Rethinking Nature and Society in Latin America

Friday April 24, 2020
1501 International Affairs Building

Conference Description

In the last few decades throughout Latin America there have been substantial changes to nature and the ways in which societies envision, engage with, and inhabit nature. The region has witnessed increased attention to sustainable development and green growth, along with the strengthening of environmental policies, institutions, and governance. While, on the surface, the overall long-term trends in environmental governance and valuation may appear to be favorable, contradictory impulses and setbacks are evident, with many instances of acute or systemic conflicts between rural livelihoods, environmental protection, the dominant economic development paradigms, and land and resource-use policies. Furthermore, in many countries in the region, the last few years have been marked by intensified efforts to dilute environmental regulations and the social protections and rights of rural peoples.

Better understanding current trends in the politics of nature is of critical importance for maintaining healthy ecosystems, promoting equitable and sustainable economic systems, safeguarding human rights, and furthering democratic governance in the region. Considering the context delineated above, Rethinking Nature and Society in Latin America brings together experts in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities from Columbia and outside institutions to participate in a highly interdisciplinary discussion of nature and society in Latin America. Engaging varied disciplinary and national perspectives the conference takes a regional approach to land and natural resource use policies and politics on the premise that there are important social, economic, political, human rights and environmental interlinkages between different countries in the region that can provide the foundation for productively rethinking nature in Latin America.  This conference is made possible through the generous support of the Tinker Foundation.

Draft Agenda

8:45am -9:00am Welcome Remarks
  Victoria Murillo, Columbia (Political Science/International Affairs)
9:00am-10:00am Panel 1: Transforming Natures
  Panelists will discuss anthropogenic transformations of nature in the region. Discussion will include the impacts of climate change on the dynamics of nature and resource use.  Panelists will also explore land use change and the expansion and modification of agricultural and extractive enterprises, along with their implications for environmental sustainability and the wellbeing and livelihood of the inhabitants of the region.
  Ben Orlove, Panel Chair, Coumbia (International Affairs/Anthropology)Maria Uriarte, Columbia (E3B)Upmanu Lalll, Columbia (Earth Institute/IRI)Walter Baethgen , Columbia (Earth Institute/IRI)
10:00am-11:30am Panel 2: Livelihoods and Access
  Building on the previous discussion, this panel will focus more fully on rural livelihoods. Panelists will explore the relationship of Indigenous and “traditional” peoples to nature. Panelists will also address the impacts of land, resource use, and environmental policies on Indigenous and “traditional” livelihoods. They will explore changing ruralities and contested natures, with attention to market dynamics, social policies, land and resource rights, and other recent developments upon the resource use, wellbeing, and livelihoods. Discussion will include attention to shifting vulnerabilities and forms of resilience in contexts of transforming natures and social, political, and economic contexts. In this panel, we will also explore the rights and participation of Indigenous and “traditional” peoples in decision-making around land and resources use policies at different scales.
  Denise Milstein, Panel Chair, Columbia (Sociology)Alicia Cooperman, Princeton UniversityGustavo Azenha, Columbia (ILAS/Anthropology)Marcos Mendoza, University of MississippiMiguel Pinedo Vazquez, Columbia (Earth Institute/IRI)
11:30am -11:45am Coffee Break
11:45am -12:45pm Panel 3: Sensing & Recreating Nature
  In this panel, we will examine sound, film, and nature, exploring rethinking and imagining of nature in creative forms of expression.  Panelists will explore the role of media in expressing and shaping alternative visions of nature, as well as a vital tool in the local and global politics of nature.
  Ronald E. Gregg, Panel Chair (Film, Columbia)Alex Alberro, Columbia (Art History)Ana Maria Ochoa, Columbia (Music)Els Lagrau, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
12:45pm -1:45pm Lunch Break
1:45pm -3:15pm Panel 4: Governance and Interventions
  Further deepening discussions in the preceding panels, panelists will explore models of environmental governance and novel interventions to promote conservation and/or sustainable resource management, such as green cash transfer programs, REDD initiatives, and participatory management schemes. Discussion will include the benefits, shifting configurations, and limitations of participatory institutions for management of territories, watersheds, and conservation units. Panelists will also address the complex interactions between policies related to the rights of “traditional” peoples and environmental and other policies (e.g., social policies, agribusiness, and energy policies).  Discussions will also touch upon intraregional connections between policymakers, multinational corporations, NGOs, producers, and consumers in shaping environmental management and natural resource use.
  Jeffrey Shrader, Panel Chair, Columbia (Political Science/International Affairs)Carlos Vicente, Rede (Brazil)María Alejandra Vélez, (Universidad de los Andes)Patricia Balvanera, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoTatiana Schor, Federal University of Amazonas & State Government of Amazonas
3:15pm -4:45pm Panel 5: Politics and Policy
  In this panel, we will focus on the political and economic dimensions of natural resource.   Panelists will explore the contentious politics of the extractive and agribusiness industries.  They will also further previous discussion on socio-environmental conflicts, social movements, and environmental justice.
  Salo V. Coslovsky Panel Chair (New York University)Anthony Bebbington, Clark UniversityIsabella Alcaniz, University of MarylandRicardo Gutierrez, National University of San Martin (Argentina)Rodrigo Soares, Columbia (International Affairs)
4:45pm -5:00pm Coffee Break
5:00pm -6:30pm Roundtable Discussion: The Politics of Nature, Resilience, and Development
  The final panel of the conference will build on the discussions throughout the day to revisit and deepen understandings of key topics addressed in the conference. Panelists will engage in a broader critical discussion of the limitations and failures of sustainable development, while debating the prospects and pathways to more social and environmentally resilient and equitable forms of valuing, managing, and governing nature.   
  Victoria Murillo, Panel Chair, Columbia (Political Science/International Affairs)Alberto Acosta, FLACSO EcuadorBen Orlove, Columbia (International Affairs/Anthropology)Eduardo Gudynas, Latin American Center of Social Ecology (Uruguay)Susanna Hecht, University of California Los Angeles
6:30pm -8:30pm Reception and Keynote: Marina Silva (keynote talk from 7:00pm-7:30pm)