Nature & Society Program

The Institute of Latin American Studies at Columbia University is engaged in a variety of initiatives to foster and disseminate interdisciplinary scholarship and policy research on the complex and dynamic relationships between nature and society in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Themes of interest to ILAS-affiliated faculty and students include, the social and environmental dimensions of climate change and the politics of the environment, resource management, and agriculture, as well as the links between nature and culture, arts, and literature.    

Rethinking Nature and Society Flyer

The ILAS conference on Rethinking Nature and Society in Latin America was organized as five online sessions in April and May of 2021. This conference brought 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.

Below you will find 3-to-4-minute edited videos of the conference sessions, briefly summarizing the main arguments and insights of conference presentations. To access the full length unedited videos of the conference sessions, please visit the ILAS YouTube page.

Panel 1: Transforming Natures 

  • Ben Orlove, Columbia, Climate School
  • Maria Uriarte, Columbia, E3B
    • Reversals of reforestation across Latin America limit climate mitigation potential of tropical forests
  • Walter Baethgen, Columbia, Earth Institute/IRI
    • Rethinking sustainable food production systems in Latin America
  • Miguel Pinedo Vazquez, Columbia, Earth Institute/IRI
    • The influence of cities on fishing for household consumption and income in Amazonia
Maria Uriarte, "Reversals of reforestation across Latin America limit climate mitigation potential of tropical forests"
Walter Baethgen, "Rethinking sustainable food production systems in Latin America"
Miguel Pinedo Vazquez, "The influence of cities on fishing for household consumption and income in Amazonia"

Panel 2: Livelihoods and Access

  • Denise Milstein, Columbia, Sociology
  • Alicia Cooperman, Texas A&M University, Political Science
    • Community Organizing Around Water Governance and Access in Rural Brazil
  • Marcos Mendoza, University of Mississippi, Anthropology
    • Green Distributive Politics and the Narco-Environment in Mexico
  • Gustavo Azenha, Columbia, ILAS
    • A Political Ecology of Brazil’s “Discovery Coast”: Crisis, Socioenvironmental Hybridization, and Historical Amnesia in the Frontiers of Global Liberalism
Alicia Cooperman, "Community Organizing Around Water Governance and Access in Rural Brazil"
Marcos Mendoza, "Green Distributive Politics and the Narco-Environment in Mexico"
Gustavo Azenha, "A Political Ecology of Brazil’s 'Discovery Coast': Crisis, Socioenvironmental Hybridization, and Historical Amnesia in the Frontiers of Global Liberalism"

Panel 3: Sensing and Recreating Nature

  • Ronald E. Gregg, Columbia, Film
  • Alex Alberro, Columbia, Art History
    • Non-Human Rights and the World of Matter
  • Ana Maria Ochoa, Columbia, Music
    • Sounds, human, non-human…
  • Els Lagrau, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Geography
    • Relational ontologies and indigenous contemporary art: indigenous presence in the Brazilian art world today
Alex Alberro, "Non-Human Rights and the World of Matter"
Ana Maria Ochoa, "Sounds, human, non-human…"
Els Lagrau, "Relational ontologies and indigenous contemporary art: indigenous presence in the Brazilian art world today"

Panel 4: Governance and Interventions

  • Jeffrey Shrader, Columbia, International Affairs
  • Raoni Rajão, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Social Studies of Science
  • María Alejandra Vélez, Universidad de los Andes, Economics
    • Is collective titling enough to protect forests? Evidence from Afro-descendant communities in the Colombian Pacific region
  • Leticia Merino, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Anthropology
    • Inequality in the access to natural resources and resource governance: The expansion of mining concessions in Mexico
  • Tatiana Schor, Federal University of Amazonas, Geography
    • Biopolis Amazonas: narrative and challenges for sustainable development in the Amazon
Raoni Rajão
María Alejandra Vélez, "Is collective titling enough to protect forests? Evidence from Afro-descendant communities in the Colombian Pacific region"
Leticia Merino, "Inequality in the access to natural resources and resource governance: The expansion of mining concessions in Mexico"
Tatiana Schor, "Biopolis Amazonas: narrative and challenges for sustainable development in the Amazon"

Panel 5: Politics and Policy 

  • Salo V. Coslovsky, New York University, Urban Planning & Public Service
  • Marcela Torres Wong, FLACSO Mexico, Political Science
    • Rethinking Indigenous Participation in Extractivist Economies: Lessons from Mexico, Peru and Bolivia
  • Isabella Alcañiz, University of Maryland, Government and Politics
    • From International Organizations to Local Government: How Foreign Environmental Aid Reach Subnational Beneficiaries in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico
  • Ricardo Gutierrez, National University of San Martin, Argentina, Politics & Government
    • Environmental mobilization and its political impact in Latin America
  • Rodrigo Soares, Columbia, International Affairs
    • Property Rights, Enforcement, and Policy Design
Marcela Torres Wong, "Rethinking Indigenous Participation in Extractivist Economies: Lessons from Mexico, Peru and Bolivia"
Isabella Alcañiz, "From International Organizations to Local Government: How Foreign Environmental Aid Reach Subnational Beneficiaries in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico"
Ricardo Gutierrez, "Environmental mobilization and its political impact in Latin America"
Rodrigo Soares, "Property Rights, Enforcement, and Policy Design"

Panel 6: Roundtable Discussion: The Politics of Nature, Resilience, and Development 

  • Victoria Murillo, Columbia, Political Science, Chair 
  • Alberto Acosta, FLACSO Ecuador, Economics
  • Ben Orlove, Columbia, Climate School
  • Eduardo Gudynas, Latin American Center of Social Ecology, Uruguay
  • Susanna Hecht, University of California Los Angeles, Urban Planning

Keynote Address: 2:15-3pm

  • Marina Silva, former Brazilian Minister of the Environment