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Harvard Forest REU Symposium Abstract 2021

  • Title: Beyond Western Frameworks: Caring for Future Generations
  • Author: Rafael Viana Furer (Macalester College)
  • Abstract:

    Western science is one way of understanding the natural world. Many foundational scientific practices emerged as justifications for the enslavement and attempted genocide of Black and Indigenous people, identities I share. Deconstructing scientific methodologies is one essential way that current and future research housed under Western institutions can begin to repair relationships with Black, Indigenous, and other marginalized communities. Institutions, such as Harvard University, have a responsibility to correct practices that perpetuate extractive and harmful relationships to the environment and people. White supremacy and imperialism impact large portions of the world in different yet interconnected ways. Forming relationships independent of imperialist systems provide Indigenous and other marginalized communities with new frameworks for self-determination. Western institutions can develop frameworks and projects with, by, and for local communities. In order to build a Harvard Forest-specific framework we interviewed Indigenous scientists on how their work differs from Western science, analyzed papers that center Indigenous ethics in research, and hosted conversations with Nipmuc stakeholders. Our conversations illuminated the fundamentality of intentional reciprocity when caring for our environment. This initial summer project is a small piece of a much larger commitment made by my research group to knowledge sharing and co-creation with the Nipmuc. My desire to heal my relationship to land and be a good guest shapes my work as a student and beyond. Through conversations, accountability, and trust I hope to engage in harm-reducing work that leads to the rematriation of Nipmuc lands. Our efforts to build authentic reciprocal relationships that persist beyond the scope of any particular project is the first step in our “deconstructing Western scientific methodologies” framework. I invite other scientists to engage with our work as well as the work of those who came before us to increase awareness of harmful scientific practices and correct those methods.

  • Research Category: Regional Studies; Physiological Ecology, Population Dynamics, and Species Interactions; Invasive Plants, Pests & Pathogens; Group Projects; Conservation and Management