2019 Year in Review

A mosaic made of NYC metrocards shows a red-tailed hawk looking out at the viewer

What a long, strange year it’s been. Here at Edge Effects, we had a few milestones. We celebrated our fifth anniversary and redesigned the website to help readers explore our over 400 articles. And what an archive it is, thanks to the many incredible contributors and editors who have shaped Edge Effects over the years.

One of my favorite parts of being an editor at Edge Effects is speaking with people about their compelling work. This year, I interviewed attorney Dan Lewerenz, scientist and artist Christine Liu, wildlife rehabilitator Tessa Collins, and animal studies scholar Lori Gruen. I’m also especially proud of the pieces we published this year about relationships between animals and humans—something near and dear to my own research— from essays about pythons, pigeons, and beavers, to interviews about antiracism in animal studies, ethical conservation, vegetarianism, and disability rights and animal rights.

Every piece on the site only exists because of the contributors who generously offer their ideas, time, and labor. We’re so grateful. The recommendations below are a starting point, suggesting pieces you might have missed and ones you should read again. There are so many wonderful pieces and podcasts to appreciate, so we hope you’ll venture back into our archive and subscribe to enjoy what’s coming next. Here’s to another five years and beyond!

—Laura Perry, Managing Editor

“How A Beaver Became a Twitter Star,” by Emily Fairfax

An image from Emily Fairfax's beaver ecology animation showing that beaver dams help mitigate wildfires.Watching and sharing videos of cute animals is a favorite pastime of mine (and millions of other people on the internet). Still, I never dreamed I’d get to share an Edge Effects piece and a cute animal video in a single, hyperlinked endorsement. Today is that day. If you haven’t already encountered it, Emily Fairfax’s stop motion beaver video is a must-see. Not only is it a delightfully cute depiction of the ways in which beavers help limit the spread of wildfires, but the piece itself offers excellent advice for communicating scientific research in a fun and accessible way.

—Nicole Bennett


“There’s No Sheriff on This Planet: A Conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson,” by Gerry Canavan

Astronaut poses on the book cover of Kim Stanley Robinson's novel, Red Moon.Since entering grad school last fall, a disproportionate amount of my waking thoughts have focused on the Anthropocene, geoengineering, and space travel. Lucky for me, this podcast interview with Kim Stanley Robinson discusses all three of these topics! Just as insightful and colorful here as in his fiction, Robinson offers a nuanced approach to the difficulties of our current environmental condition, including what some might consider a controversial (at least in the context of leftist environmental politics) position on geoengineering.

—Doron Darnov


“What One Court Case Could Mean for Tribal Sovereignty: A Conversation with Rebecca Nagle,” by Jen Rose Smith

Map showing progress of allotment in the Creek NationThis year’s Indigenous Land and Waters Series features collaborative work and conversations with activists, artists, scholars, and practitioners who remind us that “it’s really important for Native people to be able to tell Native stories.” In her conversation with Jen Rose Smith, Rebecca Nagle of Cherokee Nation talks about the Crooked Media podcast she hosts, This Land. Centered around the Supreme Court case Carpenter v. Murphy, their interview covers the legacy of federal allotment, the diversity and vitality of tribal nations in the United States, and the future of Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma.

—Carly Griffith


“The WWII Incarceration of Japanese Americans Is an Environmental Story,” by Hana C. Maruyama

I spend a lot of time thinking about futures—what future generations of peoples, plants, and more-than-human animals are owed by the very fact that they might someday live, breathe, need, and desire here on earth. Recently, I’ve been thinking more about the past—about indebtedness and embeddedness and what the present owes those who have come before. This year, Kendra Greendeer (Ho-Chunk), Raina Martens and Bii Robertson, and Kwynn Johnson have led me to re-consider the human and more-than-human histories in the living archives beneath my feet. And Karen Tei Yamashita and Hana C. Maruyama have shown me how environmental histories can become a loving touch across time. Each—in her own way—investigates how the incarceration of Japanese Americans has shaped the nation of the United States, the landscapes of the camps, and her own family’s story. Maruyama’s deeply personal review of Connie Y. Chiang’s Nature Behind Barbed Wire is an intergenerational embrace, centering Chiang’s beautiful book, Maruyama’s grandmother, and the environmental actors that are, as Chiang writes, too often understood as “an unexamined backdrop” to studies of life in the camps. In the US at the close of 2019, every day brings a new story about the fatal violence of xenophobia, racism, settler colonialism, and environmental injustice. A loving and unflinching grappling with the legacies of an unfinished past might be just what the future needs.

—Addie Hopes


“No, Bats Aren’t Scary: Five Questions for Tessa Collins,” by Laura Perry

An illustration of two bats flying at duskJust in time for Halloween, Edge Effects published “No, Bats Aren’t Scary” a conversation with Tessa Collins, a wildlife rehabilitator at Dane County Humane Society’s Wildlife Center. Collins seeks to reshape public perception of bats, who aren’t weird or creepy but just like other wild mammals—more scared of people than people are of them. The interview sheds light on threats to bat populations like the fungal infection white-nose syndrome and climate change. This piece is well worth the read for anyone interested in learning more about bats and for those looking for ways to get involved with bat rehabilitation.

—Mary-Kate Keran


“MetroCard Mosaics Celebrate Migration” by Juan Carlos Pinto

A hawk drinks from a lake. Collage made from MetroCards

Many words, often heated and political, have been spilled over the topic of migration. Yet words have frequently failed to animate the humanity of the bodies who move across national borders. Juan Carlos Pinto’s artwork, in contrast, gives a vibrantly colorful reminder that humans are one of many migratory animals. It turns migration into a multispecies celebration of the diversity shaped by movement and mixing. While riding a subway might not feel like flying, Pinto turns MetroCards into wings.

—Marisa Lanker


“How Rubber Plantations Reshaped Vietnam: A Conversation with Michitake Aso,” by Jeffrey Guarneri

During my first visit to Vietnam, I wasn’t expecting to see neatly planted rows of trees adjacent to lush tropical landscapes. Both mesmerizing and surreal, I was curious as to how they got there. In this podcast, Jeffrey Guarneri interviews historian Mitch Aso about his new book, Rubber and the Making of Vietnam: An Ecological History, 1897-1975, which explains the colonial and global history of rubber plantations in Vietnam. Throughout its intriguing yet complex history, rubber plantations became synonymous with labor exploitation, and resentment. Despite fluctuating circumstances, these plantations sustained their existence and continue to play a role in Vietnam’s economy.

—Jessica Montez


“The Land Remembers Native Histories,” by Kendra Greendeer

Footprints in snowThis year, I was most excited about the Edge Effects series on Indigenous Lands and Waters, which was inspired by the Center for Culture, History, and Environment’s spring seminar and place-based workshop, Changing Landscapes of Indigeneity. I had the fortune to participate in both, and each influenced the ways I think about reverberations through time. This is why Kendra Greendeer’s piece, The Land Remembers Native Histories, struck such a chord. I’m proud that Edge Effects was able to offer her a platform to share this story in her own voice and on her own terms. Greendeer offers critical insight about how, why, and for whom we memorialize, while reminding us that, despite the stories we choose to mark or omit, the land remembers. The visages of the past surround us, but we must learn how to see; and we’d be wise to appreciate how every footstep contributes to the making of and memory of place.

—Travis Olson


“Uprooting a Renter’s Garden,” by Dani Stuchel

yellow flowersFor 2018’s year in review, I recommended a podcast about gardening in outer space. It seems only fitting that this year I’m recommending a piece about gardening in another extreme environment: the academic job market. Dani Stuchel’s essay opens with the different timelines of plant and human lives, as perennial daylilies invite reflection and patience. The essay that follows shows how both plant and human lives are made precarious by economies and institutions that require uprooting in order to survive. This shared vulnerability is never more evident than in Stuchel’s description of an unmade garden, torn up at a landlord’s insistence because “plants are grown where and how the landlord authorizes.” This terrific essay asks readers to linger with how notions of justice and promises might unexpectedly propagate across species lines.

—Laura Perry

From all of us here at Edge Effects, thanks for reading, listening, and contributing!

Featured image: A red-tailed hawk from “A Manifesto about Migration, Freedom, and Diversity” by Juan Carlos Pinto, 2019. Edge Effects featured Pinto’s work in “Metrocard Mosaics Celebrate Migration” (April 30, 2019).