2023 Year in Review

A piece of white paper with the word "2023" written on it. The paper is placed against a black background.

2023 is another productive year for Edge Effects. We launched two special series—“Violent Environments” and a collaborative series “Commons for Whom?.” Another milestone for the magazine was our first non-English essay “Más allá de los monocultivos del género, los horizontes trans.” With so many new voices in our magazine, our editors had a hard time selecting their personal favorites. We hope you enjoy these articles and podcast episodes as much as we do!

As we say goodbye to 2023, we also want to remind our readers that more excellent content is on the horizon. For example, we are now seeking submissions for a new series titled “Troubling Time,” which interrogates environmental ideas, spaces, processes, and problems through the lens of temporality.  (You may view the full call via this link.) Stay tuned!

“Saving the Forest to Secure the Mine in Jamaica’s Cockpit Country” by Marie Widengård 

bulldozers operating on brown-orange soil at a Bauxite mine
Bulldozers remove the top layer of soil at a bauxite mine in Pará, Brazil. Photo by João Ramid, 2013.

Bauxite is a run-of-the-mill, reddish-brown sedimentary rock. It’s also the world’s primary source of aluminum—and an essential component of renewable energy technologies. With the green energy economy opening up new frontiers of extraction, Marie Widengård takes us to the frontlines of the political battle playing out over bauxite mining in Jamaica’s Cockpit Country. The Accompong Maroons, struggling against a state-backed mining project in their lands, are caught between conservation and mining interests, both of which threaten their sovereignty. Widengård deftly makes the case that extraction and conservation are strange bedfellows, with overlapping geographies, logics, and strategies that threaten the lifeways of Indigenous communities in Jamaica and beyond. As the world’s hottest year on record comes to a close, I keep returning to this essay—and grappling with what it reveals about the challenges we face in pursuing not only a rapid but a just transition. 

– Kristen Billings

“The Gremlincore Aesthetic Might be the Climate Solution We Need” by Madi Whaley

A cluster of mushrooms peeking out from the dirt. Photo by Georgios Kaleadis, 2015.

As social media has led to the rise in fast fashion trends over the past few years, we have also seen a simultaneous increase in Internet aesthetic niches that promote offbeat fashion styles such as cottagecore, dark academia, and gremlincore. Madi Whaley’s essay examines one of these aesthetic niches, gremlincore, as a surprising climate solution that teaches us how to be imperfect environmentalists. Beginning with the figure of the gremlin in folklore, Whaley suggests that these creatures often treasure old and forgotten items, critters, and spaces, fostering appreciation for “undesirable” ecosystems and living things. Gremlincore’s stylistic aesthetic expands to thrifted clothes, mushrooms, and mud, promoting a sense of abundance separate from capitalism. While the idea of living sustainably can often be prescriptive in today’s climate crisis era, gremlincore fosters a sense of curiosity and adventure in everyday nature that is incredibly refreshing as a climate ethic.

– Kuhelika Ghosh

“Reveling in the Gluttony and Glee of Fat Bear Week” by Margaret McGuirk

A bear mother teaches her cubs how to fish for upstream Salmon in a river
A bear mother teaches her cubs how to fish from the lip of Brook’s Falls for upstream Salmon at Katmai National Park. Photo by Pradeep Nayak, 2023.

In 2023, it’s hard to write or think about the environment without being saddled by anxiety and grief. Fat Bear Week, however, is the beacon of light we all need. It’s well past due a conversation at Edge Effects, and Margaret McGuirk delivered with style. She so deftly captures what it is that draws us to Fat Bear Week, and why this annual dose of “queer, bad environmentalism” is simultaneously without purpose and a revolutionary intervention in mainstream environmental media. The bears and stories of Fat Bear Week, she explains, refuse to conform to the expectations and feelings that we impose on nature. The shock, horror, joy, wonder, and disgust that the unnarrated livestream footage of the bears and their “inappropriate” gluttony elicits in viewers satisfies our appetite for environmental viewing in a way that mainstream environmental media does not and perhaps cannot. I’m a fan.

– Rebecca Laurent

“The Cold Never Bothered Native Hawaiians Anyway: A Conversation with Hi’ilei Julia Hobart” by Jen Rose Smith

snow capped mountains against clear blue sky
Mauna Kea summit and observatory covered in snow. Photo by pedrik, 2016.

In this interview, Hi’ilei Julia Hobart talks about how Hawai’i has been idealized as a warm climate while in fact Native Hawaiians have a long history of living with ice. There are many things to love about this interview. First and foremost, as someone who does not like ice cream, I was so happy to listen to this podcast interview where Hobart explains how the preference for cold desserts and sweets is a product of enculturation. Second, this interview offers a new path for listeners to learn about Hawai’i. Hawai’i is not some tropical paradise for tourists; in fact, developments for tourists have led to disastrous consequences, as the 2023 Maui Fire has shown. Nor is it free-for-all to scientists. It is a place with which Native Hawai’ians have formed deep bonds, which cannot be fully accounted for in Western knowledge frameworks. Hobart does a wonderful job setting up this history through stories about temperature.

– Weishun Lu

“Multispecies Grief in the Wake of Megafires” by Nathaniel Otjen, Lena M. Schlegel, Shannon Lambert, Hannah Della Bosca, and Blanche Verlie

Mother kangaroo carries her joey in a burned megafire landscape.
Mother eastern grey kangaroo and joey in a burnt plantation near Mallacoota, Victoria, Australia. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals Media, 2020.

This piece poignantly ties together different ways to think through the more-than-human devastation of wildfires. The effects of worsening fires have been felt by human, animal, and plant populations alike. The authors invite readers to ask how we as humans might open new relationships of witnessing, empathy, and responsibility through a closer examination of grief across species, and how those relationships can inform responses to future ecological disasters.

– Bri Meyer

“Is the Outdoor Recreation Boom Too Good to Be True?” by Mara MacDonell

Looking out to Squamish Valley (on the edge of British Columbia) from a tent. Photo by Scott Goodwill, 2017.

In my experience, people who gravitate towards reading essays in Edge Effects tend to enjoy spending time outside. That’s why Mara MacDonell’s piece on hidden costs and injustices in the outdoor recreation industry is so crucial for our readers. This essay exposes the challenges of labor and housing in high-priced, remote destination towns, the privilege of being able to engage freely in outdoor recreation, as well as the unseen environmental problems associated with the myriad consumer goods that fuel outdoor adventures. These aren’t economic and easy-to-fix environmental issues, tied as they are to the systemic problems of race, class, and justice that permeate society. But, as MacDonell reminds us, ignoring them won’t solve anything.

– Rudy Molinek

“The Transformative and Hungry Technologies of Copper Mining” by Robrecht Declercq and Duncan Money

The Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River. Photo by Joe McKenna, 2010.

Copper has a complicated history in human and environmental extraction. Still, it is one of the critical ingredients for a more environmentally just future. With the rise of renewable energy, the demand for copper—crucial to manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines, and energy storage systems such as batteries—continues to surge, underscoring its pivotal role in sustainable development. In my marine geophysics and petroleum geology research, I often think about the lives of minerals like copper, the moral dilemmas they produce, and their power in global affairs and imperialism. That is one of the reasons I see this article by Robrecht Declercq and Duncan Money as a real standout of 2023. In it, they breathe life into a mineral that might otherwise be considered inanimate.

– Samm Newton

Featured image: “2023.” image by Deepak Gupta, 2022.