Friday, February 20, 2015

SARAS meeting short report 02-10-15

From Fred Swanson:


South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability – Arts-Science Meeting
Short Meeting Report 

– Fred Swanson, US Forest Service, Corvallis, OR

The South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability (SARAS), to be based in a permanent facility under construction in Maldonado, Uruguay, is dedicated to interdisciplinary research that considers the impact of climate change on natural and social systems in South America.  Uruguay is a good home for this undertaking – a small, well-functioning country with commitment to the well being of its citizens and environment and a very suitable meeting ground for participants from other countries on the continent.

The fifth annual meeting of SARAS in 2014 featured the Arts-Science initiative of SARAS with a one-day set of public presentations of examples art-science collaborations in South America, northern Europe, and the US (see the program here).

I was particularly interested in presentations by artist Tone Bjordem (Norway) working with scientists Carl Folke (Sweden) and Marten Scheffer (Netherlands) who are planning half a dozen large, public sculptures that connect people in urban centers with endangered wild ecosystems, such as coral reefs and rain forests.

Professor Jorge Marcone (Rutgers) described the emergence of environmental humanities programs at universities in the US and Europe in response to the widespread sense of environmental crisis.

I spoke about the confluence of arts, humanities, and science at sites of long-term ecological inquiry, including biological field station, marine labs, and NSF-sponsored Long-Term Ecological Research sites (see responses to the recent survey of FSMLs), making the point that many programs are springing up quite independently and the time is ripe for establishing better networking to share methods and discoveries.

However, there was no other mention of sustained, place-based interactions of arts, humanities, and ecology, despite one of the most intriguing examples being in the far south of South America (Rozzi et al 2012).

Overall, my impression is that efforts to increase arts-humanities-science collaboration are springing up in many ways in many places, driven in good measure by the feeling that these partnerships can make an important contribution to making the world a better place for future generations.

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