The increasing scarcity and potential depletion of natural resources, as well as conflicts over their use, cause profound environmental and social changes. Questions about sustainability arise from concerns about the manageability of conflicting interests and impending resource shortages on a global scale. The anthropological lens helps to examine the processes of change from a holistic perspective, encompassing the explanations of actors in many different relations to the resources. How do people understand pollution, land grabbing, mining disasters and new policies governing their accesssss to the production, distribution and consumption of natural resources?
And how do beliefs about the nature of natural resources relate to attitudes, behavior and political choices? The anthropology of mining has produced rich ethnographic analyses of the importance of mineral resources such as gold for the livelihoods of indigenous and migrant miners, insights and beliefs regarding these resources and their natural environment in general, and notions of customary law and the legality of accesssss to minerals. It also illustrates how mineral extraction, although formally organized, is primarily informal – and both socially disruptive and environmentally destructive – on the margins of the global economic system.