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The Pernicious Effects of Development

Reprinted from Fields Within Fields Winter No. 14:31–41, 1975.

G. N. Appell

If planners are to recognize and face the pernicious consequences of their development programs, then social scientists will have to provide them with more comprehensive social models that reveal the true costs of interfering with the human ecosystem.

Every act of development involves, of necessity, an act of destruction. This destruction — social, ecological, or both — is seldom accounted for in development projects, despite the fact that it may entail costs that far outweigh the benefits arising from the development. And I use the term development here to cover all those activities usually incorporated under such terms as economic, educational, and agricultural planning and development.

As I shall discuss in this article the failure to account fully for such costs arises from the use of only partial social models by the development planner. He has not been provided with the conceptual goals by which he may discover the total social and ecological costs of a project. If the development planner were provided with more adequate cost-benefit conceptual tools so that the costs of the all-too-frequent pernicious social and ecological consequences were adequately accounted for, it is my belief that some development schemes would be terminated and most revised to mitigate these unacceptable costs.

I believe the fault lies with the social scientist, if anyone, for not supplying the development planner with more adequate social models. Nor has he described what social models he does provide in a language of costs that is congruent with the level of analysis of the planner. In one sense the development planner and the social scientist are dealing with different, unconnected exchange systems, one based on money and the other based on certain limited aspects of social behavior. Therefore, before the planner can be convinced of the pernicious costs of development, the social scientist must develop more adequate models and translate them into the language of costs as used in the programs of the development planners.

Three components I wish to discuss here would contribute to a more complete social model for development planning: the ecosystem, the indigenous knowledge of the ecosystem, and the social system as a mechanism of adaptation.

Considering the total ecosystem

The first element ignored in the partial models of the development planners is the total ecosystem in which the development takes place. Every human society resides in a complex ecosystem and is linked with that ecosystem in an intricate network of exchanges. This network may be fragile or flexible. But each development act threatens the existence of this interrelationship, even if it be only the simple act of introducing new ideas in schools which destroy the indigenous perception of this interlinkage.
One aspect of ecosystem degradation, pollution, is now belatedly being recognized and methods are being developed to determine its costs. But there is still too little data on the costs of what has been called the ecological boomerang effect, which arises when a development act throws an ecosystem out of balance, and there is counteraction by forces with the ecosystem that vitiates the gains of the development project. For instance it has been pointed out that construction of the High Dam on the Upper Nile might well prove a liability rather than an asset through the increased spread of schistosomiasis. But we have no data on this in terms of the costs for its control or in terms of the resultant loss in productivity so that there is no way to determine what the real cost-benefits of the dam development project are.

There is another crucial aspect of ecological degradation stemming from development that has yet to be fully discussed in the environment of development discourse. This is the extinction of various species of flora and fauna. At present it is hard to determine the full cost to humanity produced by the loss of an animal or plant species as no one has mustered the necessary evidence. Consequently, to illustrate the costs of such extinctions I shall have to phrase the problem in terms of potentialities and contrasting values.

Each ecosystem contains a unique inventory of wild flora and fauna. Looking at the world as a single ecosystem — it has also been cogently viewed as a spaceship with limited resources — the inventory of flora and fauna that has evolved over eons of time is in serious danger of depletion. Within the past 2000 years 110 species of mammals alone have ceased to exist and in the past 200 years 600 species have declined to the point of extinction.1 My position on this is that the survival of the human race as a whole is threatened when any development project contributes to the extinction of any one species of plant or animal. This is because the extinction of any species diminishes man’s ability to adapt to future conditions in the biosphere. Let me illustrate this by some examples of new uses to which the wild flora and fauna of the world are being put.

New uses for flora and fauna

Musk ox are being domesticated in Alaska to serve as an economic basis for developing herding communities on the underpopulated tundra areas.2 It has also been pointed out that the African game animals are more productive of animal protein than the cattle replacing them and that these wild ungulates could better serve as a valuable source of protein food.3 As a final example, the manatee which is one of the world’s endangered species has been discovered to be a more efficient controller of the water hyacinth, which clogs our inland waterways, than chemical or mechanical methods.4 Unfortunately, they have been hunted almost to extinction.

Wild species of animals have another utility that highlights even more starkly their potential contribution towards helping the human race adapt to the biosphere. This is for medical research, where there is a continuing search for animal species in which human diseases and abnormalities can be induced for experimental purposes. Without monkeys, our control over poliomyelitis would not have been developed as rapidly. Cancer in hamsters has produced rewarding results for our understanding and control of human cancer. The discovery that armadillos can develop leprosy offers hope that eventually there will be a breakthrough in research on this disease5 and it has been recently reported that, after a 150-year effort by researchers, government scientists at the Center for Disease Control have successfully infected chimpanzees with gonorrhea. This development of an experimental animal model for human gonococcal urethritis is considered a major advance in dealing with this disease which is believed to exist in pandemic proportions in the U.S.A. It has also been discovered that baboon livers can be used temporarily to provide the opportunity for human livers to rest and recover in cases of hepatic coma and liver failure.6 Thus the declining primate populations throughout the world represent a serious threat to medical research.

In addition, there is the need to study models of human disease and abnormalities in animals which do not contract the human diseases but which display those impairments that closely duplicate the human illness. For instance, the fox squirrel has been found to provide an animal model for the study of congenital erythropoietic porphyria, a hereditary disease in humans.7 This field of comparative medicine is so underdeveloped that to deplete our resources before they have been adequately studied is indeed foolish.

The conclusion that man’s capacity to adapt is lessened by the loss of any of the world’s fauna also applies to the extinction of any species of flora. For we do not know to what uses a species may yet be put. One example of the unexpected value of flora for man’s survival is the recent discovery that certain gymnosperms have compounds that display anti-cancer activity. This discovery has led to a world-wide search for other species of gymnosperms that may have similar compounds.8
But there is perhaps a more immediate threat to man’s ability to adapt through the loss of indigenous cultivars. These cultivars have provided, and can continue to provide, a genetic pool from which new crossbred and hybrid varieties of crops are designed for resistance to new plant disease and for greater productivity. But few of these are being collected and studied to determine what contributions they might make to the development of higher yielding, more disease-resistant varieties. Few indeed are being preserved in genetic banks against the day when a new challenge appears from new disease agents.9 Yet these indigenous cultivars are being displaced and permanently lost in all parts of the world by agricultural experts who introduce the more developed, genetically refined varieties of cultivars from the more advanced countries.9, 10, 11

In summary, the flora and fauna of the less developed regions of the world are being destroyed by development projects before they have been analyzed for the contributions that they can make to human welfare. Yet they are the mechanisms on which man may have to depend at some future point in order to adapt to a changing world. I believe that one of the reasons that this problem has not been sufficiently recognized is that the ecologists, plant breeders, and medical personnel have not phrased this problem in terms of costs and potential benefits. Consequently those who ultimately decide the fate of development projects do not have the necessary tools with which to make decisions. For example, I believe that the benefits of a full use of the genetic resources of the indigenous cultivars of Southeast Asia might conservatively be put in terms of billions of dollars per year in increased agricultural production. With regard to rice alone, crossbreeding experiments with indigenous varieties have raised the yield per hectare from 1 or 1.5 tones to 6 or 8 tons.12 Yet other indigenous varieties are being rapidly lost as peoples from the interior regions move to development projects and give up their indigenous agricultural system.

In this regard, the situation in Borneo is one for particular concern. Without doubt, Borneo is one of the few remaining untouched reservoirs of germ plasm from indigenous cultivars. Yet many of these indigenous varieties are rapidly being replaced without any effort to conserve their unique genetic resources. Many of the ecotypes are being lost as a result of the movement of rural farmers to the growing urban centers. But for all of Borneo, I know of only two attempts to assess these genetic resources, and these were limited ones focusing on a narrow range or rice varieties.

Culture-specific knowledge of the ecosystem

The next component missing from the partial social models of the development planner is the inventory of knowledge on the ecosystem owned by the society being developed. I use the term “owned” specifically to indicate that it is a valuable asset. But before I discuss the part that the culture-specific knowledge of an ecosystem has to play in a more complete social model for development, let me expand my definition of the development act, for in doing so I can portray with greater definition the pernicious effects of development. A development act is any act by an individual who is not a member of a local society that devalues or displaces the perception by the members of that society of their relationship with their natural and social world. By this definition we can include in the act of development planning the local school teacher, the local doctor as well as the economic, agricultural, and education experts who work in the major centers of the developing country and who are ultimately responsible for the lower-level acts.

In addition to destroying local knowledge, such acts serve to undermine the self-esteem held by the members of the society, and this may produce pernicious stresses within that society.13

The act of education assumes that the teacher has knowledge or skills to impart to pupils who do not have, at least within the educational environment, anything equivalent to offer in exchange. However, the knowledge and skills imparted by the teacher are derived from the more sophisticated centers of the country and have little or no relevance to the local ecosystem in which the education act occurs; except in that they may encourage the pupils to accept an exploitative view of the natural world derived from the value system of the Western nations. As local knowledge is not included in the educational process, its relative status is implicitly devalued, if not explicitly in certain cases.

For example, during the field session of one anthropologist working in Borneo, a new school was built within walking distance of his field station. The pupils were told by the new teacher and the Chinese shop owners in the area where the school was located that they could not wear their native dress or carry their belongings to school in their native baskets. Instead they were told to buy shirts, shorts, and school bags from the local stores. Thus began the slow process of disarticulation of these people from their ecosystem. Their native dress, tailored both from cloth purchased at the shops and from cloth they weave themselves from their own cotton, will give way to manufactured clothing which requires a greater cash outlay. And to obtain this cash, these people must become more closely articulated to the national cash economy through taking up wage labor rather than maintaining their tradition of being small, independent farmers. As a result, their agricultural products used in clothing manufacture will no longer be raised, and the forest products formerly used to make a variety of basketry materials will be forgotten as well as the skills and knowledge needed to produce these.

Furthermore, other important skills linked with the ecosystem in which they live will also be replaced by nonfunctional but “modern” skills. For example, the school teachers for a local district fair taught the school children to do calisthenics rather than encouraging them to put on a demonstration of athletic skills that they themselves must learn either to survive in their environment or which they engage in for pleasure, such as climbing bee trees, spear throwing, felling trees, leg wrestling, and so forth.
Another example of the destruction of valuable indigenous knowledge and its replacement with inferior knowledge was provided by the actions of the head of a missionary-run agricultural school. He told one anthropologist that he was going to teach the local people to plant fruit trees, as these would provide a valuable supplement to their diet. The anthropologist, however, had to point out to the missionary that the local people, as most people in Borneo, cultivated a variety of fruit trees, and he then pointed to valuable groves of fruit trees scattered over the landscape, some of which had a history of ownership going back seven generations. Anyone who knows how to “read” the jungle can pick out from a distance these groves of fruit trees standing in the midst of the forest along the hillsides.

The anthropologist then asked this supervisor of agricultural training to identify certain grains cultivated by the local people. But he was unable to. However, because of his high status as head of the agricultural school and teacher, his vastly inferior agricultural knowledge will be transmitted to the local school children to replace that which arose from thousands of years of accumulated agricultural experience in their own ecosystem. In this manner these people will become disarticulated from their ecosystem to the detriment of themselves and mankind as a whole. For with their accumulated experience displaced by an inferior knowledge, they are less able to adapt to the challenges of their ecosystem. And with the loss of their knowledge of their ecosystem, with the replacement of their crops and fruit trees by those from outside, mankind loses another part of its inventory of knowledge and tools that was won by trial and error over many generations.

Our eroding heritage

A further striking example of the way in which local peoples become disarticulated from their ecosystem by acts of development is provided by the same missionaries who operate the agricultural school. The local people living in the vicinity of the school believe that groves of trees along river banks, in ravines, and around springs have indwelling spirits who will become angered if this forest is cut in the preparation of dry rice fields. Thus these spirits will vent their anger on those involved in such forest cuttings and cause them to become ill. The missionaries told these local people that if they became Christians, they would be protected from such spirits. Furthermore, the missionaries argued that they then could not only cultivate these virgin areas with impunity but also, by taking advantage of the rich soil, make a “lot of money” from the higher agricultural yields that would be produced.

However, the local people believe that in addition to angering these indwelling spirits, their land will become hot and dry up if they cut these groves. Thus they demonstrate that they have a greater knowledge of cause and effect in their agricultural system, congruent, it should be added, with modern concepts of agriculture, than did the missionaries who staffed the agricultural school.
The point here is that a society inhabiting a specific ecosystem must deal with that system and, in destroying the indigenous knowledge of the ecosystem, the developers are lessening the ability of the local society to adapt to it. This is illustrated nicely by the following observations of the Timugon Murut of Sabah who have now taken up rubber planting.14

The change to a cash-economy has, as usual, proved a mixed blessing. While it enables people to survive a bad rice-harvest without too much difficulty, and while it has brought such commodities as penicillin and zinc-roofing within their reach, it has also caused the disappearance of such arts as weaving of hats, mats and baskets, since all these articles are readily obtainable in the shops... Moreover, the availability of cheap tinned foods from the same source has led to the large-scale abandonment, not only of the traditional hunting and fishing activities, but also of the traditional methods of preserving emergency stocks of food (i.e., by fermenting meat or fish with rice, or by roasting and smoking pork, venison, game, etc.). The resulting unbalanced diet has produced a greater incidence of diet-deficiency diseases than formerly. More importantly, those households which are now dependent on shop-foods are often placed in considerable distress when the cash-income fails through e.g.) illness or a fall in the price of rubber.

One of the more cruel aspects of this problem is that children of societies being developed frequently are those most damaged. In addition to their loss of the psychological stabilizing effect of a coherent cultural tradition, Gokulanathan and Verghese report that the loss of traditional knowledge and techniques for dealing with chid rearing and diet results in nutritional deprivation and growth retardation in children.15 Thus development can in fact increase poverty.

The Westernized mind and the “savage”

These examples and others which I shall give shortly suggest that the inferior status conferred on the members of the simpler societies of developing countries, on the more “primitive” peoples, is in fact an artifact of the Western-educated mind. The Westernized mind, produced by all industrializing societies today, perceives these people as being inferior. As a result this makes them inferior. Teachers from the more “sophisticated” sectors of a national society, or from foreign, more developed countries, trained in a Western-model of education, drive out the local knowledge and skills. They replace this indigenous knowledge with their incomplete, Western-based knowledge and skills, which may be quite inappropriate for dealing with the conditions the indigenous people must face. As a result the local people are left in possession of inferior knowledge and skills, and actually become less able to cope and hence inferior to people from the sophisticated or Westernized sections of the society. This conclusion can be supported by another example from the activities of certain missionaries who have provided the local peoples with clothing discarded from the urban centers of the West. These garments displace the native dress and become tangible and visible symbols of the inferiority of the local peoples. This product of a distorted Christian ethic creates out of its own lack of tolerance for the customs of other peoples the very inferiority that the Westernized mind wishes to find in order to justify its own, but nevertheless inappropriate, world view.

Thus, in a very real sense the Western-educated individual needs the “savage” to support his own self-image, to demonstrate psychologically that he carries a superior culture, for only by devaluing the members of local societies can he support his questionable claims for superiority. But as I have pointed, out this world view has economic ramifications, and I am reluctantly forced to conclude that perhaps the “radical anthropologists” are right when they take the position that development is just another form of imperialism by Western nations. For development does make the indigenous peoples bound to and irreversibly dependent on the Western economic system by destroying their indigenous knowledge and abilities to adapt to their ecosystem.
But when any society loses its skills and knowledge in adapting to an ecosystem, it is not the only loser; the whole human race is. Can we be certain that the methods of adaptation discovered and invented over thousands of years of experimentation will be rediscovered, reinvented at some future point when they may have crucial importance for man’s adaptation to his biosphere? For example, Felger and Moser have recently pointed out that the seeds of eelgrass, formerly collected and eaten by the Seri Indians of Sonoro, Mexico, do in fact hold considerable potential as a human food source.16 They note that this is the first instance to their knowledge of the grain of an ocean plant being used as a human food resource and conclude that it possesses considerable ecological value as a crop plant because fresh water, artificial fertilizer, and pesticides would be unnecessary for its cultivation.

Learning from non-Western medicine

The point is that Western man never seems to have learned his lesson, and therefore he is doomed to constantly repeat it, while at the same time his teachers are rapidly becoming extinct. We frequently resist the knowledge of less advanced peoples, incorporating it informally into our own culture only centuries after it was first presented; in other instances we reject it outright only to rediscover it later by our “scientific” techniques. For example, the Indians of Montana thought that Rocky Mountain fever was caused by tick bites, but the early settlers tended to believe it was from drinking water from melted snow until 1906 when the Indian assumption was finally confirmed. Recent experimentation with biofeedback has demonstrated that the mind can indeed control what are normally considered involuntary bodily functions, yet this was claimed by Yogi centuries ago but dismissed by the Western materialist mind as ridiculous.

But in the majority of instances, Westernized man and his new industrial society destroy the indigenous books of knowledge, casting aside the potential contributions to the knowledge of all mankind as being superstitions and evidences of “primitive” mentality. We do not systematically attempt to collect this knowledge before it is lost, before the indigenous peoples lose their culture and become articulated to the modern world. (I do not mean to imply here that the Westernized mind is restricted to its classic cultural area. We are now finding a new form of colonialism, a decentralized colonialism, sometimes practiced by the Western-educated elites of Third World countries who view their less economically developed countrymen as illiterate savages with nothing to offer their country’s growth and evolution.)

We are destroying indigenous knowledge

This point is vividly illustrated in the destruction of indigenous pharmacopoeias and chemotherapeutic knowledge. As indigenous pharmacopoeias are based on native belief systems, missionaries and educators destroy knowledge of these inventories of drugs in their attempts to supplant the indigenous belief systems with Christian beliefs or “modern” beliefs, not realizing in their arrogance that the germ theory of disease causation to which they subscribe is really only a folk belief of their own native society and is now under considerable revision.

The introduction of Western medicine is also one of the major destroyers of the indigenous chemotherapeutic knowledge. The success of cures by antibiotics, but particularly the attitude of physicians to the indigenous medical belief systems, puts the native pharmacopoeia into disrepute, and it slowly erodes away. Yet before the development of synthetic products to duplicate the properties of natural drugs there were more than 200 drugs in the “United States Pharmacopoeia” that were derived from the American Indians.17, 18 The number of native discovered drugs incorporated into Western medicine is astounding, yet today we systematically destroy at each cultural frontier such indigenous knowledge. For example, I know of no ethnobotanical expedition to Borneo for the purpose of inventorying the local pharmacopoeias, and yet these are rapidly disappearing.
The value of knowledge from indigenous people about their ecosystem and its uses in medical treatment is also illustrated by the fact that psychiatric medicine has within the past two decades benefited from psychopharmacological agents originally derived from non-Western medicine systems, and I would estimate that native neuroleptics still offer one of the most important but largely untapped psychopharmacological resources.18 And finally to conclude, a further striking example of the value of this knowledge is reported by Tabrah, Kashiwagi, and Norton.19 On the suggestion of “an elderly woman of Hawaiian race who had experienced many of the native Hawaiian medical practices” a tropical sea worm was tested for antitumor activity and found to inhibit tumor growth in treated mice. According to their informant, indigenous “cancer patients had shown clinical improvement after drinking an infusion of cooked sea worm tentacles daily for several weeks.” Another native Hawaiian anticancer method involved sucking the body fluid of live sea worms through a fine bamboo tube.

The social system as an adaptive mechanism

The social system a society has constructed over thousands of years of trial and error is also a mechanism of adaptation, not only to the physical environment but also to the social environment in which the society is embedded. This system provides a mechanism by which the members can satisfy their social, psychological and biological needs. But as it is changed by development, or changed in response to outside pressures, it loses its former integration and therefore its ability to provide a satisfactory method of adaptation for its members. It begins to malfunction, and as a result its members become less able to cope at all levels — social, psychological and biological — until a new level of adaptation and integration is reached; many societies never reach this new level.

I have called the pressure that a malfunctioning social system puts on its members stress. This is the one final component that developers leave out of their planning models. For as development occurs, as the society is forced to change, stress arises in the population as it loses it past ways of coping, as its social mechanism for coping disintegrates and is no longer able to do the job. Scudder gives a striking example of what can happen. He reports that in the relocation of peoples for the Kariba Dam project there was a mortality rate in one group of 10% within 18 months of relocation.20 And mortality rates represent only part of the social costs that result from such induced stresses. However, in attempting to ascertain the true costs of development, the difficulty is that the social scientists have yet to produce a social model that can be used to monitor such stress reactions. Instead, they have given the planners conceptual tools such as culture, social organization, and so forth, and these were developed for other purposes than determining the reactions of a social system to change and assaying the total social costs.

If we conceive of a social system as a mechanism by which its members adapt to their social and physical environment, stress can be defined as dysfunctional reactions to change or the threat of it. The concept of stress at this level has the same usefulness for the organization of empirical observations as the concept of “culture” has had for cultural anthropology. By dysfunctional adaptation, I refer specifically to stressor-produced activities that are not directed toward the resolution of the threat but which require energy and resources of the society to be redirected into support and maintenance activities for the social system. This results in reducing the ability of the social system to adapt further.

Health consequences of culture change

An example is health impairment in the members of the social system as the culture changes. There has been a certain amount of research into the health consequences of culture change, with the general conclusion that an increase in health impairment can be related to sociocultural change. However, the findings of these types of investigation are not entirely consistent. One of the difficulties in most of these investigations is the use of a faulty research design, and I can only briefly outline some of these factors here as they pertain to our problem.

First of all, many investigations do not distinguish between observer-defined stress and perceived stress, which is the critical factor. Furthermore, it is not perceived stress alone that may cause health impairment, but whether or not the population at risk can deal effectively with the perceived stress. For example, Scotch has concluded that hypertension occurs primarily in those urbanized Zulu who have difficulty in adapting to the new environment and not in those who have made a successful adaptation.21 Finally, the research designs that have been used to date do not clearly establish the full impact of health impairment caused by sociocultural change because they do not include controls for all significant variables. Thus, on the one hand, certain types of stressors in sociocultural change may not directly produce health impairment but, instead, produce other types of behavioral reactions that only at a later date, and then indirectly, lead to psychological and physiological damage. Family instability produced by the stresses of sociocultural change may well be one such example.

However, the one major contribution these studies make to building a model of a social system as a mechanism of adaptation is that they clearly demonstrate that health impairment may be one form of dysfunctional adaptation.

Other types of dysfunctional, as well as functional, adaptations to change have yet to be adequately delineated. To do this, I believe it would be useful to view changes in all types of behavior in a social system as possible responses to the perceived threat of social change. Thus, the goal of this new social systems research design, which I propose, is not to determine the objective level of stress in any social system, even if this were possible, but to monitor changes in the social system as it reacts to new stressors, using the concept of concomitant change to identify possible causal sequences.22

Thus, for example, while deviant behavior is recognized as having its function in defining the boundaries of social systems and in bringing into focus dominant values, by contrast changes in amounts and types of deviant behavior are viewed in this type of research design as providing a measure of the degree of added stress that the social system is undergoing as a result of induced change.23 Under deviant behavior we include not only crimes and other antisocial acts, but also mental illness, accidents and other parapsychiatric disorders, loss of productive efficiency and effectiveness, separations from the social system, revolutions, and so forth. In this view we extend the position taken by Menninger et al. on psychological and physiological coping mechanisms24 to include the social system in which the individuals participate. Deviance behavior will thus increase in a social system undergoing change as the other coping mechanisms become inappropriate or as the structure of social relations that provide a means for stress reduction in the individual changes or deteriorates.

However, one of the major problems in accounting for the costs of development-induced stress reaction is that there is no satisfactory inventory of these even at the present state of our understanding of this problem. The best inventory to my knowledge is that provided by Menninger et al., but he ignores, as I have pointed out above, certain social reactions to stressors that mitigate the psychological and physiological effects, or organize resistance to the source of threat; such as religious innovation or the forming of associations to deal with agents of stress. In any event, these social reactions also produce costs to the social system as they include the rechanneling of energy from productive to protective and maintenance activities.

The costs of a loss of self-esteem

In situations of culture contact and change such as occur in development projects, one of the potent factors leading to nativistic movements has been the loss of self-esteem by the members of the indigenous populations. (For example, the children going to the new school in Borneo that I described earlier were told that if they used their native clothes and carrying baskets they would be laughed at by the teacher.) Kasl and French have used the concept of loss of self-esteem to explain why men who moved to low status positions increased the frequency of their visits to the dispensary while men who moved to higher status jobs showed a decrease in frequency of visits.25 And there is some evidence to suggest that loss of self-esteem may produce in certain environments irrational aggressive reactions. However the exact processes involved in the loss of self-esteem and the behavioral ramifications is urgently in need of further research. But we do know that individuals who have high self-esteem are less likely to display distress and anxiety and are better able to cope with threats when they do arise than are those with a lower self-esteem. Thus the loss of self-esteem may begin a chain reaction of dysfunctional adaptations.

The second cultural domain that I believe to be particularly susceptible to stress is that of role organization in which change may produce role conflict and ambiguity. Role conflict and ambiguity is significant in the development of psychological stress.26
The third leading reactor to stressors is the perceived aspiration-achievement gap. We know that a high aspiration-achievement gap may lead to significant psychiatric disorder as well as many other types of behavioral responses including social movements. And the development act by its very definition does increase aspirations in the target population. But the degree to which it increases such aspirations and the means which are provided in the development act for the achievement of such aspirations is in each case an empirical questions. The difficulty is that too little research has been done on this question so that the parameters and costs are not fully known.

In any event, these three behavioral domains appear to be leading indications of stress arising in the social system as it attempts to adapt to change. Therefore, I believe they bear close scrutiny in any project that involves change or any research investigation into the dynamics of change.

Summing up

The difficulty in fully accounting for the pernicious effects of development is that social scientists have not yet engaged in sufficient research either to build a full-scale model of a social system as a mechanism of adaptation or to develop methods to estimate the social costs of stress induced by change. There is no question but that a great deal of basic research needs to be done. And development planners can contribute by keeping case histories of how the societies adapt to the changes they introduce and by trying to keep an accounting of the costs that are involved from dysfunctional adaptations.

However the one point I would emphasize is that when social scientists, ecologists, and others raise their voices against development because of its unforeseen pernicious consequences, their voices would carry much more weight if they would couch their arguments in terms of costs. It is only by comparing the productivity that is created by a development project against the total of the development, social, and ecological costs — the real costs — that a sound decision can be made whether to continue as planned or not. At present, in my opinion, the social scientists and the ecologists are talking at different levels than those used by the development planners. They are dealing with different exchange systems — one where the values are expressed in terms of money and the other where they are expressed in various forms including aesthetic values, cultural values, normative values, social values, anomie, and so forth. It is only by translating these values into costs so that the exchange system of the social scientist and ecologist are compatible with that of the development planner that the point can finally be made as to the pernicious consequences of development.

In sum, development involves destruction. It is not a simple creative act as implied by its name, but it is intertwined with the destruction of ecosystems and sociocultural systems. Since development means the loss of techniques, mechanisms, and knowledge whereby man can adapt to the ever-changing world ecosystem, I raise the question as to whether mankind is not in fact becoming poorer rather than richer as the result of development. Certainly, it would be worthwhile to require that a complete scientific survey be made of any ecosystem and sociocultural system before it is destroyed or modified by development to determine what should be preserved.

What I have posed here is in one sense a philosophical problem. For the partial social models that are used for the Third World (and our modern society as well) are actually based on a highly distorted image of man. The result of this is that the “civilized” man, whether from a Western society or from the Third World but provided with a Western education, turns out to be a very arrogant, pompous bore to the rest of the world. This is because he assumes that those from cultures with simpler technologies than his highly complex one are empty vessels and have nothing to offer him. This is the philosophy of education in underdeveloped areas; this is the philosophy of the Peace Corps; this is the philosophy of every development program. And it is a very insidious philosophy in that every individual one further notch up on the Westernization scale applies this arrogant attitude to those below him. (I shall never forget the dresser in Borneo who refused to sleep in the village where we lived but stayed down river in the Chinese shop area. He was of the same ethnic stock as those of our village and only a few years away from boyhood in a similar village. But he refused to return to such a village because “they are dirty.”)

At a deeper level this attitude of the “civilized” man towards those of simpler societies and life styles implies a basic disrespect of persons. It implies a failure to respect one of man’s fellow creations as equal both spiritually and in endowed potentialities.
Thus, any development project in which there is no exchange of ideas, knowledge, and skills from both cultures in contact; thus any educational programs in which this exchange fails to take place is hollow, and the gains, if any, are all to ephemeral. Not only are man’s accumulated experiences and skills in dealing with the biosphere lost; not only are the unique genetic resources of his crops lost; his pharmacopoeias lost; but this implied disrespect spawns the cancerous growth of hate, which at some point must be satisfied.

And for those who would attack my position as being just another romantic cry by the anthropologist for the preservation of the native, I have but one comment. You have utterly failed to understand what I have said. You either must accept the basis of a full cost-benefit analysis for mankind that I have called for here, or if you cannot go back and try to understand the real message of Christian love, agape, as it applies to all mankind. Otherwise, if neither can be accepted, then you who consider the peoples of the simpler societies of the Third World as empty vessels to be filled through development, you must face the fact that you are racists no matter how covertly or subtly.


1. R. Boullenne, “Man, the Destroying Biotype,” Science, 135, 1962, p. 706.

2. “Alaska’s Problem with Muskoxen,” Oryx, 1968, p. 322.

3. K. Watt, Ecology and Resource Management: A Quantitative Approach, McGraw-Hill, 1968.

4. “Manatees Urged as Weed Killers: Florida Team Convinced of Value in Clogged Canals,” New York Times, Dec. 4, 1966, p. 81.

5. E. Storrs et al., “Leprosy in the Armadillo: New Model for Biomedical Research,” Science 183, 1974, p. 851.

6. “A Liver’s Best Friend,” Newsweek Feb. 7, 1972, p. 31.

7. E. Levin and V. Flyger, “Uroporphyrinogen Ill Cosynthetase Activity in the Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger), Science 174, 1971, p. 59.

8. “World Plant Search: May Yield Anticancer Substances, New Crops for U.S. Farmers,” Agricultural Research, 14, 1966, p. 3.

9. E. Bennett (ed.), FAO/IBP Technical Conference on the Exploration, Utilization and Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources, Rome, Italy, September 18–26, 1967, UN Food and Agricultural Organization, 1968.

10. G. Appell, “Genetic Erosion in the Indigenous Cultivars of Borneo.” Plant Introduction Newsletter, 23, 1970, p. 25.

11. H. Wilkes, “Maize and Its Wild Relatives: Teosinte and Tripsacum, Wild Relatives of Maize, Figured Prominently in the Origin of Maize,” Science, 177, 1971, p. 1071.

12. C. Streeter, A Partnership to Improve Food Production in India, The Rockefeller Foundation, 1969.

13. G. Appell, “The Health Consequences of Culture Change: Some Observations on Research Design and Scientific Explanation,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the Maine Sociological Society, 1969.

14. D. Prentice, “The Murut Language of Sabah,” Ph.D. dissertation, Australian National U., 1969.

15. K. Gokulanathan and K. Verghese, “Dysnutrition. Nutritional Deprivation Due to Socio-cultural Factors (India),” paper presented at the 67th annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Nov. 1968, Seattle, Washington.

16. R. Fleger and M. Moser, “Eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) in the Gulf of California: Discovery of its Nutritional Value by the Seri Indians,” Science 181, 1973, p. 355.

17. V. Vogel, “American Indian Influence on Medicine and Pharmacology,” The Indian Historian, 1, 1967, p. 12.

18. G. Crane, “Clinical Psychopharmacology in its 20th Year: Late Unanticipated Effects of Neuroleptics May Limit Their Use in Psychiatry,” Science 181, 1973, p. 124.

19. F. Tabrah, M. Kashiwagi, and T. Norton, “Antitumor Activity in Mice of Tentacles of Two Tropical Sea Annelids,” Science, 170, 1970, p. 181.

20. T. Scudder, “Man-made Lakes and Populations Resettlement in Africa,” paper presented at the 2nd session of a Symposium on Man-made Lakes, sponsored by the Institute of Biology, London, Sept. 1965.

21. N. Scotch, “Sociocultural Factors in the Epidemiology of Zulu Hypertension,” American Journal of Public Health, 53, 1963, p. 1205.

22. G. Appell, “The Structure of District Administration, Anti-administration Activity and Political Instability,” Human Organization 25 1966, p. 312.

23. K. Erikson, Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance, Wiley & Sons, 1966.

24. K. Menninger (with M. Mayman and P. Pruyser), The Vital Balance: The Life Process in Mental Health and Illness, The Viking Press, 1963.

25. S. Kasl and J. French, “The Effects of Occupational Status on Physical and Mental Health,” Journal of Social Issues, 18, 1962, p. 67.

26. R. Kahn et al.. Organizational Stress: Studies in Role Conflict and Ambiguity, Wiley & Sons, 1964.


Ecological Impact of Development

G. N. Appell, “Mammals of Borneo Whose Survival is Threatened,” Borneo Research Bulletin, 5, 1973, pp. 64-66.

\Raymond F. Dasmann, John P. Milton, and Peter H. Freeman, Ecological Principles for Economic Development, Wiley & Sons, 1973.

M. Taghi Farvar and John Milton, Eds., The Unforeseen International Ecological Boomerang, The Natural History Special Supplement, 1968.

Harmon Henkin, “Side Effects: Report of a Conference on Ecological Development” Environment, 11, 1969, p. 18.

Noel Simon, Red Data Book; Volume One: Mammalia, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Survival Service Commission, n.d.

Uses of Fauna

J. Convit and M. E. Pinardi, “Leprosy: Confirmation in the Armadillo,” Science, 184, 1974, pp. 1191–1192.

Michael A. Crawford, “The Case for New Domestic Animals,” Oryx, 12, 1974, pp. 351–360.

P. A. Jewell, “Wild Mammals and Their Potential for New Domestication,” in Peter J. Ucko and G. W. Dimbleby, Eds., The Domestication and Exploitation of Plants and Animals, Duckworth, 1969.

W. A. Pieper, Marianne J. Skeen, Harold M. McClure and Peter G. Bourne, “The Chimpanzee as an Animal Model for Investigating Alcoholism,” Science, 176, 1972, pp. 71–73.

Charles H. Southwick, M. Rafiq Siddiqi, and M. Farooq Siddiqi, “Primate Populations and Biomedical Research,” Science, 170, 1970, pp. 1051–1054.

Crawford (1974) reviews the evidence on the protein productivity of temperate-zone cattle in Africa’s semi-arid regions with the productivity of wild animal species dwelling in these areas that could be domesticated. He concludes that it is possible that Africa could double the present world meat production by the use of such wild species. Such domestication should aim to make use of the wild animals’ preferences for different grasses, bush and boughs, from the tree-top using giraffe to the root-digging warthog.

Contribution from Indigenous Peoples

James V. Neel, “Lessons from a ‘Primitive’ Peoples,” Science, 170, 1970, pp. 815–822.

“The intellectual arrogance created by our small scientific successes must be replaced by a profound humility based on the new knowledge of how complex is the system of which we are a part. To some of us, this realization carries with it the need for a philosophical readjustment which has the impact of a religious conversion (Neel 1970:819).

Uses of Flora

Siri von Reis Altschul, “Psychopharmacological Notes in the Harvard University Herbaria,” Lloydia, 30, 1967, pp. 192–196.

---, “Unusual Food Plants in Herbarium Records,” Economic Botany, 22, 1968, pp. 293–296.

___, “Ethnopediatric Notes in the Harvard University Herbaria,” Lloydia, 33, 1970, pp. 195–198.

Robert E. Perdue, Jr., Gymnosperms for Anticancer Screening, 1968, duplicated.

Dr. S. von Reis Altschul has been engaged in a project to screen the label data of plant collections at the Grey Herbarium and Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University for Collectors’ notes on the uses to which various species of plants were put by the population from where they were collected. She has focused on plants used for medical purposes and those with a nutritional value. She writes that the “search was undertaken in the belief that herbaria represent a rich and untapped reservoir of such information which, in some instances, might provide the only remaining clues to the materia medica of peoples already culturally extinct or absorbed by civilization” (1967:192). She also warns against the loss of the botanical knowledge of the simpler cultures as well as the loss of species due to the spread of civilization and makes the point that never had the preservation of species and all ethnobotanical knowledge been more important to man (1970). In one study she found 287 genera of plants whose nutritional value where previously unknown (1968).

Contributions of Indigenous Cultivars

Judith Miller, “Genetic Erosion: Crop Plants Threatened by Government Neglect,” Science, 182, 1973, pp. 1231–1233.

Carl O. Saeur, “Theme of Plant and Animal Destruction in Economic History,” Journal of Farm Economics, 20, 1938, pp. 765–775. Reprinted in John Leighly, Ed., Land and Life: A Selection from the Writings of Carl Ortwin Saeur, University of California Press, 1963.

Deborah Shapley, “Sorghum: ‘Miracle’ Grain for the World Protein Shortage?”, Science 182, 1973, pp. 147–148.

Researchers at Purdue University have recently found two Ethiopian stains of sorghum which carry high lysine genes. They are now trying to cross-breed these with other strains to produce a high protein sorghum that may help alleviate protein deficiency diseases in the Third World such as kwashiorkor (cf. Shapley 1973).
Saeur writes (1963) “In the space of a century and a half — only two full life times — more damage has been done to the productive capacity of the world than in all of human history preceeding” (p. 147).
“The removal of species, moreover, reduces the possible future range of utility or organic evolution” (p. 149).
“Yet these primitive forms [of cultivars] hold by far the greater range of plant-breeding possibilities for future, as yet unrecognized needs. Some years ago we secured from southern Mexico seeds of a type of cotton, called acala, that made possible the current development of cotton growing in the San Joaquin Valley. Had the plant explorer missed this particular spot in the state of Chapais or come a few years later, we might not have a successful cotton industry in California. No one knows how many domestic varieties of cotton survived or had been lost” (p. 150).

Indigenous Pharmacopoeia and Knowledge

P. C. Dandiya and J. S. Bapna, “Pharmacological Research in India,” Annual Review of Pharmacology, 14, 1974, pp. 115-126.

D. P. Moody, “Chemotherapeutic Consequences of Culture Collisions,” Proceedings of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland for 1965, 1966.

Bryce Nelson, “Rocky Mountain Laboratory: A Monument to the Tick,” Science, 1973, 1971, pp. 1009-1010.

Moody (1966) gives some very disturbing case histories of the loss of indigenous pharmacopoeia and chemotherapeutic knowledge as the result of culture and contact and the failure of westerners to appreciate the quality of indigenous knowledge. Psychiatric medicine has within the past two decades benefited from psychopharmacological agents originally derived from nonwestern medicine systems, and I would estimate that native neuroleptics still offer one of the most important but largely untapped psychopharmacological resources.

Dandiya and Bapna review research in India on the therapeutic properties of indigenous medical plants (1974).

The Replacement of Indigenous Diets: Health Consequences

D. B. Jelliffe, “Commerciogenic Malnutrition?”, Nutrition Reviews, 30, 1972, pp. 199–205.

Jelliffe discusses the nutritional depreviation [sic deprivation] resulting from the replacement of indigenous diets with commercial foods in underdeveloped countries and from the cultural export of inappropriate nutritional information from the western world by untrained, unacculturated, and culture-bound home economists, nutritionists, and pediatricians. (Also cf. the note on The Western Metal [sic Mental] Set of Development and Its Pernicious Consequences.)

Destruction of Self-esteem and Social Identity

G. N. Appell, “Basic Issues in the Dilemmas and Ethical Conflicts in Anthropological Inquiry,” in G. N. Appell, Ed., Position Papers on the Dilemmas and Ethical Conflicts in Anthropological Inquiry, MSS Modular Publications, 1974, Module No. 19.

Stanley Coopersmith, The Antecedents of Self-esteem, Freeman, 1967.

F. C. Wallace, “Anthropological Contributions to the Theory of Personality,” in Edward Norbeck, Douglass Price-Williams and William M. McCord, Eds., The Study of Personality: An Interdisciplinary Appraisal, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1968.

Wallace discusses the relationship of aggression to flawed self-esteem and threatened social identity. “... the occurrence of destructive aggression within and between nonhuman primate groups is a temporary reactive product of fear except under the circumstance of widespread damage to identity processes in which chronic internalized fear (of a kind experienced in man as a threat of self-esteem) becomes endemic. In view of the apparently nondestructive inclinations of most other primates, one must ask whether man’s notorious propensity for hostility may not also be a consequence of his extreme vulnerability to fear induced by disorders of identity processes” (1968:44).

Aspiration-Achievement Gap and Social Deprivation

David F. Aberle, “A Note on Relative Deprivation Theory as Applied to Millenarian and Other Cult Movements,” in Sylvia L. Thrupp, Ed., Millenial Dreams in Action, Mouton, 1962, Supplement II to Comparative Studies in Society and History.

Seymour Parker, Robert J. Kleiner, and Hayward G. Taylor, “Level of Aspiration and Mental Disorder: A Research Proposal,” in Vera Rubin, Ed., Culture, Society, and Health, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1960.

Health Impairment from Social Change

Lawrence E. Hinkle, Jr., and Harold G. Wolff, “Health and the Social Environment: Experimental Investigations,” in Alexander H. Leighton, John A. Clausen, and Robert N. Wilson, Eds., Explorations in Social Psychiatry, Basic Books. 1957.

H. B. M. Murphy, “Social Change and Mental Health,” in Causes of Mental Disorders: A Review of Epidemiological Knowledge, 1959, Millborn Memorial Fund, 1961.

The Western Mental Set of Development and Its Pernicious Consequences

Shi-Shung Huang and Theodore M. Bayless, “Milk and Lactose Intolerance in Healthy Orientals,” Science, 160, 1968, pp. 83–84.

A recent example of this has been brought to my attention of development consultants who themselves should have known better. An underdeveloped country asked two individuals from a United States university to advise the government on model contracts for dealing with foreign concessionaires in the extractive industries. In giving this advice at no time did these consultants raise questions as to the pernicious effects that might result to the ecosystem or the local peoples. They neither suggested the government consult with ecological and anthropological experts nor did they write into the contracts corrective clauses to mitigate these pernicious effects. Consequently, at the present time vast areas of tropical forest are being cut with an unnecessary degradation of the ecosystem, with the loss of primate and other animal populations, and with an unnecessary disruption of the local societies and cultures. It is too early to quantify the full costs of this, but these will eventually have to be dealt with. It would seem to me that at this stage in our own understanding of the costs of industrial development in our own country, the consultants from the U.S. might at least have raised the question as to the ecological and social consequences of resource development even if this fell outside the realm of their own areas of competence.

The arrogance of the western mind with respect to his own society and his expertise is also well illustrated by the American attempt to create good will by dumping dried milk in such underdeveloped areas as Borneo where milk is not part of the indigenous diet. The peoples of Sabah were encouraged to supplement their diets with this dried milk and feed their children on it, but many only got stomach cramps and diarrhea. They continually inquired as to whether it might be spoiled. However, Shi-Shung Huang and Theodore M. Bayless (1968) have recently established a genetically determined intolerance for milk and lactose among Asians.

Education and Development

Charles Brooke, the second Rajah of Sarawak, with great foresight wrote in 1907: “We stuff natives with a lot of subjects that they don’t require to know, and try to teach them to become like ourselves, treating them as if they had not an original idea in their possession” (quoted in Robert Pringle, Rajahs and Rebels: The Ibans of Sarawak Under Brooke Rule, 1841–1941, Cornell University Press, 1970).