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ecotone Journal of Environmental Studies | University of Oregon

on the cover: “Conditioning, Montevideo” By Aylie Baker


the ecotone

THE ECOTONE is the journal of the Environmental Studies Program and is created by graduate students at the University of Oregon. The journal provides a venue for communication and exchange within and beyond the Environmental Studies Program among undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and facilitates cross-campus dialogue between disciplines and departments. The Ecotone serves as a venue for sharing professional interests, discussing environmental concerns, and facilitating creative expression. The Ecotone is published annually and includes journal articles, nonfiction, fiction, poetry, art, and other creative submissions. If you have questions or comments, would like to submit work, or want to be placed on the mailing list, please contact:

The Ecotone Environmental Studies Program 5223 University of Oregon Eugene, OR 97403

photo: Wenhui Qiu | “Unidentified Moth�




About the Ecotone Editor’s Note About the Contributors

1 4 7



Mahi Mahi Aylie Baker


How to Imagine Tomorrow for Today? Shane Hall


Mountain Agriculture Adrian Robins


Portrait of a Bryozoa Keats Conley


Fossils Are Heating Up Samuel Moore


Hopes of an African Child Sigride Jenniska Asseko


the ecotone | 2014

Ice Storm Gayla WardWell


Pitchpoling Allyson Woodard


Biodiversity at Twenty-Five Brendan Bohannan Alan Dickman Nicolae Morar Ted Toadvine ed. Allyson Woodard


Eating In Urban Frontiers Brooke Havlik


art Aylie Baker Timothy Chen Keats Conley Hannah Fuller Jordan Grace Brooke Havlik Solveig Noll Bryan Putnam Wenhui Qiu Adrian Robins Celina Stilphen Allyson Woodard

12, 23, cover 6, 15, 18 35 42, 45, 63 51, 52 74-86 20, 72 9, 46, 119 1, 59, 66, 96 2, 24, 28, 32 5, 68 36, 41, 60

editor’s note


Adrian Robins | “Nepal, Breathing”



I’VE BEEN THINKING recently about a phone call I received almost

exactly two years ago: I was sitting at my desk at work, and an Oregon

number popped up on my cell phone. It was Alan Dickman, calling to tell me that I’d been accepted into the Environmental Studies Master’s

program. I think at the time I made sure to sound grateful yet undecided (why not relish a fleeting opportunity to act coy?), but truth be told, I would have signed my name then and there to the decision. Like many

of my soon-to-be peers (I later learned), I felt that ENVS would offer me

something rare—perhaps even unique—among graduate programs. I wanted to interact with scientists without having to become one. I wanted

to study with writers, but I also wanted to study with historians. I felt that my college education had given me the basics of conservation biology and

a good nose for environmental themes in gothic literature, but I wanted more pragmatic answers. How do we solve our energy crisis? How do we best integrate social justice into environmental politics?

I haven’t found all those answers. ENVS can be unnerving, actually, in

its ability to test every answer you thought you had, and I now find it laughable that I expected any kind of calming resolution. Environmental issues are a big, complicated mess, and none among of us know the full

solution. What I wasn’t naive about, however, was my instinct that an

interdisciplinary community was where I wanted to be: it’s difficult to be

individually prescient, but as a collective, I still cling to an optimism that we can craft intelligent, compassionate plans of action.


the ecotone | 2014

Celina Stilphen | “Crater Lake, OR”

The Ecotone is an expression of that collaboration. Read on and you will learn about paleontology’s contribution to climate science; you will find fiction about a fishing vessel, and an interview with ENVS faculty about

the debatable value of biodiversity. You will see photographs by Adrian

Robins, an undergraduate who recently travelled to the Himalayas, and poetry by our rock, Graduate Programs Coordinator Gayla WardWell,

who recently survived an ice storm. This is the community that was on the other side of that phone call. I have relished the opportunity, as editor, to

show them off, and I remain ever grateful for their fire, their warmth, their disputes and collaborations, and their eagerness to share.

—Allyson Woodard April, 2014

editor’s note


Timothy Chen


the ecotone | 2014

contributor bios

SIGRIDE JENNISKA ASSEKO is a senior in environmental studies

who will also graduate with a minor in geology. She is from Gabon, and is very much interested in natural resources management and preservation, as well as environmental health and safety.

JULIE BACON, aka “Pazamàdjigan,” is a PhD student in environmental studies and sociology. Her loves include pitbulls, stick games, and tintype photography.

AYLIE BAKER is a first year master’s student in environmental studies.

She enjoys long walks and is currently hard at work on an eco-critique of Frozen, but is thinking of letting it go.

TIMOTHY CHEN is a master’s student studying environmental justice. He likes ice cream and super cheap wine that comes in large jugs.

KEATS CONLEY is an alumna of the master’s program in environmental

studies who has remained at the U of O to pursue a Ph.D. in biology. A member of the Sutherland lab, she studies hydrodynamic aspects of feeding by marine mucous-net filter-feeders, such as salps and appendicularians.

HANNAH FULLER is a lover of music, nature and community service. She is majoring in environmental studies with a minor in geology. Born

and raised in Oregon, her favorite thing to do in her free time is find a cozy spot—particularly in the sun—and read a good book.

about the contributors


JORDAN GRACE is working toward a degree in environmental science

and PPPM (Planning, Public Policy, and Management), which will be completed in 2014. His interests include photography and outdoor

adventures, and he hails from the land of the sun: Huntington Beach, Southern California.

SHANE HALL is going into his fourth year of the ESSP doctoral program.

He studies the ways global environmental crises are represented in literature and teaches as a GTF for environmental studies and composition classes. He can hum and whistle at the same time, which allows him to attract leopard frogs during mating season.

BROOKE HAVLIK graduated in the fall of 2013 with a master’s in

environmental studies, after which she moved 3,000 miles to Boston and currently works for the local PBS and NPR station. She spends her spare time growing food and practicing her Bahstonian accent.

SAMUEL MOORE is a master ’s student in environmental studies, focusing on environmental history, ecology and photography. He grew

up in Massachusetts, in the snow and on the beach. He love bikes, tripods, charismatic megafauna, and college radio.

SOLVEIG NOLL is an environmental science and geography double major, but devotes a lot of his time to painting and craftsmanship inspired by the natural environment and the balance between fine art and science. Someday, he hopes to create sustainable urban spaces.

BRYAN PUTNAM did his growing up in a rural community at the blurry edge of wilderness at the Cascade Range. His practice is built upon

a continued fascination with wild spaces and the human communities skirting them. He is currently living in the Northwest and will graduate with an MFA from the University of Oregon this spring, 2014.

WENHUI QUI is a master’s student working on environmental education curriculum for an organization in China. He likes nature photography, biking for photography, and hiking for photography.


the ecotone | 2014

ADRIAN ROBINS is an environmental science major, with a minor in biology, in his senior (though not his last) year at UO. He enjoys exploring

the connections between things, whether they are a person and the forest, pollinators and a harvest, or a steady mind and a happy life.

CELINA STILPHEN is a senior pursuing a B.A. in environmental

studies, with minors in geography and French. Outside the classroom,

she can be found surfing, tide-pooling, hiking, and photographing the natural environment.

GAYLA WARDWELL is a poetic and vegan forest-dweller who, for the past 12 years, has been the Environmental Studies Graduate Programs Coordinator.

ALLYSON WOODARD is a master’s student in environmental studies and multimedia journalism. She feels most at home under a sagebrush.

Bryan Putnam | “Lunch Break”

about the contributors


mahi mahi BY AYLIE BAKER

JUST AFTER SUNRISE one morning, Morice pulls one in. She comes up thrashing, throwing scales and seashine all over the deck.

At the noise, people emerge from their bunks and stagger over to watch. There are nine of us on the sailing canoe. Since we set sail a week ago

from Koror, Palau, we’ve been eating only canned food and rice, and so everyone is hungry.

Rodney pins her tail with his feet while Miano strikes her humped head

with a piece of wood. We work quietly. Yesterday Aru let out a yell when

he hooked a fish only to lose it just as its dorsal fin slipped the surface. And so we hover over the mahi mahi in stillness, watching as she continues to shiver for several minutes, gills opening and closing like shutters.

As she dies, she changes color. Her glossy belly flashes from green to zinging blue to white.

Finally she fades to a tired, green-gray. The seawater sinks into the deck, and one by one each muscle expires but for her skittering eyes.

Surely she must see, as well as feel, her own ending. What if, I wonder, these flashing colors are her final utterances?

Kurt fills a bucket and we carefully rinse away the blood. He scrubs the

scales until only white flesh remains. When he slices open the stomach,


the ecotone | 2014

three tiny shells slip into his hand, glowing, like little moons. Kazuyo

and I pass them back and forth like treasures. Their dimpled shells are paper-thin.

Kazuyo recognizes them. “Baby nautilus,” she says. “Living fossils of the sea.” Hearing their name dredges up images of the regal mollusks standing guard at the foot of my grandparents’ bed. “I know they live very deep down,” Kazuyo says. From what subterranean mountain were they plucked? What depth, where

the sunlight no longer reaches? I can remember my grandfather teaching me about nautilus; I see him sweeping the dust off their backs and turning them over in his giant hands to mime their kicking feet with his fingers.

Sitting now on the deck of the canoe, I wade through this slippery memory, hoping to recover what I once knew about these terribly important and

unique creatures. But all I can gather is my grandfather’s heavy breathing, his eyebrows clenched in concentration as my Granny, standing on a chair behind him, prunes a pink geranium in the window.

For a moment I feel frustrated, knowing that what I have heard, I have

forgotten, that such knowing is floating somewhere out of reach—in a guidebook, or a library, or a moment when my grandfather was still living.

But then Kazuyo pokes the shell in my hand, grabs it, and lifts it up to her eye, so that water drips down her wrist.

After we settle down to eat the soup Rodney has made, after we pass the shells round one by one among the crew, cupping them in our hands to shield the sunlight and better make out the thread-thin lines that wind

round their bellies, after we pull up water to wash the last scales from the deck, Kazuyo and I lean over the leeward side of the canoe.

We let the nautilus shells roll off our hands slowly, quietly watching as

they break the surface, drifting behind us now, until they are twinkles in our wake. l

mahi mahi



the ecotone | 2014


Aylie Baker | “Abu Yamin”

how to imagine tomorrow for


A writing guide to your very own eco-utopia BY SHANE HALL

“Imagine all the people… living life in peace” - John Lennon

“Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.” - Vladimir Lenin

IMAGINE the end of the world. How does this vast machine stop? Is it with a bang—thermonuclear warfare, asteroid-bombardment, super-volcano—or with a whimper—

featuring global warming, toxic seas, or creeping pandemics? It is not difficult, in this day and age, to foresee End Times. Humans, from 2014

BCE to 2014 CE, have had a tendency to imagine the terminus of all things

in lurid, vivid ways. Judeo-Christian eschatological tradition holds up as a particularly robust archive of apocalyptic predictions and anxieties. What perhaps distinguishes our globalized moment in regards to the End are

the rich assortment of secular apocalypses that seem not only possible, but plausible.

While we are easily able to lean on our sci-fi blockbusters and novels to

render up a ready-made Armageddon, it seems more difficult to imagine— in the same visual way—the kind of world we’d want to live in.


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Timothy Chen

This is a problem. If we can envision no better futures than the likes of

Hollywood dystopias and if we can’t articulate the things we’re willing to work towards in the world, then the much-vaunted ingenuity of humanity

seems a paltry, trivial thing. This problem of imaginative failure is a problem that we can begin to rectify immediately. And by immediately, I

mean right now; by “we,” I mean you the reader, and me, the text before your eyes. How we begin to manifest a sustainable future must begin with how we conceptualize it.

HENCEFORTH, this document is officially an instruction manual: 1. Use your blank page, or boot up a word processing program on a

computer. You’re going to write, and you’re going to have to write fast, so make sure you are comfortable and ready to go.

2. You have 10 minutes to complete the following activity. You don’t have to show your writing to anyone but yourself, so there’s really no excuse for getting the writing jitters or giving up halfway through.

3. Read the following prompt and start your timer. Write for ten minutes

before you continue reading this article. The goal is not to produce a finely honed work of literature; the goal is to write and imagine through writing. So don’t get hung up on sounding serious or silly—keep scribbling!

YOUR WRITING PROMPT: What is sustainability/sustainable development? This begs the questions: What do we want the Earth to be like? What is worth sustaining? Imagine it is the year 2075, and to the joy of environmentalists, “utopia” has become

a reality… and to your eyes this world is good. What does this world look

like? How do people live—where do people live? What characterizes the way society looks? What are the political landscapes, the environment,

social situations, etc. like? Are any of the major problems facing the world today completely alleviated… do any problems remain? Be creative, and consider what will change for the better.


the ecotone | 2014




how to imagine tomorrow for today?


Timothy Chen


the ecotone | 2014

WHAT YOU’VE JUST DONE is write a piece of speculative fiction, a

blend of science fiction and fantasy literature. You can read this imaginative text like any other piece of literature or popular media: when we closely read a piece of literature we investigate how the form and narrative

produce meaning. What kind of story does your depiction of an eco-utopia tell?

Ursula K Le Guin, one of America’s most renowned authors of science

fiction (also known for her poetry, children’s literature, and literary criticism), says that “sci-fi” literature is often mistaken as a genre that

predicts the future. For Le Guin, “science fiction is always a metaphor.

We are really talking about right here, right now.” Instead of deviating from reality, most speculative fiction mirrors it. But this mirror-quality is

a bit trickier than it might seem; the reality any piece of speculative fiction mirrors is not really “reality” with a capital “R.” Instead the fun-house

mirror of speculative fiction reflects and refracts particular perspectives

that different people have of their own lived realities. The mirror shows an image of an image of the real.

This means that the piece of fiction you just (speedily) crafted is thrice

removed from the present reality. Your experience of reality is partial, perspectival, and informed by your personally- and culturally-contingent

history (this is your first removal from reality). Under the harsh pressure of being timed, you were only able to articulate certain ideas and issues

in your utopic writing. So even if you could conceive of a utopia in ten minutes, you likely were not able to give full conceptual voice to your

ideas in this particular act of writing (this selective incompleteness is the

second removal from reality). When a reader, even yourself, reads this fun-house mirror of the now concerning the future, that reader will only

pick up on certain ideas encoded in the text of your fiction (the third retreat from reality).

So how does all this help us recover the imaginative ability to conceive of

a sustainable, just planet? Short works of science fiction like the one you

how to imagine tomorrow for today?


just wrote can help us investigate our values and our sense of reality while living through the troubling present.

In virtually every environmental studies course I teach here at the University of Oregon I have been asking my students to perform this same

writing exercise that you just completed. After students finish writing their 10-minute utopias I ask them to read these hopeful futures out loud to one another (so in this sense, reader, you have it easy!). Then I give students the two tasks that I now also give to you:

TASK: Read your rendition of utopia and list what central social and environmental problems have been removed or ameliorated in your future world.

TASK: What problems remain in your utopia? Which present-day problems did you leave out or neglect mentioning in your utopia?


the ecotone | 2014

Solveig Noll

In class we critically discuss what problems we sought to eliminate in our utopias and those which seemed to fly under the radar or remain intact by

closely attending to the representations of utopia we find in our writing.

Implicit in our early discussions is the idea that by timing our writing we force ourselves to perform imaginative triage; the problems we wish away match those we feel are both most menacing and most mutable to

human meddling. What’s interesting about these conversations is when a central problem in one story remains firmly entrenched in another. We

tease out what aspects of society remain fundamentally the same, which have changed, and why.

What we tend to find fascinating about these discussions is the remarkable consistency of tropes and figures found throughout the imagined ecoutopias. For example, in some students’ utopias glistening cities powered

by abundant, clean electricity define the hopeful landscape. These techno-wonderlands feature an ever-increasing consumption of sleek and

entertaining goods, without crippling environmental and social costs.

how to imagine tomorrow for today?


Other stories see paradise as a return to decentralized societies, either suburban or rural, and rely on images of manual labor and tight-knit communities. The third dominant trope amid the hundreds of utopias I

have received is a violent one, wherein a radical resurgence of non-human

nature enacts apocalypse, “cleansing” humanity and allowing a severelydepleted population to again live harmoniously with each other and the earth. Personally, I am not sure which of the latter two scenarios is more unsettling: large urban populations simply vanishing without comment, or a bloody holocaust of billions.

Nevertheless, my point is not to criticize these utopic visions for their

verisimilitude or political disposition. What I find valuable in writing

and reading these quickly-etched fantasies (and what I hope you find interesting about your own) is how these texts allow us to investigate our current values and perceptions, our insights and blind spots.

To be sure, most people share some values that they desire in their utopia: a utopian world would ensure freedom, prosperity, and have a healthy

and biodiverse environment. But these are abstracted ideals, and it is easy

to agree to a principle of “freedom” if we’re seldom required to agree upon what “freedom” means. In this writing and thinking exercise you

are forced to make manifest these abstract values using the imaginative tools you bring to bear on the task. These tools are largely supplied by your cultural surroundings.

DESPITE THE DIVERSITY of values and aspirations we all have for what a beneficent future might hold, dominant trends within these timed

writing exercises underscore some of the troubling assumptions that govern the imaginations of even those of us committed to progressive

environmental and social change. What mines would furnish the metals

and rock that would go into making those steel towers to the heavens? Who would build those structures and who would live in them? Why

do some utopias begin with the act of redistributing wealth while others assume that poverty (and wealth) will always persist? How is it that some


the ecotone | 2014

utopias are clearly anti-racist while others avoid topics of race, gender, and

sexuality? Comparing environmental utopias and critically investigating the images of those utopias allows us to ask what kinds of problems—and solutions—we find to be bound up with one another.

Looking at utopias isn’t about inventing the future, but rather about

interrogating our present values, assumptions, and knowledge. And I think this is a valuable task in service of answering our initial question:

how can we begin to re-conceptualize the dead-end apocalypses that

harass our collective imagination without ever moving us past global

environmental crisis? How can we visualize “the good life” for seven billion people that doesn’t overtax the earth’s plenty? Now you have written your own, brief utopia. What can it tell you about yourself? The way you think and approach the difficult task of building a better tomorrow? How can this change the way you envision today?

Even though it may, in the words of Slavoj Zizek, be “easier to imagine

the end of the world than the end of capitalism,” the latter task is a worthy

project. Not for the sake of predicting that end, but rather for reimagining the present. l

Aylie Baker | “Paula, Robinson Crusoe Island”

how to imagine tomorrow for today?


Adrian Robins | “Morning Chai�


the ecotone | 2014



Resiliant Kumaon agroecosystems in an industrializing world BY ADRIAN ROBINS

I AWOKE ONE MORNING in late October as light was seeping into the starry Indian sky. The first of the birds—red-vented bulbuls, and maybe

a drongo or two—were warming up for the morning chorus. I sat up in my sleeping bag and scanned the camp; nothing was moving except the river nearby and the jungle beyond. We were in Nachani, a small village in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. The group I was traveling with

had been invited to join the village in the fields that morning for the

beginning of wheat season, and I was the only taker. I rubbed my eyes

and set off toward the village, my legs eager to bring me there. This was the last week of my study abroad term with Wildlands Studies, and I was

doing last-minute research for my cultural project. For the five preceding weeks I had interviewed villagers across the Kumaon region of the Indian

state of Uttarakhand to better understand Indian agricultural systems. By talking to, observing, and working alongside these villagers on their land, I learned how traditional subsistence agriculture is not only more productive than industrialized agriculture, but also ensures the health and survival of both humans and the environment.

mountain agriculture


In Kumaon 70-80% of the

of these three contributors: forests,

agriculture—the majority of whom

villagers in these agroecosystems is

population makes their living from

grow and raise their food, with little or no surplus. The culture

that arises from this population

structure is very different from our society that has become detached

from the land. A mere 2% of Americans are farmers, according

to the American Farm Bureau. The world of subsistence unveiled

itself to me as I trekked in the rural Himalaya, where hills and

mountains from the Terai to Tibet

are carved into terraces, eating away at dense forest and radiating

out from frequent villages. Each day we would pass at least one moving pile of grass—a woman

carrying fodder for her family’s

livestock—as well as entire families working on the terraces from before

dawn till dusk. Forests around

villages tend to be healthy--unless the Forest Service had converted them to turpentine-producing pine

monocultures. Livestock amble

about roads and trails, eternally searching for the perfect tuft of

grass. The agricultural ecosystems, or agroecosystems, of Kumaon are

productive due to the cooperation


the ecotone | 2014

livestock, and villagers. The role of remarkably productive, and many of them are committed to protecting

the productivity of the localized systems.

The major components of

subsistence agroecosystems in

Kumaon are forests, livestock, and villagers. Forests produce fodder for livestock, wood for fire

and construction, and medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs)

for villagers. Livestock convert fodder into manure for fertilizer

and produce food, meat, income,

wool and power. Villagers, besides directing the agroecosystem itself, produce the harvest, maintain the

forest, and raise the livestock, in addition to saving seed from the previous harvest. These three niches interlock to form a complex and

productive system of agriculture

that has been developed over thousands of years. So too has the

villager's role in the system been established in four fundamental ways: stewarding the forest, caring

for their livestock, producing the

harvest and maintaining the seed bank.

The first role of villagers in Kumaon agroecosystems is harvesting from

and stewarding the forest, the primary producer that creates the

initial biomass for the system. The

relationship between them and the forest goes back as far as subsistence

itself. The forest provides a

by the healthy forests throughout the region that have survived thousands of years of extraction and habitation. It became clear

as I spoke with these people that

their deep respect for the land was

inherent; the reciprocal relationship between them and the land was a

given. It was therefore no surprise to see healthy forests and rivers.

livelihood for the villagers through

The second ecosystem service

and medicine, and in return the

stewardship of the livestock niche.

fodder, fuel, construction materials

villagers keep the forest healthy,

as their livelihoods depend on its survival. Men and women play separate roles in this relationship, though each plays an important

part. The majority of villagers I interviewed were women, while

my translator was a man, so there may be some bias in my findings.

According to my interviewees,

it is the women's role to gather grass to use as fodder for their livestock. Men will occasionally

assist their wives in this task,

though more typically they collect the wood for fuel and construction materials. Most harvesting in the rural villages is done sustainably and respectfully, as demonstrated

that villagers produce is their The relationship between villagers and their livestock is just as critical

to a subsistence lifestyle as the human-forest relationship. Cows, sheep, chickens, goats and various

cow-yak hybrids each provides something valuable to their owner,

including milk, wool, eggs, meat, power and manure. The villagers give fodder collected in the forest to the livestock, which in turn produce manure that is stored until

the beginning of a new crop season, when it is scattered on fields as a

fertilizer. Twice a year, in April for rice season and late October/early

November for wheat, women all over the region carry the manure collected in the past six months

mountain agriculture



the ecotone | 2014

Adrian Robins | “Auntie, of Dantu�

mountain agriculture


out to the terraces. On an eight-

of weeds in Himalayan fields

mountains to the foothills, we must

and pesticides. Crops generally

hour jeep ride descending from the

have passed a hundred women in immaculate, multicolored saris

carrying piles of manure in baskets

on their heads. They scatter the

manure on the fields before seed is

sown, and the men follow behind with a plough led by two bulls. The

women follow them once more, breaking up mud clumps with a long, hammer-like tool. These

gendered roles go back generations, and few stray from them. The

result of their cooperation is a sown, ploughed, and fertilized field made possible by livestock

and their owners’ yearlong care of them. In this way, the human-

livestock relationship is a key factor of the Kumaon subsistence agroecosystems.

require substantial thinning, due to a somewhat imprecise method of

sowing seed: a handful of seed and

a flick of the wrist. While women are doing most of the day-to-day tasks—i.e. weeding, thinning, and

harvesting—I would find their

spouses in local shops, gambling

with other men, or simply standing around observing passersby. When

it comes to harvesting the biannual wheat and rice crops, however, men and women do an equal amount of the work because there

is so much to be done. A subsistence agricultural lifestyle requires a

daily input of energy to maintain a healthy system, and much of this energy is shared between men and women.

The third role of villagers in those

In part because of this constant

of doing manual labor in the field.

subsistence agricultural systems of

agroecosystems is their direct role

Aside from ploughing, fertilizing, and sowing seed, Kumaoni farmers do a fair amount of weeding,

thinning, and harvesting. Weeding is a necessary part of any organic

farming operation, and the amount


signal a lack of chemical fertilizers

the ecotone | 2014

input of energy and care, the Kumaon are much healthier than the industrialized system of the

West, for both the villagers and the land. The Kumaoni method is a

time-tested sustainable cooperation between the land, animals, and

humans that keeps the soil fertile,

200 varieties of kidney bean in

forests thriving, the livestock

50,000 varieties of rice in India.

the water clean, the air pure, the

strong, and the humans fed. These peoples have been farming the

Himalayas for millennia and are alive today to prove it. In the West,

less than a century after the rise of industrialized agriculture, we are

facing environmental catastrophes

that threaten our very survival, let alone that of the soil, water, air, forest, and livestock. This resiliency of humans and the environment, in combination with genetic diversity and food security, demonstrate

the superiority of the subsistence system.

The last service of villagers in this complex system of agriculture is the

role of seed saving. This practice, along with the country’s ban on

certain genetically modified crops and some villages’ refusal to use

incentivized high-yield rice and

wheat varieties, has resulted in an extraordinary number of crop

varieties. According to Malika Virdi, a member of the women's

rights organization Maati in

Munsiyari, there are 70 varieties of millet in Kumaon’s Johaar Valley,

neighboring region Garhwal, and For two weeks I volunteered at Navdanya's Biodiversity

Conservation Farm, where I helped

sow 190 varieties of wheat to help maintain and diversify their

seed bank. In a single field I saw

more varieties of wheat than all crop varieties sold in the average

American supermarket! Navdanya,

an organization founded by Dr. Vandana Shiva, has helped establish

111 seed banks across India, 17 of which are in Uttarakhand. Their flood tolerant varieties

saved thousands of Indians from

starvation during the 2008 Bihar flood, while their drought tolerant

varieties have saved countless lives during the ever-more-common droughts that have resulted from

a more erratic monsoon season.

The villagers of the region as well as the rest of India thus promote

and protect the productivity of the

agroecosystem while ensuring their own survival by maintaining the diversity and resiliency of seeds.

Kumaoni subsistence farmers are

showing other signs of resiliency

mountain agriculture


Adrian Robins | “The Face of Panchachuli�

besides saving seeds, such as

land for the city. While intentions

in favor of traditional agricultural

population resists modernization.

resisting subsidized modernization

techniques. This resilience is particularly evident in Nachani,

where I worked in the fields that early October morning. In Nachani,

as in most Indian agricultural villages, government subsidies and emigration are threats to the

traditional way of life. Recently the village was sold a heavily

discounted tractor by the Indian

government in an effort to increase

agricultural productivity as well as encourage villagers to continue

farming, instead of leaving their


the ecotone | 2014

may be good, most of the local Even with this technology

available, on that early morning I saw only bull-driven ploughs,

the plastic-covered tractor sitting

unused off to the side. Manoj, a young villager of 24, explained to

me that the beginning of a crop season is a community event,

where the village as a whole will

wake up before dawn and begin work on a particular section of the

terrace. I was fortunate enough to

be in the village at this particular time, when I could take part in

such an event. While working in the

emigration of the younger

jokes, and, despite the hard work,

industrial system replaces the

fields villagers conversed and told

everyone was having a good time. If instead the tractor were to be used,

one person could plough at a given

time, and that person wouldn’t be able to participate in the community

experience. Because of a respect for

the culture and traditions of the

subsistence agricultural lifestyle, the entire agroecosystem becomes stronger and more resilient in the face of industrialization. Though




the traditional subsistence agroecosystems of the Kumaon region, much can be said for its

high level of productivity and for the population’s commitment

generation. As this happens the subsistence one, destroying the soil,

water, air, land, and animals along with the health and well being of

humans. So inextricably tied are

humans and the environment, that

if one falls, the other falls with it. However, great effort is being made

in Kumaon to resist these threats, and the villagers there serve as

an example to farmers across the

globe of a highly productive and

passionately resilient part of a

thriving subsistence agroecosystem. Witnessing and participating in this healthy agricultural system gave me hope for a truly sustainable system of agriculture. l

to preserving this productivity. That the systems have survived millennia



farming and nearly fifty years of increasing industrialization is a testimony to this resiliency. Many agroecosystems of its kind are disappearing in the world as the

productivity of first villagers and

then the other major components begin to slip due to modernization

of farming technology and

mountain agriculture


portrait of




It’s an animal that could also be spot of moss. Lichen smudged on the underside of rock. Bread mold. A gob of pink gum on your shoe. Your eyes could skip right over it like the flattest stone across calm water. What is a bryozoan? Moss animal that feeds with a crown. 500 million-year old filter feeder, body wall surrounded by exoskeleton. 3-week lifespan. Individual, connected zooids. Sea mats. An animal of animals. Under a microscope, the zooid body looks like a daisy: lophophore growing out of terracotta rim. Hybrid of ladybug and desiccated dandelion seed. The lophophore is retractable, and under a microscope feeding bryozoans become ballerinas in unending pliÊs. They grow bush-like, fan-like, like a head of lettuce. Trunks, branches, and leaves. Kenozooids. Autozooids. Secreting their skeletons in the seclusion of their own phylum, alone in the immense company of animals.


the ecotone | 2014


Keats Conley | “Bryozoa”

Allyson Woodard | “Oligocene Soil”


the ecotone | 2014

fossils are heating up Can paleontology use climate change to get people excited about bones again? BY SAMUEL MOORE


On May 10th of last year, the

on his desk at the University of

atmospheric carbon dioxide

Byrd Davis keeps a chessboard

Oregon. The pieces are red and

white, classically British. They remind him of Leigh Van Valen’s

famous hypothesis: organisms are forced to constantly adapt

and proliferate only to keep pace with the rest of their environment,

like Alice and the Red Queen

running as fast as they can just to stay in place. That’s kind of what

it’s like to be a paleontologist, too—their environment is one of

scarce resources, where scientists

compete for public attention. Today,

Davis and his colleagues aim to revitalize their image by providing a unique and, they hope, essential, perspective on climate change.

Mauna Loa Observatory detected

concentrations in excess of 400 parts per million, higher than at any time

in at least the last 800,000 years, and probably since the Pliocene. In other words, the last time CO2 was this high, the oceans were between

33 and 131 feet higher than they are

today, and there were wild camels in eastern Oregon.

Scientists who are alarmed by such numbers include climatologists and oceanographers, and also paleontologists like Davis. He

manages the fossil collection

at the University’s Museum of

Natural and Cultural History

(it holds approximately 80,000 curated specimens), and is an

fossils are heating up


Assistant Professor in the geology

about the novelty of this field—the

school’s Volcanology building (all

something that people have been

department. I found him in the of the people who actually study volcanos had moved to the newer Cascade Hall).

“A lot of people are really concerned about changing environments and anthropogenic climate change,”

Davis told me, “and there’s been a lot of funding that’s been directed specifically at answering questions related to climate change.”

Davis is tall and stern looking, but his blog gives another impression: “My overall goal here is to educate

about the wonderful world of deep

time biology,” he writes, “so I’ll try to tie it back to that whenever

possible. If I can’t, I’ll tie it back to Batman.”

Lately, paleontologists like him

new catchphrase puts a name on thinking about for a long time.

“I like to make chess analogies a

lot,” Davis admitted. “Chess is

nice because you can pick up any

particular game in progress, and if you know all the rules you can talk about what are good options for

each side to make, and future moves. And sometimes you can reconstruct

what previous moves must have been, from knowing the rule set of

the game.” Reconstructing these previous moves is the domain of paleontology—if they can trace the

movements made by species during climate changes in the past, they

can shed light on how species will

react to the big changes happening now.

are positioning their work toward

conservation. “People started to


from conservation biology using

glamour that comes when

specifically try to address questions

paleontology carried the eccentric

paleontological methods, and really

mythical creatures are scientifically

in the last five years that effort has been given a name, and that is Conservation Paleobiology,” Davis

told me. But he’s under no illusions


the ecotone | 2014

validated. From Thomas Jefferson’s

obsession with mammoths to Dr. Joseph Leidy’s assembly of the first complete dinosaur skeleton

( H a d ro s a u r u s f o l k i i ) i n 1 8 5 8 ,

struggles to compete for funding.

again and again in a long golden

never in leadership positions in

sensational new animals turned up

age. Amateur and professional naturalists alike ranged across the continent in search of the next big

find, driven by curiosity and the richness of the American fossil

record. On the West Coast, John Campbell Merriam identified

and categorized countless fossils, including Smilodon, a saber-toothed

cat. Like other paleontologists of his

day he was financed by a famous benefactress, Annie Montague Alexander.

Later, broad thinkers and naturalists unified paleontology with other

f i e l d s . T h e b r i l l i a n t G e o rg e

Gaylord Simpson incorporated

natural selection and genetics into the study of fossils in 1944, and provided an essential foundation

Paleontologists are almost their departments, and when they die or retire they are often

replaced by trendier specialists i n e n v i r o n m e n t a l g e o l o g y,

hydrogeology or geobiology. Donald Prothero, a prominent

researcher, has bemoaned the lack of money and fresh blood.

“It doesn’t matter that paleontology

is cool and popular with the students or that ‘dinosaurs for jocks’ courses are taught to huge

numbers of students in many universities around the country,”

Prothero wrote in a recent book. “Grant dollars call the shots, and

paleontologists are perpetually at a disadvantage.”

for reconciling ancient fossils

IN A FIELD hard pressed to

But the giants of paleontology are

for applied research about recent

with current biological thinking. often dinosaurs in their own right, and later in his career Simpson

dismissed groundbreaking new theories like continental drift.

To d a y, p a l e o n t o l o g y i s a sparsely populated field that

remain relevant, the potential atmospheric trends is compelling.

The story of climate change is often one of displacement and conflict for

organisms across the globe. Friction

occurs when shifting conditions force species to adapt or perish.

fossils are heating up


Successful adaptation often means

TO U N D E R S TA N D w h e re

much like pieces on a chessboard.

future environment, biologists

edging into someone else’s turf— Some animals, like the alpine chipmunk, abandon lower regions

and retreat to the uphill portion of their range. Others, like the California vole, actually enlarge their range by advancing uphill.

Vulnerable populations with narrow habitat requirements

bear the highest burden, and not

all species react the same; these

idiosyncrasies make conservation extremely difficult. It’s not always

species might end up in a

use complex computer models that create hypothetical habitat distributions under different scenarios. These predictions don’t

come out of nowhere, though,

which is where paleontologists

come in. Davis explains that “one

of the things that’s being ignored that’s an important tool for helping us figure out how to respond to climate change is all the data that we can get from the fossil record.”

easy to figure out how a species

Studies of fossilized animals can

and the tools to do so are still

because this is not the first time

will respond to altered climates,

being developed. Scientists have come up with outlandish ways to

help different species adjust their

habitats—from special corridors

that guide relocation to actions

as micromanaged as actually trucking animals to new homes. But

anything they do depends on two

predictions: what future conditions will be, and how organisms will respond to them.

help predict future behavior, that the earth’s climate has shifted. Jefferson’s mammoths were vestiges of a much different

world—21,000 years ago, at their maximum, glaciers extended well

into North America. The remaining

species from that period occupy

very different home ranges today than they did when the continent was blanketed in ice.

By repositioning habitat distribution models to look backwards and by plugging in historical climate data, Davis and other researchers can


the ecotone | 2014

check their accuracy. Comparing

computer-generated species ranges to those found in the fossil record

reveals shortcomings in the ways that the simulation thinks about environmental change.

“We have lots and lots of fossil

material from the last 200,000 years or so, so looking at those systems can give us more information about

how natural systems behave than we

could get from studying any number

of managed wildernesses today,” Davis said.

In a paper published this year, Davis collaborated with Jenny L. McGuire, a postdoc at the

University of Washington, to test

computer predictions using fossils

of West Coast voles. Using a climate simulation, they predicted where the

burrowing mammals should have

lived approximately 21,000 years ago. To ‘ground truth’ their computer model, they compared it to the actual

distribution of fossils from that time. “The key realization from the vole

study is that some of these voles

work well with the kind of systems we’re using to project ranges into the future,” Davis explained. “But some

Allyson Woodard | “Steens Shadow”

fossils are heating up


Hannah Fuller | “Neighborhood Dragon�


the ecotone | 2014

of those species don’t respond to

the new field “also has the potential

the tools expect them to.” In the

foundations,” and has concrete

the environment in the way that species that didn’t respond as expected, the discrepancy between

projections and actual distribution might be explained by any number of factors—one idea is that the

models might not be accurately simulating precipitation. Even if a

certain range seems ideal, the actual area inhabited by voles might be

hemmed in by other factors like interspecies competition, predation, and the distribution of resources.

For the organisms that aren’t predicted well, Davis said, “those

niche models are not going to be of as much use in trying to plan for conservation of those species.”

The executive summary of a 2011 National Science Foundation Workshop on new opportunities in conservation paleobiology reads,

“basic research and applications that emerge from Conservation

Paleobiology will benefit society by

evaluating environmental impacts of the recent past and providing

guidelines for mitigation and restoration.” Not coincidentally,

the same summary observes that

to leverage funding from private

management applications likely to appeal to policymakers.

Davis thinks that paleontologists

like George Gaylord Simpson and John Campbell Merriam, seminal in the early and middle parts of the

20th century, were conceptually in tune with the way his research is going. “They just want to know: what are the biological processes

that have created this diversity

of life? What are the biological processes that control origination and extinction of species? What

are the biological processes that

control the distribution of species on the landscape? And it turns out

that understanding those processes is important, not just from an intellectual perspective, but from a conservation perspective as well.”

I n s u c h a n a u s t e re f u n d i n g

environment, paleontologists (and scientists generally) do not have the luxury of doing science, like

their golden-age predecessors,

just because it’s interesting. “We have to make it clear that the work

that we’re doing has some sort of

fossils are heating up


social consequence, that it’s worth

History has shown that so-called

our science,” Davis remarked. The

a waste of time. Although

society’s time to pay for us to do

chess metaphor that he likes to use also applies to grant money—

strategically positioned research has a much higher chance of getting attention. I asked him if the likelihood of receiving funding

affects his research priorities. He responded that “I have to admit

that I’m leaving several things aside right now because I feel like I have

better chances of getting funded if

I’m focusing on a conservation type question.”

Perhaps it’s good to fund high impact research first, but there is

no doubt in anyone’s mind that ‘nonessential’ fields are in crisis.

“Scientists have a real public image

problem right now,” said Davis. He

is taking his own steps to address this, using twitter and his blog, where you can find lay explanations

of his research alongside science fiction references and coverage of

comics conventions. But the squeeze

he feels is present everywhere in the sciences, where work of immediate

relevance is given priority over more fundamental explorations.


the ecotone | 2014

‘pure’ research is by no means

today’s scientists are frequently

characterized as obscure or selfindulgent, many seemingly abstract

discoveries have had enormous practical implications: Einstein’s

theories led to nuclear technology, and today, quantum physics has

the potential to revolutionize computing. Fossils are no different,

and while it may behoove people like Davis to promote their research, it is up to us to pay attention.

It remains to be seen whether

paleontologists will be able to

capture the public imagination once again, but the question seems ever

more pressing. Can the dizzying perspective brought by deep time help us address the changes we

have wrought on this planet? In the

context of climate change, the Red

Queen metaphor seems doubly

appropriate. If species are already running as fast as they can, what

happens when we speed up the treadmill? l


Hannah Fuller | “Pond Shadow”

Bryan Putnam | “Drift”


the ecotone | 2014




of an


Africa, Land of my ancestors and cradle of humankind Land that once was praised for your resources and great warriors Land of purity and wisdom Land on which I was born a few years ago, what have you become? Every day, I go to the farm with my parents Every day, we face the same painful reality, a drier and barely productive soil Every day, the standing hope of my people is slowly being replaced by a rising despair Every day, our rivers are drier and the remaining waters are mostly undrinkable Every day, polluted water, air, and improper sanitations are making my people sick Every day, I witness strong men and women starving to death Every day, I see scavengers feeding on my people’s bodies


the ecotone | 2014

Why is this happening to us? Why should we bear the consequences of other people’s actions? Why should our lands, waters, and air be polluted while we barely pollute the environment? Why should our lands dry out while we are not responsible for climate change? Why should we be the ones suffering the most from natural disasters when we cannot recover? Why should so many people starve to death while tons of food are wasted in other parts of the world? Why, why, and why so much misery? I hope that one day this torture ends I hope to see crystal clear and clean waters running again in our valleys and mountains, full of fish I hope to see tall, dense and green forests full of wildlife species of all kinds I hope to see our soils become fertile again I hope that one day we will produce enough food to sustain ourselves I hope that my people will not die of infectious diseases anymore I hope that my children will have a better life than mine I hope that one day, Africa, our land, regains its purity

hopes of an african child



We spent the night on the loveseat, Ambrose and I, before the Blaze King, feeding its hungry maw as we listened to the agony of the trees trying to shed their cloaks of ice. Snow for 48 hours, ice storm for eight. The Dougs groaned and cracked, gunshots in the night, bodies falling through the dark and rain to land, one prayed, far from possessions held dear. But still, the ache shared of frozen water bending trees to the ground and tearing their limbs from them in screeches and cries, but never without dignity and the steadfastness to stand tall and brave.


the ecotone | 2014

Jordan Grace | “EMU in Snow�

Suddenly, the sound of shattering glass. For what seemed hours, thousands of crystal wineglasses flung to the ground, hitting stones, disintegrating in a fever of suicide. The trees groaned in relief and gratitude then. And Ambrose and I, throwing another log on the miniature inferno of the woodstove, curled together and slept, dreaming of stalwarts reaching to the sky, having passed another Great Northwest test, the ice storm.

ice storm



the ecotone | 2014


Jordan Grace | “Snowy Tree Tunnel”


IDAHO WIND IS FICKLE. Gusts get distracted by the landscape’s ragged, crumpled granite, so they arrive impulsively: they blow at a

whisper, then suddenly turn ferocious, and never from the same direction.

Idaho sailors learn how to chase them, though. They scorn REI guidebooks

and crystal alpine lakes for the scum-laced wind tunnels laymen call reservoirs, and here, elation bellows past at 7 am. You have to search for it, when your state doesn’t meet the ocean. Usually the wind is crummy,

but if you know where to go and you’re willing to wake up for it, you can find little white shark fins—“whitecaps”—popping out of the water’s

surface. You can see the wind coming because it pushes out darker and darker streaks of navy, and even though I don’t sail much anymore I still

watch for these wind lines when I’m at a reservoir. It was here that my father taught me to read them, and never to trust them.

It was also here amid the discarded Budweiser cans and dirty snake grass-

speckled beaches that he fell in love with my mother. They stopped racing before I was born, but I grew up on stories of weekend regattas—rowdy

gatherings before twenty-somethings found kayaks and mountain bikes,

where my father blended margaritas off the battery of his Subaru and my

mother lake-bathed herself each morning between the twin hulls of her glistening catamaran. Hers was the boat they kept after marriage. By the time I was old enough to sail, the sun had disintegrated its white fiberglass


the ecotone | 2014

body enough to leave milky streaks across our legs whenever we pushed it off the beach and flopped aboard, but I have pictures from when the boat was young—my mother in her red bikini and 5.2 meters of pearly, polished speed.

My parents adopted paranoia in earnest after they had babies. They wouldn’t risk whacking their daughter’s curls with the dolphin striker

(no joke—that’s an actual part of the boat), so I was only allowed on the

lake when anemic winds left us bobbing like a sunburned buoy. It was often Dad who took me out, and at the first whisper of a wind line he

would steer the two of us directly towards shore, roll down the mainsail,

and grope through our cooler’s hot dog-greased ice water for two beers and a Chucklin’ Cherry Squeezit. Then we would sit with Mom, watching

the lake turn dark and ospreys dive through the commotion. At such times

our boat seemed to long for either the future or the past, whichever would return it fastest to the wind. The halyard clanked against the mast like a

bell, beating out a steady rhythm to Mom and Dad’s reminiscences. Dad would talk about how he once had a garishly-colored Hobie catamaran

which flipped forward—or pitchpoled—so eagerly that he would take bets on how close he could land the tip of its mast to shore. Then Mom would

bring up the first race Dad crewed on her boat, (a boat which legend held

couldn’t be pitchpoled), when he was so panicked about flipping that she had to kick his stiff bodyweight forward to pick up speed.

Never in my life have I wanted so badly to grow up, as after these stories.

I lay awake in our tent listening to wind flap through the rain fly, trying to picture the jubilant terror that was surely waiting with adulthood.

Such summer weekends blend together, but with each one I tracked

my maturity by the weather. As I grew into a tall, slouch-backed preadolescent, whitecaps were still off-limits, but they marked the edge

of my experience. I was allowed on the lake even as the waters turned a dangerous, premonitory lazuli, right until hard wind ripped up its distinctive white accents. Ecstasy. Under such conditions the windward



hull of our catamaran could thoughtlessly shrug a girl her full height above the lake surface. I also knew it could capsize her just as easily and

send her face-first down the sail waterslide-style (Mom told a story about this).

Nevertheless, I don’t recall ever thinking “Dad is going to lose control and flip us.” His long legs seemed too secure against the trampoline footholds (which I couldn’t reach), his hands too confident as they tightened the

mainsail (which I was too weak to budge). “Watch and don’t worry,” he told me. “When I pull in the sail we go faster, but when I let it out we slow down.”

It was true. clicklicklicklick whined mainsail ratchets when he wrenched in their sun-baked line, and as I looked down I could see the hull underneath

us levitate out of the water; CLUNK went deflated battens as he flicked his wrist to release them, and we were back horizontal.

“Do it again!” I shrieked, and clickickick we were flying again. Dad pointed

to a dark wind line ambling toward us and I clung my limbs around

whatever taut stays I could find. The wind hit and we flew even higher.

The leeward hull plunged underwater, algae-laden spray thwapping against my face with an adrenaline tinge. We balanced on the edge of

control. But I never lost faith, never once doubted Dad’s ability to mediate between the sails and the violent trickster winds. Nowadays I sometimes

wonder how I would have reacted had he pushed us too recklessly and sent me overboard, just once—would I trust him less? Perhaps I would be more adaptable to change.

I SUPPOSE this is why we turn into teenagers. One summer when I was

sixteen, Dad and I entered a race at Lucky Peak Reservoir. It was my first time captaining for real and Dad was crewing for me. He had his favorite

hat cinched down over his head, a Monaco Grand Prix number from the only international family vacation he ever managed to organize and pay


the ecotone | 2014

off. I was in control, finally—my arms were strong enough to yank the

mainsail line into position, and I was sailing as high as I could with one

hull slicing deep through the lake surface. That’s when I heard the perfect moment that captains sometimes unearth, when the sails are trimmed well

for the wind and they begin to hum low and sweet like a far-off train: you

can let go of the rudder, and the boat will steer itself. I was curious, so I loosened my grip.

“Watch out for that wind line!” Dad shouted up at me. “Let the sail out NOW!”

Startled, I pulled it in. The leeward hull disappeared into the lake and yanked us forward— quickly, but in a strange slow-motion fashion that allowed me to stand upright and plot my dive.

I hopped in; I don’t think my head even submerged. I remember being surprised at how warm the water felt. When I looked around, Dad was bobbing toward me, waterlogged and uncharacteristically frantic. “I think I lost my hat!” He seemed to be trying to dive after it, but his life jacket

clung defiantly to its task of keeping him upright. “Do you see my hat??” I wasn’t interested. The sailboat lay languorous before me, amid a howling

gale. I hadn’t hit my head against the dolphin striker. “Hey, look,” I bellowed back at him. “I pitchpoled it.” l



biodiversity at


A conversation with Brendan Bohannan, Alan Dickman, Nicolae Morar, and Ted Toadvine The concept of biodiversity has held sway as a core tenet of ecology and conservation for a quarter century. As a companion to this milestone,

an ENVS-sponsored seminar series entitled Biodiversity at Twenty-Five

is examining not only the principle’s scientific value, but its role within conservation ethics. Three ENVS faculty—Brendan Bohannan, Nicolae

Morar and Ted Toadvine—are serving as the series’ key organizers, and with varied expertise in both biology and philosophy, they aim to bring science and the humanities into conversation with one another. In March

of 2014, I sat down with Bohannan, Morar, Toadvine, and ENVS Director Alan Dickman to talk about the seminar series and its goals. —Allyson Woodard

Thank you all for taking the time to meet with me.To start off, can you give a background on the term biodiversity? BOHANNAN. Well first off, for a concept that’s so central to ecology

it’s surprising how little I knew about its history until I started working

with Ted and Nicolae. At this point biodiversity is assumed to have technical, scientific meaning—it’s often translated as the number of

species in a particular place—but from the very beginning, it had a


the ecotone | 2014

Wenhui Qiu | “Anastoechus barbatus�

biodiversity at twenty-five


Allyson Woodard | “Study Skins”

value meaning that was also very

important. The word came out of

How long has the word been in common use?

this impending extinction, this

BOHANNAN. Well, there was

about to happen on Earth. They

the contraction of “biological

discussions among ecologists about environmental catastrophe that was were worried about it, so from the

beginning there was the idea that it

was capturing something valuable that we treasure about nature.

That’s what Ted, Nicolae and I have been focusing on recently, trying to understand the value-laden nature of the word.


the ecotone | 2014

a particular conference where

diversity” to “biodiversity” was initially proposed, in 1986. And

then there was a book that came out with the proceedings, edited by

E.O. Wilson and somebody else… who I can never remember [all laugh]…because Wilson casts such

a huge shadow! Anyway, I don’t

really remember the book coming

out: to me biodiversity just kind of

contraction could make such a big

TOADVINE. With this conference

MORAR. This is actually something

a lot of preparation and staging to

together. We asked ourselves in

appeared as a concept.

that happened, in 1986, there was put biodiversity forward in the eye

of the media as a term that captured

this crisis that was upon us. Almost immediately, the term took off.

Conservationists grabbed hold of

it, the media started talking about

it, and it became a term that was widespread in the popular mindset within just a few years. Within

ten years it was being written into

international policies at the level of the UN. The scientists who were

involved, especially Wilson, were very clear that part of their intent

was to use this word as something that they could really push with

difference, but it did.

that came out in our discussions our paper: why is it that a word got

so much attention? Interestingly, it parallels different movements

within society. Questions of cultural

diversity were very important at the time [when it gained traction], which got us thinking that it’s not

necessarily the “bio” that’s the force

within the contraction, but more the

question of diversity. We have a UN

citation in our paper, I think from 2001, that actually states something like cultural diversity is important

to society just as biological diversity is important to nature.

politicians and the public as a way

to get people to see what was at stake in terms of species loss. So, it was a very successfully politicized term from the beginning.

BOHANNAN. Yes, actually the

term “biological diversity” had existed for a long time; that didn’t

start in ’86. It was the process of

turning that term into one word that politicized it. It’s weird that a

At this 25th anniversary of the contraction, what do you hope that the seminar series will contribute to the discussion? TOADVINE. What led us to see

this as an area that’s troubling or problematic is that Nicolae and I were familiar with the way this term gets used by philosophers and

biodiversity at twenty-five


in normal conservation discourse,

policy, when we can’t really define

way. You can ask environmental

the ecosystems that we want to

and it’s used in a fairly uncritical

studies undergrads why we need biodiversity and they’ll say “it

makes things more stable,” or a host

of other reasons why biodiversity’s

important, but in our conversations with Brendan we started to realize

that the scientific evidence hasn’t really supported these claims. In

our original conversations with him, in fact, he expressed quite a

lot of skepticism over whether that

kind of scientific evidence would ever be forthcoming. That led us to both investigate where the science

is with respect to biodiversity,

what has been shown about its relationship, say, to the stability

or health of ecosystems. What we found is that a lot of grant money and a lot of time has been invested

over the last 25 years in trying to


BOHANNAN . Part of the problem with trying to scientifically

make biodiversity relate to things

like function is that the concept has never had a good definition.

It’s hard to operationalize because

the fundamental definition is the variety of life at all these mixed

levels of complexity—from the genetic up to the ecosystem level. That’s an impossible definition

to work with! So, it’s usually

operationalized in ways that we can actually measure: the most

common proxy for biodiversity measurement is species richness— the number of species in some

place. But, that’s really quite different from the overall variety.

demonstrate those relationships,

There’s really good evidence that

quite thin and not particularly

on things like ecosystem function,

and what has been found is actually compelling. So then we started

to wonder: what’s this really all about? Why are we so committed to this term as the basis for so

much international conservation


it in ways that have traction in

the ecotone | 2014

certain species make a huge impact

and if they go extinct then there’s detrimental change to how those systems work. But, there’s not

great evidence that simply having

more things is good. That’s why

scientifically it’s been challenging

biological ecologist to come and

about trying to link biodiversity

and in the spring quarter we have

and there has been huge debate and function.

give us the scientific perspective,

Kim Sterelny, a famous philosopher who’s published on biodiversity

as well. I’m hoping he’ll talk a bit

Did you target particular speakers to address that issue? BOHANNAN. Yeah. The first speaker we had, in the fall quarter,

was somebody who wrote a book entitled What’s So Good About

Biodiversity? Donald Maier is a

philosopher who started to take on how much we assume in this term, and how much value we place in it.

In a way we started with the most controversial speaker, actually—

to kind of give us a poke. Then this winter term we’ve invited a

about alternatives to the use of this term. I mean, I think that’s part of the reason that biodiversity has

such legs: there’s all the political

momentum, but there’s also no good obvious alternative to communicating the variety of life

and why we’re concerned about it.

Really it’s a crappy term. But we need an alternative, and hopefully

Kim will offer some insight. Maier addressed some of that last quarter, but I think it left most of us dissatisfied.

Hannah Fuller | “Camouflage”

biodiversity at twenty-five


TOADVINE. Yes, I think it was the

actually manage to get the book

think that diversity is really the

originally sent it to, for similar sorts

deflationary view. He just doesn’t

issue, at all. We first encountered Maier a couple of years ago, before this book was published. At the

time Brendan and I were teaching a

class together on the philosophy of ecology and we started having these

conversations about biodiversity

(this was before Nicolae joined us), and I just sent an email to an

environmental philosophy list and

asked if there were any people

who were critical of biodiversity. I immediately got back a lot of hate mail—“what do you mean? You can’t criticize biodiversity! Just

what do you think you’re doing?”— B O H A N NA N . —which was fascinating!—

TOADVINE. It was a knee-jerk reaction, for sure. But then I got this

one email from Don Maier, whom I

published with the press he had of reasons: he said he got a lot of

push-back from people who didn’t

buy his story. Finally he sent it to another press, and we discovered

it when it was published. We went, “wait a minute…that’s that

one guy!” and picked up the book and actually started reading it. It’s interesting: he lays out dozens of

arguments for why biodiversity is valuable, and then just sits down and takes every one of them apart in

a very fine-tuned, systematic way. It ends up being a very deflationary account—I mean, he has his own

view of why nature’s valuable, but it doesn’t have anything to do with diversity. So…he’s very

provocative. And this book is just

starting to get some reviews and attention.

had never heard of, who said, “you know, I have this manuscript but it’s under review.” It was around

What kind of response did you get on campus after the talk?

don’t have time to read that.” We

TOADVINE. A lot of people

set it aside. We kind of forgot

quite challenged by what he had to

400 pages long and I thought, “I glanced at it a little bit and then

about him, actually. Then he didn’t


the ecotone | 2014

showed up, and I think they were say.

DICKMAN. Well, and not only

BOHANNAN. Well I feel like

term, he said that it wasn’t a positive

is the something that Ted has been

did he say that it wasn’t a helpful

term, and that scientists were

doing damage by basing things like restoration off of it. I think

that’s where a few people got their feathers up.

BOHANNAN. Yeah he pissed

people off on many different levels.

I mean, the paper we read for the noon-time discussion with him was titled “Why scientists need to

get out of nature conservation.” It argued basically that conservation

was about preserving what is

valuable to us and the sciences have nothing to offer to that. I thought it

was an interesting discussion. There were some people who started out

saying “I disagree with you,” but by the end they had moved to a

position of “I disagree with you… but I don’t know why.”

there are a few possibilities. One

working on...are you ready to talk about that?

TOADVINE. No, not really, but

I will say that coming at this as a philosopher, it’s interesting for me

to see the work that the scientists

have done over how to make the concept of biodiversity tractable,

operationalizable in a way that will

lead to real management decisions

in real conservation situations. But Brendan has convinced me that we’re probably not going to be able

to make that work without some tweaking. That’s led me to think

as a philosopher about certain questions: for example, what is it that we really value? People do feel that there’s something

valuable at stake, and if it isn’t

what the scientists are measuring, then what is it? What is it about

our imaginings of the diversity of

Do you have any alternatives to the term floating around in your own heads, even if they’re not supported by research?

life that we feel so attached to, and

that we feel would diminish us all if we lost? It seems to me that

a scientifically viable term which captures the diversity of life at all its levels doesn’t really get at

biodiversity at twenty-five


Wenhui Qiu | “Egretta garzetta”

whatever it is that we’re so invested

There are a number of languages

are just misplaced—maybe we

they’re only spoken by a few people

in. Now, maybe our investments

should learn that they aren’t really

tracking something in nature and that we should give them up. But, right now I’m inclined to believe

that there’s an insight there in our intuitions about the value of

diversity, and I’m hoping that we can find a better way to articulate it.

One of the things that I’ve been thinking about, that Brendan was

and are not being passed along for

various reasons. Well, why do we

care? What’s lost with the loss of a language? It’s just diversity; it’s

just a bunch of differences. But still there seems to be something about

it that is important, that we want to keep. That seems to me to parallel

our concern over the loss of species diversity.

alluding to, was I’ve been asking

Then there are other biological

care about the loss of languages?”

working on.

myself the question “why do we


that die off every year because

the ecotone | 2014

ways, too, that Brendan’s been

to get at it scientifically than the

number of species. Within ecology

right now is a big movement to look at trait, from the perspective

of the characteristics of organisms and not necessarily their taxonomic groups. That seems to more directly

link nature to things we value in terms of usefulness.

I think of conservation as really

all about what we’re willing to let go extinct, not about what we’re

preserving. One way that people

have tried to deal with that question is through this trait perspective— BOHANNAN. Yeah, well, one of the things I’ve learned from hanging out with philosophers

that is, with things that share a lot

of traits in common, we may not need all of them to persist.

is there are very simplistic ways of thinking about value—you

can think about values that are value, regardless of whether it’s

Do you find interdisciplinary thought valuable in discussions of environmental ethics?

used to capture some of that. And

TOADVINE. I think we have to

whatever usefulness biodiversity

interesting about our discussions

inherent in something, an intrinsic useful to us or not. Biodiversity’s

then there’s instrumental value, or holds for us: for example,

ecosystem function, or unknown

resources waiting for us like new cancer drugs. And for that second value, there may be better ways

collaborate. Part of what’s been

a ro u n d b i o d i v e r s i t y i s t h a t environmental philosophers using this term are still for the most part unaware of the debates among

biologists concerning how to

biodiversity at twenty-five


Celina Stilphen | “Sahalie Falls, OR”


the ecotone | 2014

measure and define it. Biologists,

a lot from the discussions that

Alan, does this support the mission of the Environmental Studies Program?

millennia regarding value and how

DICKMAN. Oh absolutely. I think

on the other hand, could benefit

philosophers have had over many to understand it.

MORAR. Plus, I do think that

discussions like ours are very much a function of the place we

are in: we come from philosophy and biology, but we all have appointments in environmental

that is what we try to do, to bring

people together from different departments to work on common

projects. This is why we’re not a

department: we want to retain that

ability to bring in people from very different backgrounds.

studies. I think that academia

BOHANNAN. This would never

boxes (we call them departments),

never have had any reasonable

generally functions very much in

and environmental studies is this place where different boxes can

come and have discussions about things that we are all interested in.

We also had Alan’s support on this project, and we felt very much that

within this process, there is a very important educational component.

We do want our students to be confronted with critical thinking

around topics that serve as the foundation of their studies. I think

this has been very fruitful: we have

seen ways that students in biology have been challenged by Don Maier—seriously challenged—but

equally we will see philosophers learn more about the sciences.

happen without ENVS. I would excuse to talk to a philosopher had I not been stuck next to one at this table during an ENVS meeting. I

mean, I would never have known Ted was here, never had sought him out, but because we were

physically in the same place and clearly shared some of the same

values because we were both in ENVS, that opened the door to us

working together. And then as I started talking to Ted about what

philosophers do, one of the things

I’ve noticed is that philosophy makes me uncomfortable.

TOADVINE. [laughing] That might just be me.

biodiversity at twenty-five


BOHANNAN. No! No, they all

Wa s h i n g t o n U n i v e r s i t y w h o

that’s a good thing. Part, for me, of

year ago, which is when we got

make me uncomfortable. And what brought us together over this topic of biodiversity is I came back

from a field experiment, generating some new data, and the data made

me uncomfortable. I’d never been uncomfortable before by what seemed to me to be a dispassionate,

scientific observation. But here I was: I got to study in the Amazon, and found that if you burn down

the trees, biodiversity increases.

I mean: take this beautiful forest, burn it down, turn it into a cattle

pasture, and the diversity of things living in the soil goes up. It

was a perfectly clear, statistically significant observation, and it made me incredibly uneasy.

So I thought: if I want to understand why I’m uncomfortable I should

go to philosophers, because they seem to specialize in that. This got

me thinking about the value-laden nature of that term “biodiversity.”

Can you give some background on your two other speakers? B O H A N N A N . We l l , D a v i d Hooper is a professor at Western


the ecotone | 2014

did a sabbatical here about a

the chance to meet him. He’s a

biological ecologist and he’s most

famous for the research he’s done asking the question: “what’s the

relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function?” He had

a very influential paper published in Nature where they did this

big analysis and argued that biodiversity loss has an effect on

ecosystems that’s comparable to big environmental impacts like climate change.

I would also say, too, that of

the people asking these sorts of questions, he’s one of the most

open-minded about the question. Most scientists, I think—even if

they don’t realize it—go in with a

pre-conceived notion that there is a relationship, and that they’re just

quantifying what that relationship

is. David really is investigating

whether there’s a relationship between biodiversity and these

things we value like ecosystem function. Basically, I think he’s

going to give us a state of the art

analysis of the relationship between

biodiversity and ecosystem processes.

…and he’s a very nice guy, which is a relief in this debate.

TOADVINE. Then next quarter

we have Kim Sterelny, a very wellregarded philosopher of science,

who co-authored a book called What

is Biodiversity? It’s well-informed in terms of the science, and is also

well-aware of what has come out

in terms of the science. He and his co-author have tried to come

up with a reconstructive account

His position was critiqued by Maeir at the beginning of the term (they

don’t get along), and so it’s still a discussion: we started with a very dismissive, critical view, and now

we’re going to get the latest state

of the science, and then we’ll get a philosopher who’s been thinking

about these things for a while and has his own ideas on how

we should move forward. We’ll evaluate and see how it relates to our thinking, too. l

of why biodiversity matters to us,

For more information on Biodiversity

up is an argument that what we

recordings of each of the talks, please

and should matter. Where they end should really be conserving is the

phylogenetic difference of things. So, if we have to decide between

two species over which to let go

at Twenty-Five, as well as video visit: Biodiversity/Welcome.html

extinct, we should choose the one

that gives us the most diversity in terms of how it has evolved, because that will somehow capture more of the richness and the history

of that creature’s development, plus the genetic possibilities that it may carry into the evolutionary future.

So he’s giving us something that’s a bit of a reconstruction of what we should value in biodiversity.

biodiversity at twenty-five



the ecotone | 2014


Solveig Noll


“urban frontiers”

Alternative food and gentrification in Chicago BY BROOKE HAVLIK

ON A SCORCHING summer afternoon in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, several hundred friends, families and individuals gather

on Logan Boulevard to purchase their weekly groceries from farmstands filled with local tomatoes, peaches, grass-fed beef and freshly baked bread.

Young, trendy market-goers sit under maple trees, eating tacos from a nearby stand and drinking horchata while Instagramming their market purchases. The neighborhood is known for its “Slow Food culture,” or

the marked opposition to the loss of pleasure within food production

and consumption. The Slow Food movement represents people with an


the ecotone | 2014

appreciation for alternative food culture, and a reverence for farming and production methods that are less harmful to the environment

(Pietrykowski 2004). In Logan Square, Sundays at the farmers market are the best day to observe this shared representation of culture.

Logan Square and its neighbor to the south, Humboldt Park, are located northwest of Chicago’s central business district (CBD) and are

actively experiencing the process of gentrification, the cultural and

economic displacement of lower-income residents by an influx of higher socioeconomic residents. The gentrifiers are most often young and white,

seeking affordable housing and middle- to upper-class lifestyles (Rose 2010). Long known for its affordability and diversity, Logan Square was

named one of the US’s “hottest neighborhoods” in 2013 (Ellis 2013), and

Bon Appetit called it “Chicago’s new restaurant row.” It is also home to the “best farmers market in the city” and the “best local grocer” (Best

of Chicago 2013: Food & Drink). In Humboldt Park, the lively and colorful Puerto Rican corridor called Paseo Boricua is witnessing growth in white residents, alternative restaurants and a resurgence of interest in

community gardens. An active resistance to gentrification is also present

in the neighborhood, evidenced through physical signage, voices of leadership and community-based organizations.

These demographic shifts in Logan Square and Humboldt Park, coupled with the growing acceptance of the sustainable food movement, have allocated alternative food culture the power to stake claim in urban

spaces. And although any definition of sustainability should include

social justice (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987, Curran 2012), the booming alternative food movement has been slow to

address issues of race, class, power and privilege. Food, therefore, is one of the most distinct and under-examined vehicles for urban gentrification.

During the summer of 2013, I lived on the border of Humboldt Park and Logan Square and engaged in an ethnographic research study that

analyzed the role food plays within the gentrification process, and how

eating in urban frontiers


the daily acts of alternative food production and consumption create contested spaces in the neighborhoods. My goal was to take a ‘peoplecentered’ empirical approach to demonstrate that gentrification is not

only driven by the larger capitalist political economy, but also constructed through everyday experiences of producing, shopping and consuming food. My research questions included:

• What role does food play in the gentrification process? • How might food serve as a powerful lens into the racial and classbased experiences in gentrifying neighborhoods?

• What insights can be gained from these diverse daily experiences

to provide feedback for a more just and inclusive sustainability movement?

The primary data instruments included 18 in-depth qualitative interviews

and participant observations at three locations: 1) commercial spaces such as farmers markets, grocery stores and restaurants 2) community gardens and 3) non-profit organizations in order to gain understanding of the

context in which interactions lie. Participants ranged in years of residency (>1 – 40 years), age (35-70 years) and racial or ethnic background.

Food is perhaps unique and more powerful than other initiators of gentrification such as art or music due to its mundane, everyday qualities, which intersect with its ability to uphold social class distinctions. Given

the lived experiences of the Logan Square and Humboldt Park residents I interviewed, it is my intention to push the alternative food movement

and community to consider if alternative food spaces, such as community

gardens, farmers markets and alternative restaurants create inclusive spaces that alleviate some of these spatial conflicts, or whether they create

exclusive spaces that further contribute to gentrification. I will do this by briefly highlighting each neighborhood’s background and summarizing major themes from my final thesis.


the ecotone | 2014

logan square and humboldt park LOGAN SQUARE was constructed by European immigrants in the late 19th century and was once heavily concentrated with small farms,

indicating that food production was central to the neighborhood’s origins. Post WWII, many white families received Federal Housing Authority (FHA) mortgage loans and left the city for the suburban dwellings,

a lending system that was only made available to white families. This systematic and racist policy became popularly known as ‘white flight’

as European-Americans left urban centers en masse for suburbia living (Fernandez 2012). The majority of Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and other

Latino/a groups resided in the Near North Side and Near West Side until

Logan Square and Humboldt Park’s neighborhood boundaries (2013)

eating in urban frontiers


the 1960’s and 1970’s, when urban renewal projects were implemented in high concentrations (Fernandez 2012). Urban renewal was a public

project to reinvest into old and decaying inner city buildings and to fight

the decentralization of cities. Supported by millions of dollars in city, state and federal funding, massive demolitions and the use of eminent

domain forced most Latino residents to move to the west side, where Humboldt Park and Logan Square are located. They were met with

housing discrimination and verbal assaults by white residents, which were reinforced by police and civil institutions (Fernandez 2004). Chicago, like many other cities, followed a pattern of “uneven development,” which

meant the “unequal distribution of both public and private resources and capital along racial and class lines” (Fernandez 2012:141).

The losses of community and economic development have perpetuated

the struggle of Chicago Latinos/as for decades. For Chicago’s Puerto

Rican communities who have been oppressed through a history of spatial marginalization and gentrification in other Chicago neighborhoods, the

memory of forced displacement is fresh (Personal interviews 2013). The

most public organization opposed to contemporary gentrification on the

West Side is the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC), and it is a force within Humboldt Park thanks to its integrative programming and production

of cultural festivals. The PRCC recognizes that impending gentrification in Humboldt Park is connected to a history of colonization and forced

displacement for the Puerto Rican, Latino/a and black communities. While

being thoughtful not to generalize the experiences of residents and people of color in Humboldt Park who have diverse backgrounds, much of my research focused on the PRCC and Paseo Boricua because they continue to represent a space for resistance against oppression and a platform for

the voices of Puerto Rican politics and activists (Personal interviews 2013, Rinaldo 2004).

Humboldt Park is classified as a food desert in several areas, has the

2nd highest rate of childhood obesity in Chicago and maintains an adult diabetes rate three times the national average, at 48% and 21% respectively


the ecotone | 2014

(Margellos-Anast et al. 2008, Diabetes in Humboldt Park 2006). The PRCC, residents and activists are working to address issues of food security,

economic development, anti-colonialism, self-determination and the environment through rooftop and community gardens, local business, food trucks and a youth-run farmers market. Large disruptions from

gentrification will be detrimental to these efforts at reducing long-term health disparities.

urban frontier ideology MANY NEW, young residents I interviewed spoke of being on the front

line of an “up and coming neighborhood” and expressed a steady unease about it becoming less gritty and more mainstream. The “grit” marks a

space as authentic and distinct from white, suburban and cookie-cutter

lifestyles (Personal interviews 2013, Brown-Saracino 2010). Living on the urban “frontier” has become a style of living perpetuated by a culture that increasingly values alternative and often environmentally-friendly

A mural, which reads “We resist displacement and uprooting” on Paseo Boricua, the economic and cultural capital of Puerto Rican culture in the Midwest

eating in urban frontiers


lifestyles in urban areas. Neil Smith notes that the impetus behind

gentrification and the normalization of those cultural meanings are constructed through the Western frontier myth. For example, discourse on “urban homesteading” and growing your own food in the city is part of

popular culture. Smith notes that at first glance these aspects of culture may seem playful or innocent. However, the discourse surrounding urban grit

and homesteading in “up and coming neighborhoods” replicates historical images of adventurous spirits and the rugged individualism of settlers on the American frontier of the West (Smith 113). And while European settlers forcefully removed Natives from their traditional grounds, the

subtler, yet still violent experience of clearing neighborhoods of existing

populations block-by-block is occurring in Chicago and throughout the United States.

struggle and resistance STRUGGLE associated with food security and health was quite evident

through conversations with local residents and community organizations

in Humboldt Park. Julian spoke about the special relationship between Humboldt Park’s food insecurity and Puerto Rico’s colonial history:

Food security is a threat that runs to the heart of colonialism. Since 1898, Puerto Rico turned from a country that grew what it

ate, to a country that exported what it ate and imports what it eats.

Resulting in some of the worst social indecencies—not only of food, but diabetes, childhood obesity, blood pressure, mental illness, drug

addiction, suicide…Chicago is actually an example for Puerto Rico. Julian illuminates how the loss of food security, increasing health inequality and contemporary food deserts are not just about access to nutritious

foods in Humboldt Park, but rather are part of a trajectory of oppression

and a consequence of colonization that is compounded by gentrification and the loss of affordable housing. Further, the local community projects that enable healthier and more robust communities in Humboldt Park are


the ecotone | 2014

One of Logan Square’s new corridors of restaurants and bars

not just local advocacy projects, but are considered transnational and an example for those on the island of Puerto Rico.

One of the ways the PRCC has sought to counter food insecurity and build

a strong community to resist gentrification has been through the Greater

Humboldt Park Urban Agriculture Initiative (GHPUAI) that attempts to make alternative food accessible and inclusive by offering nutritious and

culturally appropriate foods grown, processed and sold primarily by the community for the community. The GHPUAI represents a do-it-yourself stance. Although not a phrase I heard used by the PRCC, food sovereignty

is clearly a goal for community activists. Further, it was acknowledged by

interviewees that impending gentrification is a threat to the potential of that sovereignty and the right to nutritious foodways.

One of the largest projects the PRCC and high school have taken on is

fundraising and building an educational greenhouse at Pedro Albizu Campos High School to help instructors integrate science, technology

and urban agriculture. Youth grow food in the greenhouse and at several

neighborhood gardens and run the Humboldt Park Farmer’s Market.

eating in urban frontiers


They sell products both familiar

and unfamiliar to Puerto Rican cuisine. Recao, also known as

Mexican coriander, is an essential ingredient for sofrito and is sold

alongside Swiss chard and kale,

which are less common in Puerto Rican foodways. The goal of the

high school and urban agriculture programs is to produce leaders

for the next generation who continue to see the community as a place to invest in and to

help the PRCC advance the The Greenhouse at Pedro Albizu Campos High School

mission of self-determination and


contested spaces COMMUNITY GARDENS have been praised for their capacity to restore

urban streetscapes, reduce food expenses and food deserts, improve public health, reflect new senses of pride in the neighborhood, connect people to the environment, relieve stress, be a catalyst for community improvement and safety, as well as bring together a new social network of neighbors.

However, it was evident throughout my research that community gardens, just like early urban parks, were not neutral spaces as advocates suggest,

but rather, highly politicized spaces. Catherine, a 29-year-old white,

middle-class woman involved in a community garden in Humboldt Park,

noted the positive role gardening may play in creating inclusive space within a gentrifying neighborhood:

There is the language barrier – you have all these English and

Spanish people and these people whose lives wouldn’t intermingle


the ecotone | 2014

and they are all living in the same area. I feel like the garden is trying to get them to intermingle because they live in the same area.

However, most garden admission policies occurred through word of mouth. In Catherine’s garden, approximately 20% of the gardeners were

people of color while the other 80% were white and middle-to-upper class (Personal Interview, 2013). This admissions method proved to build social capital and networks among newer white residents, as well as normalize

the garden as a white space rather than a space that was open to everyone.

While some white garden members recognized racial imbalance as a

problem, many others simply stated they were there to grow healthy food

and did not mention how these spaces may create tension between the community’s largely Latino population and the garden’s overall whiteness.

The vast majority of gardens I encountered were either owned by a private institution (such as a hospital), private owners or by community

A community garden juxtaposed against new and old housing developments in Humboldt Park

eating in urban frontiers


land trusts. In no case, however, did the gardeners themselves own the property. However, ideology surrounding private property rights

manifested quite often through garden politics and everyday interactions. Some gardeners spoke about misunderstandings regarding community garden rules and private property. Gabriella mentioned a situation where theft had occurred at a garden called El Coqui, which has been in the Humboldt Park community for over thirty years.

When the high school used to oversee it, we would always have

stuff stolen, you know. I don’t know, we never made such a big deal about it. Now, there are all these people coming into our garden. First of all, that garden has been there for decades, people,

you don’t know. You came in and created your own organization

without considering who have

been used to gardening in this place…Well it was a mom and

a teenage daughter and some other kids, I am sure that lady

has been used to going into the garden and not that it’s right or wrong, ethical or not, but she

has been used to going in there

and getting her peppers or whatever it is. But we used to have people who used to take, well not everything, and its just

like hey, we are in a community A private property sign hangs outside a community garden in Logan Square

and there is a necessity for it.

No one is going to go and steal

vegetables if they don’t need it. Not to say that it is right, but you don’t know if that was a former gardener there and they have been excluded from this process.


the ecotone | 2014

Here, Gabriella demonstrates that her understanding of “community� within a community garden is much different than the lock and key

mentality. For Gabriella, it is not just about the community within the garden; rather it’s about the garden being set within a larger community of Puerto Ricans or fellow neighbors. This demonstrates

that without understanding of context, history and memory, conflict between newcomers and existing residents will be heightened.

just and sustainable food communities DESPITE A SENSE of inevitability of gentrification from a politicaleconomic view, it is not a naturally occurring process. It is reproduced

on a daily basis through the lived experiences of those within the

neighborhood and the discourse about the neighborhood. If the alternative food movement is collectively opposed to the capital and corporate production of food, so too should they be opposed to the

capitalist orderings of power within urban spaces that continue to violently remove and displace communities. The commodification

of housing and neoliberal urban markets is closely tied to the

commodification of food in alternative restaurants, grocery stores and farmers markets.

Gentrification is just one lens to interpret how land has been used and misused in the United States to benefit some and oppress others. Displacement risks disrupting existing networks of people

and their foodways. It also disrupts food justice-related work, such

as community gardens or farmers markets. Therefore, affordable housing and food justice are tightly linked together.

This research showed that there is room at the local level to disrupt, reduce, or altogether stop the process of displacement. This

slowdown of movement can be coupled with measures taken to

reduce gentrification such as more affordable housing, participatory

eating in urban frontiers


democracy, cultural affirmation, coalition building and anti-racist food justice trainings to reflect on the normalization of white culture and its

claim to space in gentrifying neighborhoods. Further, those involved in

the food movement in gentrifying neighborhoods must participate actively in community work and build multi-racial, multi-class and multi-ethnic

alliances to advocate for a variety of experiences and representations (Kobayashi and Peake 2000). The concept of an inclusive and intercultural

space must be centrally designed into alternative food practices such as community gardens and farmers markets rather than added as an afterthought or tacked on to the existing project.

In the end, food remains a highly political yet intimate topic, and is also a tool that can be used to build solidarity and resistance to gentrification.

Food should be seen as the lowest common denominator among people who seek institutional and social change. l


the ecotone | 2014

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eating in urban frontiers


Wenhui Qiu | “Ladybird”


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special thanks

Allyson Woodard

Peg Boulay Alan Dickman Matthew Dennis RaDonna Aymong Gayla WardWell Alison Rajek ENVS Student Advisors Brendan Bohannan Nicolae Morar Ted Toadvine UO Printing & Mailing Services Environmental Studies Donors

editing team Aylie Baker Timothy Chen Shane Hall Samuel Moore Wenhui Qui

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ECOTONE: A transition zone between two adjacent communities or ecosystems. An ecotonal area often has a higher density of organisms and a greater number of species than are found in either flanking community.

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Ecotone 2014  

The journal of the University of Oregon Environmental Studies Program

Ecotone 2014  

The journal of the University of Oregon Environmental Studies Program


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