Q&A with UT Press

University of Texas Press just posted a short interview with me about my new book Amazonia in the Anthropocene: People, Soils, Plants, Forests, which was published this month. The interview touches on recent debates over the origins of the Anthropocene as well as my critiques of its current conceptualization. It also discusses some of the problems with the dominant portrayals of Amazonia and its people that circulate outside of the region. UT Press will be promoting the book at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) in New York City this week.

Soil Health Underwear Test

“Men’s cotton briefs can serve the needs of science when buried in a field for a few weeks. It’s a takeoff on an agronomy soil test that uses cotton swatches to measure carbon consumption by microbes. Microbes living in soil with plenty of carbon, rich in organic matter to turn into energy, don’t have to eat the cotton. Bacteria in carbon-poor soil will eat what they can scavenge.” Read more here

April Edition of Anthropology News Focuses on Climate Change

This month’s edition of Anthropology News focuses on climate change. I contributed a short piece titled “Managing Uncertainty in Rural Amazonia: Climate Change, Crop Diversity, and Social Networks.” Here’s the abstract: 

Most Amazonian smallholder farmers are accustomed to uncertain climatic conditions, often relying on traditional ecological knowledge and social network support to contend with the threats of drought and flooding.  Nonetheless, anthropogenic climate change presents unique challenges to Amazonian farmers and their resilience.  Between 2009 and 2010, record flooding accompanied by intense drought left devastating impacts on many smallholder communities in the Central Amazon, severely compromising production of even the most resistant crops, including the regional staple manioc.  Here I discuss the effects of these events on the production and management of manioc in communities along the Lower Madeira River in the Central Brazilian Amazon.  In doing so, I highlight both the vulnerabilities that farmers face and the mechanisms by which they respond to increasingly uncertain environmental conditions.  To conclude, I consider the ways in which anthropological research on agrobiodiversity management vis-a-vis climate change may serve farmers and policy makers alike.

The Coming Food Crisis

Gary Nabhan just published a valuable op-ed in the New York Times discussing the coming food crisis and how we can begin to address it. Among other things, he argues for the development of better programs for managing organic waste and composting in cities. He also discusses the importance of minimizing bureaucratic hurdles for farmers to use biologically-filtered gray water in their production. And then, of course, he outlines the role heirloom and heritage seeds can play in adaptation to climate change. You can read the piece here.