Balance-Unbalance 2015 Keynote: Gary Lawrence & Niyanta Spelman


The Choice to Stay: Here and There

From her work in indigenous rainforest communities Niyanta Spelman has witnessed the way people’s lives are changing as a result of external pressures. Already struggling to adapt to the pressures of deforestation, local communities are now facing new threats from climate change with very unexpected consequences. Weather patterns are changing and the sources of food and income they have relied on for centuries are moving, changing or disappearing. What happens when forest people cannot live off the forest? What happens when their only source of income disappears? Where do they go? Can they go? Rainforest communities are struggling to find ways to maintain their way of life. Niyanta will illustrate the difficulty in choosing between potentially lucrative, short term gains and the obscured yet devastating long term consequences of those choices.

Back in the United States, Gary Lawrence has been in the front lines of the ideological struggle between scientific probability and society’s preferred reality. He will make the case that humanity, regardless of geographic location, is all in the same boat. There are important technical issues that need to be solved but the capacity of government and the ability of societies to make informed choices together will be the real challenge of our next generation. In the Rainforest and in Arizona communities are having to adapt to external stressors in ways they have never anticipated. These pressures come from changing natural patterns and from increased urbanization and population growth. The geographic context of Chipaota, Peru and Mesa, Arizona may be very different – but in both places societies and political leadership are having to adjust to something far outside their experience with no proven methods to rely upon.


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