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:subsistence matters:

My collection of materials and findings from on-going research on the foundation of human existence: food, care, land; specifically for the purposes of enriching the human habitat and the complex web of life which sustains our livelihoods. From the field, the kitchen and philosophy, anthropology, geography, politics, sociology, agroecology, law, permaculture, animism and magic. In search of diversity, autonomy, community, flourishing, into a more-than-sustainable future, inspired by the other side of the anthropocene. … …

Plants that speak and institutions that don’t listen

A few years ago I wrote a chapter for a book edited by Michel Pimbert with the title ‘Food Sovereignty, Agroecology and Biocultural Diversity: Constructing and Contesting Knowledge‘. The chapter is about ‘Plants that speak and institutions that don’t listen’ and features ‘notes on the protection of traditional knowledge’ and it is based in field work I did for my PhD in the Ecuadorian Amazon. It was recently brought to my attention that … …

Funding agroecology: huge potential remains untapped

The need for radical transformation of food and agriculture systems has been thoroughly documented, widely accepted and embraced rhetorically by organisations at all scales, but its potential remains untapped: the political will to actually funding agroecology is missing. In March 2018, together with Michel Pimbert, I wrote: “…Our recently published research shows that very little overseas aid is directed at agroecological research and development. Since January 1 2010, no funds at all have … …

Forest Gardens and Ancestral Health in the Urbanising Ecuadorian Amazon

I have given a variation of talks on the same central lessons that I have learned while working with indigenous peoples in the Amazon, particularly the Amazon as a horticultural artefact and, in this talk, the problems that urbanization entails for the practice and livelihoods of shamans. Here is a video of a version delivered at the 2019 World Ayahuasca Conference in Girona, where I was a little nervous in the vast theatre, … …

Yachaks, knowledge, ayahuasca and protection

This is a brief extract from my thesis (more on that here), featuring an interview with a Kichwa shaman about yachaks, knowledge, ayahuasca and protection. 5.3.1 Wizards and Fighter Jets. “How do you protect your knowledge?” I asked a middle-aged yachak [‘one who knows’, plural yachakuna], a traditional Kichwa healer, wizard and community adviser, as we were preparing a large amount of ayahuasca brew, the hallucinogenic drink ‘that makes you see’, and ultimately, … …

‘Living in Napo’: a brief political economy of extraction and colonisation in the Ecuadorian Amazon

This is a presentation of Chapter 3, ‘Living in Napo’, of my PhD thesis (The Protection of Traditional Knowledge in the Ecuadorian Amazon: A Critical Ethnography of Capital Expansion, 2010), which is a brief political economy of extraction and colonisation in the Ecuadorian Amazon. It contextualises my fieldwork (2005-2008) in the Napo region, as well as the key focus of my research in that period, a participatory bioprospecting project. “Antes los gringos decían … …

Indigenous Amazonian responses to COVID-19

I recently submitted an application for a small amount of money for a project with a potentially large impact. Having worked with Kichwa communities, federations and individual yachaks (shamans) in the Upper Napo since 2005 and partcipated in their struggles for protection, restoration and revalorisation of traditional knowledge and medicinal practices, the current resurgence of interest in the ways of old and the healing powers of the forest is exciting. Even if it … …

Awakkuna: Knitting for conservation in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Title: Awakkuna: Knitting for conservation in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Abstract: Crafting certain essentials of everyday and celebratory life (baskets, clay pots, carrying and fishing nets, tools, jewellery and ornamentation) has been—and in certain cases still is—a fundamental aspect of Napo Runa (Amazonian Kichwa of the Upper Napo River, Ecuador) subsistence and conviviality. Making ‘artesanias’ for sale has, for many families, become a key aspect in a bundle of livelihood strategies which confirms cultural … …

‘More-than-sustainable’ cultural forests of Amazonian pasts

Title: ‘More-than-sustainable’ cultural forests of Amazonian pasts: The other side of the anthropocene and the future human habitat. Abstract: The anthropocene, despite contested meanings and definitions, tends to imply a ‘negative impact human social metabolism’. On the basis of a nascent action research project on ancestral chakras (traditional forest garden systems) in the Ecuadorian Amazon with Napo Runa (lowland Kichwa) communities, I explore ‘the other side of the anthropocene’ in the praxis of … …

Vulnerable Amazonian communities?

On May 7, 2020, I appeared briefly on ABC’s RN Drive with Patricia Karvelas. She asked me about the situation for indigenous people in the Amazon with regards to the pandemic. It is difficult to talk about ‘vulnerable Amazonian communities’. Firstly, the Amazon is huge and diverse. There are people living in isolation from civilisation deep in the forest; there are indigenous people living in cities; and everything in between. Secondly, like anywhere … …

Biosocialism for the Amazon? Ikiam, the state and subsistence struggles in postneoliberal Ecuador

Title: Biosocialism for the Amazon? Ikiam, the state and subsistence struggles in postneoliberal Ecuador Abstract: As the largest connected system of rainforests on Earth, the role of the Amazon in stabilising global ecological processes and mitigating climate chaos is widely seen as critical and its protection has taken on new urgency. Yielding crucial commodities, the Amazon region also represents, however, important state income. Governing the region efficiently and effectively is thus paramount to … …

Kichwa community leader on pandemic

This is a low resolution video, recorded and sent by phone from the Upper Napo region of the Ecuadorian Amazon, by Patricio Andi, who is a community leader. It does not have very good audio, but that should not detract from the otherwise clear and important message. It is provided for general interest and as part of a collection of reference material for an article in The Conversation titled ‘How indigenous people in … …

Kichwa midwife on corona pandemic

Below you find four low resolution videos – recorded on and sent by phone – in which Ofelia Salazar, Presidenta of AMUPAKIN, talks about the pandemic from her perspective, living in a road-accessible community of the Upper Napo region of the Ecuadorian Amazon. She speaks in Spanish. In time we will create subtitles for these videos and also provide transcripts. It is provided for general interest and as part of a collection of … …

Pandemic in the Amazon

This is an expanded version of an article I co-wrote with John Martin Pedersen, which appeared in The Conversation ‘How indigenous people in the Amazon are coping with the coronavirus pandemic‘. This expanded version includes several paragraphs that did not meet editorial approval. We also collect additional reference material here, especially statements and messages directly from the Amazon (particularly Ecuador and Peru) which were shared with us specifically for this purpose. This is … …

degrowth2020: food matters

Call for interventions – *Food matters* the role of your dinner plate in degrowing the economy: Extended deadline: Tuesday, March 10 A subtheme at *Degrowth2020* the 7th International Degrowth and 16th ISEE Joint Conference: Building Alternative Livelihoods in times of ecological and political crisis *Manchester 1 to 5 September 2020* As the world races toward a projected 9 billion inhabitants, the failings of dominant food systems are impossible to deny: severely polluting, the … …

Green transition friction in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Title: Green transition friction in the Ecuadorian Amazon This is a talk (or guest lecture) I was invited to give at Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Wales as part of their MSc Sustainability and Behaviour Change in January 2020. It is primarily based on field work done during two fellowships between 2016 and 2019 and draws on my research and collaborations with Amazonian peoples since 2005: Independent Social Research Foundation Fellow, Oxford … …

A more powerful narrative in support of agroecology

This talk I was invited to give at ‘Gearing up for agroecology: transforming publicly-funded research and innovation for the public good?’, a panel at Oxford Real Farming Conference in January 2020. Speakers: Helena Paul, EcoNexusNina Moeller, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Re silience (CAWR), Coventry UniversityAdam Payne, Landworkers’ Alliance (LWA)Patrick Mulvany, Food Ethics Council Join us to explore how to transform publicly-funded research for agroecology and help broaden the coalition – initiated at … …

Radical transformation of not just our food systems, but of the whole of our world

This is a short talk I was invited to give on a panel at the Oxford Real Farming Conference in 2019 with the title ‘RECLAIMING RESEARCH FOR REAL FOOD & FARMING: resetting the agenda for the public good‘. In the talk I bring together some elements of my work on (the lack of) agroecological funding (shorter version in The Conversation) and the Amazon, where I have worked with Kichwa and Shipibo people since … …

Open Source Seed Networking

This is a report about open source seed that I co-authored with JM Pedersen, and which was commissioned by Hivos. It features a preface by Carol Gribnau, Director of the Green Society Program @ Hivos. The emerging network of open source seed projects is a significant contribution to biodiversity, climate chaos adaptation, and a healthy, satisfying dinner table. About a decade old, the translation of the Free Software principles and the Open Source … …

The Amazon as horticultural artefact and why it matters

This is a Lightning Talk I was invited to give at ‘Science Uncovered‘: Friday 28 September is European Researcher’s night, and for the fourth time Manchester Museum will be hosting Science Uncovered Manchester – a special late opening showcasing Manchester’s finest researchers and their work for an adult audience. There’ll be research on show, music, drinks and a lively atmosphere. Our participation in Science Uncovered event is funded by the Natural History Museum, … …