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