Interview with Dr. Sarmiento, Part One
A little while ago, I had the chance to speak with Dr. Fausto Sarmiento, a professor of Mountain Science in the Geography Department at the University of Georgia in Athens. He is also Courtesy Faculty in the School of Ecology and Honors Faculty member. I split the interview into two separate blog posts, and the next part will be up shortly.
After formalities, I began by asking him how he got started in mountain geography. He replied that it was an interest he’d always had since elementary school. Since he grew up in Ecuador, a range of interest was the Andes. In college, he studied mountain geography, as well as biology, where a specific field of study was plants and animals in the Cloud Forest. After, he worked at the Museum of Natural History in Ecuador, then came to the US for graduate work at Ohio State University, where his master thesis was on environmental change in the Cloud Forest. At the University of Georgia, he earned his PhD in ecology on the tropical Andes.
As we began to get more into the topic of ecology, I brought up one of his published pieces of research on precipitation from a socio-hydrological perspective, and asked how closely related ecology was to politics and society in general. He mentioned environmental geography as an important part of the interrelatedness between humans and the environment. In the past, he said, nature was relatively disconnected from society, but now, it has become political ecology because everything is a reflection of political programs including historicity, changes due to human impact, and hybrid space.
Relative to Dr. Sarmiento’s own field of study, public policy is intertwined with his work. There are reforms for the Andes that have emerged recently, as well as in the past. Nature has been incorporated into the National Constitutions and National Assemblies of Bolivia and Ecuador, effectively giving rights to Mother Earth. This idea of conservation has spread to Canada, France, England, and many others. They have modified the way citizens view nature, and provided legal resources to protect landforms.