Free «Critique of Journal Article: Anthropology and Environmental Policy: What Counts?» Essay Sample


Environmentalists are catalysts of cultural and social changes; they strive to make people alter their understanding and beliefs concerning their relationships with the environment (Milton, 2002). According to Milton, anthropologists contribute by the analysis of environmentalism itself. Therefore, their role in the development of environmental policy is rather crucial. However, according to some researchers, over the past few years, anthropologists have heavily depended on the qualitative analysis of environmental data and neglected quantitative data (Charnley & Durham, 2010). This paper analyzes and criticizes an article by Charnley & Durham (2010): “Anthropology and Environmental Policy: What Counts?” Charnley and Durham (2010) argue that fact (qualitative environmental data in this case) oriented research fetches more attention from policy-makers than any subjective kind of research. Despite a few notable weaknesses of the article, its value for improving the research quality of environmental anthropologists, who want to influence the environmental policy, is undeniably great.

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Summary or the Article

The central purpose of the article is to analyze the role of enhanced quantitative and environmental analysis in influencing the change in environmental policy for environmental anthropologists (Charnley & Durham, 2010).

The analysis of literature was done in two parts; first, the analysis of monographs over a period of 40 years (between 1967 and 2006) was performed. The monographs were chosen since they provided an important measure for the analysis of the trend. Secondly, the study of two sets of articles was made; one was from the same authors of the monographs and the other from different groups of anthropologists (Charnley & Durham, 2010).

In the analysis of monographs, the article asserts that, between 1967 and the mid-1980’s, environmental anthropologists paid minimum attention to policy. However, the trend changed in the period between 2002 and 2006. For 1967-1981, Tamhane’s T2 test showed a high increased in the amount of quantitative data. From 1981 through the mid-1990’s, the average use of quantitative data settled to a rough estimate of 10 data tables and figures per 100 pages. Then, it has been steadily declining since 1996, with 2002 – 2006 recording the lowest use of quantitative data (Charnley & Durham, 2010).

In the analysis of articles by monograph authors, the same trend of data as in the monograph was noted. There was an increase in the number of articles containing environmental data between 1967 and 1991. Then, the line graph was flattening until 1996 where the use of quantitative data by the same authors started to decline. Charnley and Durham (2010) employ Chibnik’s method in the article analysis for works published by human organizations between 1987 and 2006 on the environmental anthropology. They realize that the use of quantitative and ecological data had been steadily declining over time, except between 1992 and 1996. In that period, there was a steady increase, which the article associates with the use of maps and satellite imagery (Charnley & Durham, 2010).

The results reported in the analysis supported three hypotheses. The first hypothesis suggested increased interest in the environmental policy by environmental anthropologists. The second one asserted that the use of environmental and quantitative data in publications by environmental anthropologists had declined. The third one assumed that the decline could not be related to the collaboration with scholars who provided the data (Charnley & Durham, 2010). It showed that in fact, the use of quantitative and environmental data by anthropologists in the environmental policy has been minimal for the recent time.

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Charnley and Durham assess how a policy by the World Bank was shaped by the presentation of data in the Polonoroeste Project in the Brazilian Amazon (Charnley & Durham, 2010). This information is meant to provide readers with an understanding of the relevance of the use of quantitative and environmental data in the environmental policy. The case study employs two methods; one is the analysis of the selected literature available on the Polonoroeste project; second, the analyses of the LexisNexis Congressional Hearing “Environmental Impact of Multilateral Development Bank-Funded Projects” and similar topics in the 1980s and 1990s.

Strengths and Weaknesses


The study focuses on three hypotheses; (1) the interest in environmental policy by environmental anthropologists has increased tremendously over the past 40 years; (2) despite this trend, the published literature shows the decline in the use of ecological and qualitative data; (3) the trend is not caused by the scholarly collaboration with specialists in other disciplines that publish environmental and qualitative data (Charnley & Durham, 2010). The organization of these hypotheses is very systematic and clear. Each hypothesis leads to another as in a stack arrangement. These three hypotheses try to explain the rather vague title of the article. The title of the article asks a question (What counts?) rather than suggests what the subject of the article is. As a rule, the title of a research paper should describe its general objective or subject (Wang & Park, 2015). However, in this case, the title gives room to explain the point of view without limitations. The statements in the introduction, just like in the hypotheses discussed above, are very well organized so that they all address the subject of the article depicted by three hypotheses. In this same introductory part, the authors describe the structure of the article. Here, they state that it is divided into two parts with the first part analyzing and proving the hypotheses and the second part demonstrating a case study with the view to showing the importance of quantitative and environmental data in the environmental anthropology as used in the environmental policy (Charnley & Durham, 2010). A similar structure is adopted in the abstract part.

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Despite the generality of the title discussed above, the introduction of Charnley and Durham’s article is very convincing and strong.


To prove the hypotheses, the authors adopted the analysis of literature (the historical analysis of data) as the main method of the data mining in order to study the trend of anthropologists adopting the policy. It entailed the parallel analysis of two different samples of published articles in the subfield of the environmental anthropology (Charnley & Durham, 2010). The monograph sample was analyzed first. This sample comprised articles written by the same authors. The use of monographs potentially limited the outcome since a specific group of authors could change or limit their use of qualitative and environmental data for various reasons. Such reasons may not be an accurate measure of the general hypothesis that environmental anthropologists have refused to use quantitative and environmental data in environmental policy. They can neither prove the adoption of policy over time by anthropologists. However, the reasons provided by the authors are convincing as to why they decided to utilize monographs from several authors. The first goal was to test whether the same patterns and trends in monographs repeated in a broad range of journals published by different environmental anthropologists. Secondly, the authors strived to assess whether the cause of any declines in the data usage was a shift in article publications by certain authors. Lastly, the researchers strived to eliminate the possibility that the observed trends were a result of changes in the policy of publishers (Charnley & Durham, 2010). For these reasons the use of monographs is then justified as it forms a point of reference in the analysis of trends in other journals authored by environmental anthropologists. Again, using all available materials would have been impractical (Charnley & Durham, 2010).

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The second sample that was analyzed comprised available environmental anthropology articles, excluding the unpublished literature. The included samples were only those published in the period between 1987 and 2006, published by the human organization and having one or more author being specialists in the field of environmental anthropology (Charnley & Durham, 2010). The authors, Charnley and Durham, considered any other sources of articles impractical. According to researchers, such a setup was designed to test the application of quantitative and environmental data in works published by environmental anthropologists effectively (Charnley & Durham, 2010). These articles were analyzed by counting the number of figures, maps, and tables, and by distinguishing those with social and environmental data, as well as those with qualitative or quantitative data (Charnley & Durham, 2010). The results were then analyzed by the date of publication and the number of articles (Charnley & Durham, 2010). This approach had a limitation since some authors might have collaborated with other environmental scientists in other fields; thus, they could reference their data rather than provide them in their publications. Therefore, the obtained results would not depict the actual picture regarding the use of quantitative and environmental data in works published by environmental anthropologists. To avoid this problem, Charnley and Durham checked for co-authors or acknowledged authors and their disciplines and assumed that if such authors were specialists in a different discipline, the work was a multidisciplinary collaboration (Charnley & Durham, 2010). However, this assumption is limited by the fact that the co-author or acknowledged author may not have presented quantitative data or environmental data in his or her contribution.

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The case study also employs two similar methods. One of these is an analysis of the relevant literature on the Polonoroeste Road project and another being the analysis of the U.S. Congressional hearings (Charnley & Durham, 2010). The two studies are intended to provide insight into the relevance of quantitative and environmental data on environmental policy, in this case, using bank funding decisions as the basis.


Results in this article are presented in the form of figures (line and bar graphs). The figures are clear and well-structured. A title highlights the main issue to be demonstrated by the figure, while descriptions provide special emphasis (Milutinovic, 1996). For example, in figure 2, Charnley and Durham (2010) explain the use of 1X, 3X, and 6X. However, the figures lack a scale illustration used in both the x and y-axis. It may be the choice of using 5-year cohorts as described in the methodology, but the scale is necessary for a self-explanatory figure. Since the article is based on trends over time, line and bar graphs were an excellent choice since they are easy to compare and interpret. Each of the X-axis in all the figures is divided into equal units of 5 years each that are well-labeled for the easy comparison not just in one figure but also between all figures presented in the results.

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Results given in the text form complement results presented in figures in this article. Unnecessary repetition of the same data shown in figures is not seen in the presentation of results in this article. Also, the authors have maintained consistency throughout the result presentation, thus avoiding any illogical incompatibility of results presented in the text and figures. The authors also take note of methods used to obtain numbers presented in texts like the ANOVA tests and the Tamhane’s T2 test. It allows readers to understand easily the presented results by understanding how the authors came up with them.

From this analysis, the result section can be considered well-articulated, strong and very convincing. The data are well presented and explained.


The discussion by Charnley and Durham (2010) relates the findings to the hypotheses posed at the beginning of the article. The findings support all the three hypotheses (Charnley & Durham, 2010). The discussion continuously refers to the results of the study to support whatever conclusion the authors come with from the analysis of findings. However, the discussion leans heavily on relating findings to the hypotheses without addressing the shortcomings of the study or even suggesting other research possibilities within the same or related areas. Nevertheless, the interpretation aligns correctly with the findings presented in the result section.

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Following the presentation of the article from the introduction to the discussion of results, it would be accurate to say that the abstract effectively summarizes the article emphasizing the most crucial information in the study. The structure and sequence of ideas in the article are also logically organized seeing that the subtopics and paragraphs are sequentially stacked. Milutinovic (1996) suggests that effective figure and caption should use English titles for universality reasons. In this case, the used language and styles are universal, simple, and clear for readers globally.


A simple search of the article on Google Scholar showed that it was cited 16 times by different authors in their books and journals. By default, it is proof that the relevance of the article is very high. All citations and references to this article analyzed during this critique agree with the finding and interpretation of the findings offered by the authors. It suggests that the contribution of this article to the human knowledge is evidently high as one can conclude from the number of citations). Structurally, the article strongly emphasizes the practicality of using qualitative and environmental data by environmental anthropologists in developing environmental policy. It argues that most policymakers are inclined to believe quantitative ecological data presented to them rather than qualitative social data (it does not undermine their relevance). It shows that the article applies to modern-day ecological anthropology. If environmental anthropologists follow the urge of these authors to embrace quantitative and environmental data in their work and presentation; environmental policy can encounter drastic global changes at the political and organization scale. Therefore, it is crucial for most anthropologists to adopt the trend.

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The significance of the study cannot be underestimated. Changing the view and belief of people on how they relate to the environment (at the individual level) requires factual basis and provable data that can be objectively replicated. It is even more so for policymakers who require such concrete data to direct them on the kind of policies to develop and provide the required budgeting. Therefore, this research is very crucial in helping anthropologists, who engage in environmental policing.

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