Inaugural Lambert lecture builds bridges, York and Andean indigenous communities

Tirso Gonzales

Tirso Gonzales

Tirso Gonzales of the University of British Columbia Okanagan discussed different knowledge systems and climate change as it affects Andean indigenous communities in South America at the inaugural Lambert Lecture on Indigenous Peoples and Neotropical Conservation.

York University hosted the lecture on Wednesday, Nov. 26, in partnership with the Faculty of Environmental Studies, the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Las Nubes Project.

The Lambert Lecture Series provides an opportunity for York students and community members to strengthen their ties with projects occurring in South America, such as the Faculty of Environmental Studies’ Costa Rican “eco-campus,” Las Nubes. By bringing academics, students and faculty members together, the talks hope to engage a discussion that reaches beyond issues of Neotropical conservation, towards larger issues affecting individuals both at home and abroad. Last week’s event did just that.

Faculty of Environmental Studies Dean Noël Sturgeon thanked the namesakes of the event, Bill Lambert and the Lambert family, for their generous contributions to the Faculty and to York. She also announced a donation of land, which will make the Las Nubes Conservation corridor a continuous stretch. After her brief introduction, Professor Felipe Montoya, chair of Neotropical conservation and director of the Las Nubes Project, discussed some of the work being done by students and academics in Costa Rica, before inviting Gonzales to the lectern.

From left, Janice Lambert; Katharine Lambert; Deanna Curto, one of the Las Nubes Student Association Volunteers who presented the Lambert family with a gift basket at the event; Noël Sturgeon; and William Lambert

From left, Janice Lambert; Katharine Lambert; Deanna Curto, one of the Las Nubes Student Association volunteers who presented the Lambert family with a gift basket at the event; Noël Sturgeon; and William Lambert

Gonzales’ lecture, titled “South American Andean Indigenous Emerging Paradigms on Bio-cultural Landscapes in times of Climate Change,” challenged Western knowledge frameworks and offered alternative ways of thinking about the shared Earth. The central question of the lecture examined the role of different knowledge systems at a time of widespread environmental degradation. While Gonzales credited the validity of Western “techno-scientific” systems of knowledge, he advocated for discourse between different epistemological modalities.

His approach to these topics was rooted in a discussion of indigenous adaptation to the conditions of dramatic ecological change. Focusing on Andean indigenous knowledge systems, he presented a non-linear and shamanic-influenced introduction to indigenous research methodologies in the face of the Anthropocene. Gonzales was particularly interested in what Western authorities could learn from Andean community-based research.

Las Nubes Student Association volunteers Eric Ta and Deanna Curto, who presented the Lambert family with a gift basket at the event

Las Nubes Student Association volunteers Eric Ta and Deanna Curto, who presented the Lambert family with a gift basket at the event

Advocating for research methodologies that linked the realms of deities (Hanan Pacha), nature (Ukhu Pacha) and humans (Kay Pacha), he had the audience look at the world using a different epistemic lens. In this sense, the inaugural Lambert Lecture achieved its goal, strengthening ties between the academic community at York and the epistemologies of the Andean indigenous populations. In doing so, Gonzales achieved a small part of his goal of building epistemological bridges between distant populations.

Last week’s event marked the successful launch of a suite of Lambert lectures that York University looks forward to hosting in the future.

By Dylan McMahon, Faculty of Environmental Studies graduate assistant

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