Guillermo German JOOSTEN (Argentina) – Green talent – Archyde

Germán examines the current and historical interactions between communities and their environment from a holistic biocultural perspective. His doctoral thesis examines the impacts of climate change, deforestation, flooding and mining on local communities in the central Pilcomayo Basin and possible avenues for the future

PhD student in Science, National University of La Plata, Argentina

Research focus: environmental anthropology

The overarching theme of Germán’s PhD thesis is the human-environment interactions of communities in the central Pilcomayo River basin of the Gran Chaco. The Gran Chaco is a vast, forested, lowland region of central South America (divided between Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina) that is currently undergoing massive deforestation. The Pilcomayo River crosses the Gran Chaco from west to east and is known as the “river without a course”. Due to its enormous sediment load, seasonal currents and shallow basin, it systematically changes its course and floods large areas. Nowadays, the river feeds a vast wetland called Bañado La Estrella in Formosa province (Argentina). Germán’s research focuses on local communities around the Bañado La Estrella: the western Qomle’ec/Toba people and the Criollo settlers (traditional pastoralists similar to the gauchos). Both are constantly affected by flooding, local deforestation and the degradation of the river’s water quality due to mining, industrial fishing and agrochemical abuse. In addition, they are already exposed to the dangers of climate change such as increasing weather variability, recurring droughts, extreme rainfall and prolonged heat waves.

After analyzing past human-environment relationships from archaeological, geological, and historical sources, Germán examines current environmental issues in these communities using an ethnographic approach. In an interdisciplinary study on local climate change, together with a doctoral student in atmospheric science, they document the most important impacts of climate change from the perspective of communities and their local reactions to it. They plan to help communities develop measures to adapt to the threats and provide them with evidence to support their political claims. In this way, Germán’s work serves two UN Sustainable Development Goals in particular: Goal 15 (Life on Land) by addressing species extinction caused by deforestation and desertification, and Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) by helping local communities adapt to to change the climate and to support their political demands. Germán sees his perspective on sustainability as a bottom-up science that engages multiple local stakeholders to find ways to adapt to climate change and includes other research disciplines, but does not make any of them the sole authorized voice.

Germán focuses on environmental anthropology in the Gran Chaco region of South America. The jury commended the value of his novel interdisciplinary approach to a topic that has received very little academic attention. The jury was also impressed by his active involvement in supporting local communities.

Germán’s research mainly contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals 11, 13, 15, 17:

Check out this video that briefly introduces Germán and his research:

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