The Future of Amazonia: Inheritance or Ruin?

Photo courtesy of lubasi via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

By Marcílio de Freitas 

An issue of global concern

Amazonia is one of the planet’s last utopias. Even before the New World was “discovered,” it existed in the imaginary of foreign travelers and governments. Yet the future of Brazil’s Amazonia region is fast becoming a tragedy in the making [1], which is calling out for international attention. Its positioning in the global market system is highly problematic, with the diverse cultures and biomes of Amazonia at risk of fast becoming extinct due to privatization and exploitation, which has been accelerated by Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, and the spread of Covid-19. While the cultural and ecological complexity of Amazonia poses a threat to Bolsonaro’s government, it presents a challenge to those who believe in sustainable development. The protection of Amazonia presents a real opportunity for Brazil to enter into the ranking of developed countries and for humanity to protect one of the most biodiverse places on Earth.

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Under Another Sky

By Vidya Sarveswaran

The Indian village of Piplantri celebrates the birth of every newborn girl by planting 111 trees. In her new film, Under Another Sky, RCC alumna Vidya Sarveswaren tells the story of the village, which has so far planted a quarter of a million trees over the last six years.

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Tracing Landscape Change through Dung Beetles

As part of the ongoing series Silent Spring Continued: A World without Insects, environmental anthropolgist Olea Morris recounts how fieldwork in Mexico introduced her to the world of dung beetles. This post follows on from Olea’s Insect Profile on dung beetles.

*Featured Image: Dung beetle, by Olea Morris

By Olea Morris

In some ways, the dung beetles and I had a lot in common! Working as a volunteer on a farm in the highlands of Veracruz, Mexico, I was assigned the very unglamorous but important role of tending to the manure of the animals raised there. Every morning, I would put on my knee-length, white plastic boots, hike up a misty hillside in the heart of the cloud forests, and clean the stables of the sheep after they had been moved out to pasture for the day. Read More

Insect Portrait: The Dung Beetle

By Olea Morris

The family of insects known as “dung beetle,” or escarabajos del estiercol, is a diverse one—even amongst those that make the same misty cloud forests of Mexico their home. Some, like Onthophagus corrosus, are jet black and no bigger than the fingernail of a pinky finger, while others, like Phanaeus endymion, have iridescent green exoskeletons and could conceal a large coin beneath their squarish, horned bodies. Alongside their many local names—vaqueros (cowboys) or toritos (little bulls)—their name in the indigenous Nahuatl language of Mexico hints at the family’s most prominent characteristic: cuitlalolos, or “those that move the dung.” Read More

Race, Nature, and W.E.B. Du Bois

Thomas Moran, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 1904. (Source: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

By John R. Eperjesi

Trees? American trees had ropes in them.
–Ed Roberson

Outdoor Afro is a national non-profit organization that uses things like canoe paddles, hiking poles, and tents to help break down the racist stereotype in American culture that says that Black people don’t enjoy the great outdoors. This stereotype was routinely proved false every time Christian Cooper, an amateur birdwatcher, entered the Ramble in Central Park to pursue his passion.

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Is all Environmental Humanities Feminist Environmental Humanities?

Photograph courtesy of Cecilia Åsberg

By Lauren LaFauci and Cecilia Åsberg

In the wake of the righteous movement protesting police violence and the murder of Black people in the United States, environmentalist Leah Thomas (@greengirlleah) posted an image to Instagram of text repeating 16 times, “Environmentalists for Black Lives Matter.” In the post, she introduced a concept she calls “intersectional environmentalism,” defining it there as:

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Urban Environments Initiative: Virtual Workshop Report: Spaces of Living in Transformation—In Times of Uncertainty

A residential view of Naples, Italy. Photo by Bertrand Gabioud via Unsplash

By Carolin Maertens and Daniel Dumas

The Urban Environments Initiative (UEI) is a collaborative venture between the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU), the Technische Universität München (TUM), the University of Cambridge, and New York University, and includes members from a variety of other international institutions as well. It is coordinated in Munich by Eveline Dürr (LMU) and Regine Keller (TUM) in association with the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (RCC). The UEI’s primary objective is to bring together researchers working on urban environmental issues and related topics from a variety of locales across the world.

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Lockdown and Locked In: Houseplants and Covid-19

Drawing courtesy of the author

By Darya Tsymbalyuk

Just before the official lockdown was announced in Scotland, I moved all of my office plants home. There was no space for them in my room, but I rearranged my furniture to accommodate my office plants since they had been my closest companions during the crisis. There are numerous platforms, including Vogue and Independent, which have written about the positive effect houseplants have had on people during the lockdown, including their positive contribution to our mental health. Yet there are fewer platforms that have written about the effect the lockdown has had on houseplants left in apartments and offices, and even the ones that do, stress the importance of people’s wellbeing rather than the wellbeing of plants. For example, The Guardian quotes Hugo Meunier, a founder of the company in Paris that is rescuing plants, as saying:

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Masking Our Uncertainties: “The Way of the Masks”

Reproduced with permission © Ranjan Kaul

By Rita Brara

A mask does not exist in isolation; it presupposes other real or potential masks by its side, masks that might have been chosen in its stead and substituted for it.
-Claude Levi-Strauss, The Way of the Masks

An overwhelming sense of uncertainty fogs the Covid-19 pandemic and cityscapes in India as elsewhere in a planetary reminder of our common environment. Our uncertainties are multi-faceted—personal, practical, and social—but resonate in the insistence that we consider science-based inputs and the accompanying masked and unmasked claims regularly (if not 24/7). As people, cognizing claims that are evolving, we come to inhabit and re-inhabit our masking contexts and practices while embodying the realization that there is no masking our inequities.

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Understanding Reverse Worker Migration During the Covid-19 Lockdown in India and the Green Revolution

Source: Sumita Roy Dutta CC BY-SA

By Vipul Singh
Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Delhi

The Covid-19 pandemic has posed a grave challenge, with countries around the world struggling to control its spread. The easiest and most viable solution to reducing the rate of infection has been to impose a total lockdown. India is no exception. Here, too, the government announced a complete lockdown understanding the indispensability of taking such a step. The country was already struggling to recover from an economic slowdown, with the lockdown dealing a further blow, but central and state governments were left with hardly any other options. The rules of lockdown have been wholeheartedly followed by the urban middle class. Social distancing has become the buzzword for facing up to the novel virus contagion. The educated middle class has been upbeat in supporting state regulations. They have been proudly sharing photographs of working from home on social media. Yet significant amounts of industrial workers and daily wage earners in densely populated cities have reacted differently. They depended on their daily earnings, which have come to a complete halt as a result of the lockdown. The affluent and middle classes have stopped allowing them entry into their houses and apartments because of the notion they live in unhygienic conditions. And, indeed, they live in difficult conditions in shanties with the bare minimum of facilities.

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