AoR 37: Karim-Aly S. Kassam, Transdisciplinary Research, Indigenous Knowledge, & Wicked Problems

Karim-Aly Kassam is International Professor of Environmental and Indigenous Studies in the Department of Natural Resources and the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University. His aim is to seamlessly merge research and teaching in the service of communities. His research focuses on the complex connectivity of human and environmental relations, addressing indigenous ways of knowing, food sovereignty, sustainable livelihoods, stewardship, and climate change. This research is conducted in partnership with indigenous communities such as the Standing Rock Sioux Nation (USA) and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe (USA), as well as in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, the Kongur Shan Mountains of China, and the Alai Mountains of Kyrgyzstan. By investigating the relationship between biological and cultural diversity, Dr. Kassam seeks to expand the foundations of the notion of pluralism. 

Transcript

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>> Welcome to the art of range, a podcast focused on range lands and the people who manage them. I'm your host, Tip Hudson, range and livestock specialist with Washington State University extension. The goal of this podcast is education and conservation through conversation. Find us online at artofrange.com.

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We are reproducing some of the symposia and plenary sessions from the Society for Range Management's 2020 Annual Meeting and Training in Denver for the podcast. These were recorded live on February 17 through 20. I selected sessions in consultation with the meeting and technical program chairs that we believed would be widely applicable and that would not depend heavily on the listener being able to see the accompanying slideshow with photographs and charts. With the speakers' permissions, we will provide contact information for each speaker so that you can request additional information from them directly if you are especially interested in their topic. This episode is the plenary session by Dr. Karim Kassam. His title was "Transdisciplinary Research, Indigenous Knowledge and Wicked Problems".

>> Good morning, everyone. I hear the party was very good last night [laughter]. So, I will excuse you if there is a little bit of napping taking place. Yes, I'm from Cornell but what most people don't know is that I grew up north of here where the Rocky Mountains, the prairies and the foothills meet. I grew up in a little town which is now a very big town called Calgary, Alberta. And our days began very early because, on holidays, whether it was Christmas or Easter or summer holidays, I would be sent off to work on our family farm. So, I have a sense of the kind of people that are in this room, and so, when Hailey talked about this and Justin talked about this, I said, "relax", these are my folks because, when you're walking down, they make eye contact and they say, "hello". And that doesn't happen often in the east. So, with that introduction, and situating myself a bit, I think speaking truth to power, the first element of speaking truth to power is to acknowledge that we are on the lands, the unceded lands of first nations. What I would like to do today is I would like to share with you a number of stories that I will tie together. And the ending has not been written because the process of the storytelling is still going, and we're preparing the ending together. Lots of people are writing it together. And maybe, after today's talk, you will be participating in writing that ending. So, for me to be able to tell you this story, I want you to understand there is 35 years of research, and 25 years of teaching that got me to this place. So, the places that I work, and where my students join me, are at high latitudes in the Russian, Alaskan, Canadian arctic and subarctic, and when I say subarctic, I mean the Boreal Forest and in high altitudes in the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia which includes Afghanistan, the Tajik Republic, the Kirghiz Republic and Xinjiang which is in China currently. And these regions that I've just described to you, whether they're mountains or they're the arctic, have a history of colonialism. They have a long history of colonialism. And if you think about it, that's where the borders and the frontiers of the Cold War was. And these frontiers have been reconceptualized as another war. And in these regions, there has been structural poverty and, simultaneously, there has been tremendous, and exists currently, biological and cultural diversity. And these places are rich in natural resources and, in our present time, whether we believe in anthropogenic climate change or not, that's another discussion. But they're at the forefront, they're at the forefront, they're at the vanguard of dramatic climate change. And in these places, there are different ecological professions. So, like there are some ranchers in this room, there are herders there, there are farmers there, there are fishers there, there are hunters there, and they are part of that system and they are very much part of the 21st century. They don't exist outside of the 21st century, they exist within it. And so, what's important to understand is that this background helped me understand over these years, these 35 years of research, starting when I was 20 years old, showed me that there's a fundamental relationship between biological and cultural diversity. And that was the first transformation in myself. I began to see that it is not about coupled systems, they're not going, human beings and the habitat are not going on a date together, they're not a couple. It is the human beings that are embedded within their habitat, they're fundamentally dependent on it. Okay. So, what I'd like to do is I would like to take the lead from my colleagues yesterday and the day before they talked about transformation, they talked about what if, so, I want to start with some what if questions. I would like to talk about different ways of knowing, because that's what Justin and Hailey said I have to talk about [laughter]. I'd like to talk about wicked problems, then I would like to tell you a story about transdisciplinary research now where the ending hasn't been written. And then I'm hoping we have time to answer some questions and engage one another. So, what if, what if expertise is not enough in solving the major problems of the third millennium? And difference, another way of knowing is just as important, if not more important, what if? What if, hi, I'm from Cornell and I'm here to help you, just doesn't cut it. And what if knowledge is not in our heads like some kind of commodity that we have squeezed in, but what if knowledge is actually in the relationships that we have with our habitat, whether it's the prairies, whether it's the rangelands, whether it's the trees or the mountain habitat, it's within those relationships that knowledge speaks to us. And what if time itself is not a tradeable commodity, it's not fungible as people teach us it is. That, in fact, time is unique experience. And what if speaking truth to power involves recognition of difference and, as one of the award winner pointed out, fundamentally involves collaboration, participatory approaches. So, let me start with the first story. At the beginning of the third millennium, we know that the Soviet Union collapsed, even the young ones in the room are old enough to know about that event. And, as usual, as usual, the "New York Times" and Fox and CNN and all their pals all over the world were looking in the wrong place. They were not looking for a signal, they were concentrating, as usual, on background noise. It doesn't matter which media. But there was something interesting happening as the Soviet Union collapsed. It happened in the arctic and it happened in central Asia. The people in the Soviet Union living in the arctic and subarctic were facing starvation so, you either starved to death and/or you froze to death. If you think we're good at industrialization, you should look at the Chinese and the Soviets, they are amazing at industrialization. We are nowhere close to them, when they can actually muster all those resources to achieve their aims. And they had achieved that in the arctic and, suddenly, it all collapsed. It all fell apart. And something fascinating happened, indigenous peoples on the Kola peninsula, you know the Kola peninsula where the nuclear submarines are, right? That's where the Russians have their nuclear submarines. And their sand battalion missile bases facing Norad. And on the Chukotka peninsula, nearer to us in Alaska, something fascinating happened. Indigenous peoples on the Kola peninsula from Norway, Sweden, and Finland, came to the assistance of the indigenous peoples on the Russian Kola peninsula. And on the Chukotka peninsula the Inuvialuit and the Inupiat and the Inuit came to the assistance of the Yupik and Chukchi. Now, that's fascinating because there was no UN agency, there was no U.S. aid, there was no European union stepping in, it was indigenous peoples coming to the help of other indigenous peoples. And something fascinating happened. First, of course, on the Chukotka peninsula, the Inuvialuit rented a Hercules aircraft for 100,000 dollars and fit in about 30,000 dollars' worth of emergency aid and flew into the Chukotka peninsula. Now, I know the accountants in the room will be sitting there and be, you know, going over it. But it's not for the accountants to think about this one. The fact is, they could do it, and they did do it. And they sent emergency aid immediately to help people out. Then, the Inupiat on the Alaskan side said, this can't happen. So, first, they sent guns and they brought over young people and elders who remembered and had a history of how to live on the land. And they reintroduced how to hunt and how to fish. And then, they set up a ten year resource management program. At that time, they still used resource management rather than stewardship. Led by U.S. scientists in collaboration with young people growing up there, studying in the U.S., but belonging to the Chukotka peninsula and set up a program to prevent starvation and hunger. And there was something very fascinating that happened, and I was there as it was happening, you know, that there is something that is called the International Whaling Commission. The irony is, of course, the people who are members of that International Whaling Commission are the very people that took the stalks, the whale stalks to extinction. Now they sit and give rules to everybody. It's a beautiful irony. But the indigenous people need to deal pragmatically. So, the Inupiat went to the International Whaling Commission and said, "Look, we have quotas to hunt the bowhead whale". These people on the Chukotka side hunt the gray whale. We're asking you just to give them quotas to hunt two whales, just two whales. And we will stave off starvation because, when we hunt, we share the meat. So, everybody will get the food. And the International Whaling Commission agreed. So, what I would like you to understand from this example is one, hunting lifestyle is a reality of the 21st century. It is a completely different way of knowing and industrialization had failed. And it stepped in and saved people because of the knowledge that they had. What is also interesting to keep in mind is that indigenous communities acted internationally. I can give you examples from central Asia, but I'm giving you examples from the arctic. They acted independently across borders to protect the wellbeing of other indigenous peoples. That's at the dawn of the 21st century, the dawn of the third millennium. So, now, I would like to talk a little bit about wicked problems. But, before I talk about wicked problems, I'd like you to just take ten seconds and tell me what this image, just write it down in your little notebook, if you have a notebook, what this image is. Can you just take ten seconds to do that? What do you perceive? Then, you've done that, now, I would like you to tell your neighbor what you think this image is. Can you tell your neighbor what this image is? So, this is not, this is not, I know university professors like to profess and they can go on and on and on, just tell your neighbor what you think this is [laughter]. Okay, now, a couple of hands, a couple of hands, can you tell me what you think it is? How about the youth brigade on that side, I'm glad you were able to come in after the party [laughter]. Anybody on that side? What is it? Raise your hand, come on, don't be shy. Yes?

>> A wave.

>> A way.

>> Water wave.

>> Okay. Anybody here? Yes, sir?

>> A glacier.

>> A glacier. Okay, a glacier. Okay. How about, how about in, you know, in the senior quarter, the experienced quarter [laughter]. Justin, what do you think?

>> Bison on the snow.

>> Bison on the snow, okay. Typical Justin. Okay. You think those are mountains, ah, okay, the scholar is speaking up. The scholar from Mongolia who also has a hell of a voice. Okay, well done, I'm saying, well done. So, the thing with wicked problems is they defy easy singular formulations. A squared plus B squared equals C squared doesn't work. We can't, they're complex. They're difficult to perceive and, therefore, difficult to understand. They resist resolution because the circumstances is constantly changing so, every time you think you've got it figured out, the baseline has shifted. And they're highly contingent, they're context-dependent, and there are always conflicting perceptions and values. And, therefore, there is disagreement because we can't perceive, exactly, what the problem is. So, this is the image. It is actually, China is to my left as I'm facing you, I'm standing in the Tajik Republic, Afghanistan is across the water, there are landmines in between, and I'm trying to cross. And people think that I'm being a bit stubborn. So, I've given you that image. I then turned it around. And then I gave you a portion and said, "Tell me what it is". That's how wicked problems are. We don't know how to perceive them. We just have impressions and then we have to put it together. And, inevitably, we have to put it together collaboratively. And, when addressing wicked problems, there's always scientific uncertainty because they're emergent. We can't say please give us 30 years to collect the data and then we will come back and tell you what the problem is, right? If a government official or the rancher will say, "Are you kidding me? This is about livelihood." And the optimal solution is not easily attainable. I would like you to think about this because we are near mountains, and I am from mountains, and this research is about mountains, think about the peaks as optimalities. Now, reflect on DDT. When first DDT came out, it was a blessing. It was a blessing. It helps us control malaria. There are images where kids are swimming and we're spraying DDT over their heads, right, in upstate New York. There are actual photographs. And then we found out what the impact of DDT is. Or imagine chlorofluorocarbons, inert molecule, great for a cold beer on a hot summer's day. Great for preserving food. And then we found out something was happening at the poles to the ozone. Only this year, we're beginning to sense that, at least over Antarctica, it is probably closing, or has closed, but the situation remains delicate. So, wicked problems, every time we find an optimal solution, we arrive at one peak, we see the trough and we see that we have to go to the next optimal solution. In such cases, we have to work collaboratively, otherwise, the one person who came up with the idea will be responsible, right? We have to work collaboratively to figure out how to get out of it. That's how we did it with DDT. They gave her a very hard time. They didn't attack her science, they attacked her person when the data first came out. They attacked her womanhood, what a dumb idea. And it was scientists who were doing that. I'm talking about Rachel Carson. She was a spinster so, they attacked that. What does that have to do with her hard work? So, it requires collaborative responses and expertise under these conditions is not sufficient. Diversity, cognitive diversity is key. And, therefore, it has to be participatory. One, to engage the problem, and two, because of the consequences. And this is a complex engagement of social, cultural, and ecological systems. So, wicked problems demand a practice orientation with the focus on problem solving. They demand maturity, being good at one does, like the folks that were honored today. And humility, knowing the limitations of one's knowledge and turning to someone else, or groups of others, and saying, "How can we work on this together? What do you see that I don't see?" So, now, I'd like to tell you a story. And this story is a description of a wicked problem. I'll share with you the context. I will tell you about the response that we are coming up with. The research that we are currently doing so, I'm sharing that with you, and then I'll ask the question, so what? So, indigenous arctic, Boreal Forest, and mountain societies are at the vanguard of climate change. Direct impact is on their livelihoods and, specifically, their food systems. Now, according to the FAO, 70 to 80 percent of the world's food system depends on the small farmer and the small herder. Now, these figures were revised in 2019 and people argued maybe this is inflated, but the point remains that a significant portion of the world's food system still depends on the small herder and the small farmer. So, no Denver, no Manhattan, no Nairobi, no Dushanbe, no Bishkek, if these guys are gone. And data is showing that 90 percent of the micronutrients that our bodies need come from those lands. Now, what is interesting is that climatic variation is occurring not when the world situation is hunky dory, it is arriving on existing inequities so, it's exacerbating already existing problems and making it worse. And so, this becomes an intellectual challenge, but it also becomes an issue of justice, and I'm addressing the young folks in the room, the young scholars. It becomes an issue of justice because these communities did not contribute to anthropogenic change. They are the recipients so, this is continuation of a form of colonization. The Anthropocene is uneven. Not all of humanity is responsible, right? Okay. So, in 1990s, we were working in Wainwright, Alaska, a lovely place to be at the Chukchi Sea. And we were looking at the impact of chemical pollutants as they were biomagnifying through the food system, chemical pollutants that were being transmitted through marine pathways. And this is an image showing you so, Wainwright is here and its food basket is this landscape there. It is extensive use of the landscape. These folks are hunters and they use GPS instruments, they fly their own helicopters, they're very much part of the 21st century, and their food basket depends on hunting, not meat imported from the south. So, when we were collecting this work and we were doing this research, as you know, with participatory research, it's collaborative. So, they set the agenda and you set the agenda, and then you negotiate. And then you say, "Okay, we'll start with this first". And as we were doing that research, that our research was showing that, for 25 years, this is in 1998, something is happening to sea ice. And it is affecting the food system, the stability of the food system. So, as a part of a partnership, we went back, raised more funds, and started examining what looks, what's happening to sea ice. We found that, in the 1990s, ice was forming later, normally formed in October, now it was forming in January. And it was decaying by June. Now, when you look at this image, I know there are two screens and I'm right handed so, I'm pointing to one, forgive me. But you notice here, these dots in this seasonal round, that's the ice. Sea ice and ice in rivers and estuaries, ice is important to everything, to the food basket of the community in Wainwright. They need ice to hunt. And marine mammals, whether it's the polar bear, the bearded seal, or the walrus, needs sea ice to rest and to hunt and feed themselves. So, sea ice is important to all the mammals there, and especially the marine mammals. So, this is a seasonal round of their food basket. And if there is late formation and early decay, this is the impact on the food basket in Wainwright which puts all kinds of pressure on the community. And NOAA doesn't produce these images anymore because of recent policy changes but, in 2014, at the shores of Wainwright, 42,000 walruses landed in October, exhausted, not being able to feed, and having nowhere to go because there was no sea ice. And you know walruses tend to stampede so, they could injure each other. So, that's the reality that we were engaging so, you can imagine how stressful for a young scholar this must be, as we are in this partnership to do this research together. So, we met with the hunters and discussed how to address this and you can see, in the background, synthetic aperture radar. During the question period, you can ask me how we manage to get, in the '90s, access to those images because they were not as freely available as the stuff that you guys get nowadays. And they were explaining to us what was happening and they were telling us how currents and wind patterns are changing so that sea ice is not forming, and how it's decaying, and how it's retarding sea ice formation and, therefore, what is affecting. Sadly, more than half of the folks in this picture have passed on since we did our research. So, in 1999, that became a major issue for me. And it created tremendous anxiety in my personal life because we needed to understand the impact of sea ice and how we can anticipate change within the system so that we could secure the food basket at the level of the town, at the level of the village, at the level of the valley. So, in 2006, something excited happened. A group of folks from the Bay area, where NNGO has located a foundation, called me in Calgary and said, "We hear that you do research on biological and cultural diversity and the relationship. We would like you to work for us." And I started laughing and I said, "You know, I don't get paid very well as a professor but, you know, I get all kinds of freedoms as a prof. I can say stuff and the president of the university can't fire me. He has to protect me actually." And I used to get into all kinds of trouble in my hometown because I'd say something and it'd be in the newspapers the next day. And so, I said, "No, thank you". So, they called back the next day and they said, "Okay, if you can't work for us, would you like to work with us? We would give you a certain amount of funding and you could go to central Asia and decide on your research project." And I thought, this is my way out. I have this anxiety about climatic variation and stress and, maybe if I worked in central Asia in the mountains, I could do stuff that would make me excited and happy, and then I would return back to the arctic and try again on how we could address this problem. And so, in 2006, I flew straight from the arctic to the Pamir Mountains. Stopped three days in Istanbul and my undergraduate students had compiled these documents, briefing documents for me to learn about the place, and we had managed to get a hold of CIA maps of the area so I could learn where the villages are and that kind of stuff. So, currently we are working in the Pamirs in Afghanistan. I could point here much more easily, in Afghanistan, the Tajik Republic, the Kirghiz Republic, and in Xinjiang. And I would like you to note that this is a strategic area, China at one end, Russia to the north, Iran and Turkey to the west. This area is the frontiers of the Cold War reframed as the clash of civilizations. And you can ask me a little bit more about that under questions. There is decades of a global war, proxy war, that has been localized. There is tremendous anxiety about food security. And I've been working there since 2006 so, I have been watching and going to the villages. There is increasing burden on women, just like there is increasing burden on women here. There is tremendous burden on women there. And, remember, we're in the third millennium, and we're still not figuring this out. And, of course, seismic activity. We expect a major earthquake which will exacerbate all these other issues. And I found evidence of dramatic climate impacts there. They didn't call it climate change, but they were describing what's happening to the rivers, they were describing early -- late frosts and late snow and early spring and the mixing of the spring and winter. There was dramatic impact so, I didn't escape. The stress level increased. But there's something else in this area that's worth noting, long before there was the European union, or the North American Free Trade Agreement, for thousands of years, these people had conflict and figured out how to deal with that conflict and set up trade routes. So, they supplied the monarchies in Europe with their silk and so on, and spices. They knew how to trade and go across different ethnicities. And this area is filled with biological and cultural diversity, ethnic and linguistic diversity, religious diversity, and a variety of ecological zones. And the reason why there is this 40-year war, world proxy war that is localized is because the reason is pregnant with valuable resources that different countries want access to. So, while we were doing this research and learned about dramatic climate change, the community members made a reference to something that they called a calendar of the human body. And what they were describing was an ecological calendar where the body itself is embedded in the habitat so, you see why I say to you, this is not a couple, right? They're not on a date. One is taking care of the other. So, when native communities say mother earth, and I know in Ithaca, where I come from, you've got to meet the hippies and new agers where I come from, right? They repeat this stuff. And then you ask them, well what do you mean by mother earth? They'll say, "Oh, it's the metaphor". No, it's not a metaphor. When these communities say, mother earth, they literally mean mother earth. And the human mother, she's the metaphor of that relationship. A different way of knowing. Anyway, so, they were describing this calendar and they were using phenological and biophysical science so, the flowering, the nascence, the appearance of an insect, the arrival of a migratory bird, the soundscape of ice breaking, the soundscape of certain birds, the cover between snow and exposed land, so snow cover. These were all indicators and cues for livelihood activities within this calendar. But when I asked them, can you put this together? They couldn't because there had been 70 years of communism, 40 years of war in Afghanistan. And just like North American colonialism involved moving people away from their lands, involved residential schools, what we saw in the Soviet Union was exactly the same, massive movement of people. And in Xinjiang, we are seeing that in real time today, one million people in concentration camps. We don't need CIA data, we can actually see it with satellites. And we all, of course, keep quiet and say nothing, but that's a different story. Anyway, these cues were linked to livelihood activities such as when to seed, when to flower, when to harvest, when to move animals to pastures, and then to the summer pasture, and the winter, bring them back to the winter pastures and so on. They inform events including celebrations that it is now the new year and so on. So, what was interesting is that we found a 500 year old Persian manuscript that described these calendars, that they had existed for thousands of years. And in thousands of years, of course, there's going to be climatic variation which means they were adapting the calendar as their habitat changed. They adapted the cues and the indicators to keep track of time. And in this context, time itself was experience. It's not a fungible, tradeable commodity that your half an hour now listening to me, it's going to be 40 minutes or 45 minutes, actually, your half an hour is the same half an hour as the one you're spending last night dancing with your loved one. They're not, they're two different half an hours. And a rancher will get this. Time is not fungible and tradeable, it has to happen now, otherwise, we miss the sign and it's over. So, time is a unique experience that is both relational and flexible. And so, we found ethnographic information from Russian scientists that showed 17 different calendars. We did our own research and found other types of calendars which meant that each calendar was suited to the microclimate of that specific village. And if a village that was thousand meters apart, upper [inaudible] and lower [inaudible], their calendars were completely different because in upper [inaudible], you can't grow fruits, apricots, apples, but in lower [inaudible], you can. And all sorts of other things. And so, the calendars themselves were different so, we learned that it was something very specific to ecological niche, to the cultural context, to altitude and aspect, and it was integrated, it was refined. So, on the one hand, it was very particular, and on the other hand, it was universal because different ethnicities, different ecological professions were using these calendars. So, moving from time is a unique experience. I want to point out that it is also within that experience, relational and flexible. And one of my post docs helped me come up with this image. So, let's say that, on May 1st, we seed when we see this flower appear. And then, in September, we get a wonderful harvest. Now, the rains have come a bit early, the flower has already blossomed, but we say, we're going to follow the rules. Like, you know, the hunting season. And we will seed on May 1st, instead of April and our harvest is not that great. But what if we followed the cue? That's all I'm saying about time. It's unique experience, it's flexible and it's fundamentally relational, and that's what those ecological calendars were because they were grounded in the social culture and ecological context. So, we said to ourselves, okay, in North America, the system is broken. In central Asia, the system is broken. We have the Soviet examples and we have non-Soviet examples. How do we work together? So, when I'm talking about transdisciplinarity, I'm not talking about the social scientist, like the anthropologist or the sociologist having a conversation with the climate scientist who's having a conversation with the ecologist. Most of us work at land grant universities, that's our fiduciary responsibility, we're supposed to be talking to each other, that's why the taxpayer is paying our salary. When I'm talking about transdisciplinarity, I'm talking about this group collectively engaging in a conversation with the farmer, the herder, the fisher, the hunter, the teacher, and that's what some of the award winners have done in their work. And so, we presented a proposal. So, now it's 2014, and it began in 1999, the anxiety. 2014 so, you imagine the graying and the loss of hair as the stress kept on getting worse and worse. And this is the person who is watching it, imagine the ones who are feeling it and going through it. And so, we put together a proposal where we put a team of climate scientists, soil scientists, botanists, ornithologists, communities together and we said, "What if we reconstructed? What if we got remote sense data, weather data on the one end, work that through while we work with communities and identified what they know about ecological calendars?" And then, what if we combined that information and worked together, brought it together and then actually developed models that would lead so that we can actually try out an ecological calendar, revitalize that. And then ensure that this knowledge is not suppressed so, put it into curriculum and then share it across communities and across bioclimatic zones. What if we could do that? And we finally got funded so, we began our research. We had meals, we set up partnerships, we discussed collaboration, everything begins with a meal. The first image is from Xinjiang, China, the second image in the center is from the Kirghiz Republic, and the third image is from Lake Oneida, it's the only non-indigenous community we are working with. We're working with Euro American settlers. We wanted to make sure that we could test this properly. And you can ask me about that. And we asked people, "How do you know winter has ended?" And they gave us their answers, rich information of cues and biophysical science and how they were connected to livelihood, how they were connected to events, to dances, to celebrations, to marriage and when to decide to get to married because of what's happening in the food system, and we went through all the seasons that way. And we put together rich information. And, by the way, I am deliberately showing you because, Justin, I took my audience into consideration, I'm showing you the seasonal round from Lake Oneida, not from the Pamir Mountains. This is what they came up with, rich information and knowledge. So, what we did is, we looked at these seasonal rounds, we identified phenological indicators, we're testing them and observing them and our aim is to create these ecological calendars, or drafts of them, by October 2020. And so, when we collected this ethnographic information, we went back to the communities, all the communities, in Standing Rock, in the Pamir Mountains, at Lake Oneida, and said, "Is this what you said to us? Have we understood it correctly? Have we missed something?" And we repeated it back and, of course, they corrected us and added more information. So, it became thicker, more grounded, and richer. And then, because of the stubbornness of the lead PI, we made all of our climate science graduate students, this is a young PhD student from Bayreuth University. Bayreuth is an environmental school in Germany, it's where Wagner became very famous. Her name is Isabelle Haag [phonetic], she's a climate scientist. And I said, "Well, you've got to put up your remote sense data and your weather data and present it to the village so that they know, and we can ground truth it, because that's what we said we would do." And so, we learned our conception of precipitation and rain is completely different. What the Kirghiz think is rain and what we think, in our measuring instruments, is rain are two different things. When they think of rain, they think of rain where the ground is soaking wet. Until then, it's just water in the air. Whereas, we think, every time there's a drop and, by the way, in these areas, there are no weather stations so, we built the weather stations and put them in, climate stations, both at the pastures as well as in the towns. And community members would keep diaries, look after the weather stations, make sure the batteries are working, take photographs and we will be exchanging information throughout the year. These are just drafts. These are, we're working on them. One is a Kirghiz one and the one on the right is for Lake Oneida, these are just drafts of our calendars as they're emerging. We will present them this summer to the communities again. Again validate them, get information and then, in October, hopefully, we will have something to show for it. So, the expected outcomes are the cogeneration of knowledge. And this was the reason why I took you through the exercise of wicked problems. And cogeneration doesn't mean the social scientists are working with the biophysical scientists, it means all of them are working with the different ecological professions, including the ranchers and cogenerating knowledge together in order to formulate policy. And so, our expected outcomes are hopefully revitalized calendars which we can test, this is a longshot, we could be wrong. Take that knowledge and information so it could be updated and establish a curriculum. So, kids are doing this so that we don't find ourselves in a position where we are lost. Share this knowledge across boundaries, across communities and so, we will hold an international conference on October 1st and 2nd at Cornell, where community members and the student that did the research will present the data together. And of course, to get promoted, we need academic outputs and peer review journals and so on and so forth. So what? What have I said? I said difference matters not just because it feels good or because what it says on below the president's podium, e pleuribus unum, from many one, not because of those things. But because it makes sense in the third millennium. We're in it together. We have nowhere to go. This is it, this is our home. Because this difference has to embedded, not only in the research design, but in its performance, its communication. So, it's rigorous, it's not some flighty idea. Any adaptation strategy, whether it's related to climate change, whether it's related to invasive species, whether it's related to some kind of environmental disaster, whatever it is, it has to be grounded in the local ecology and the local culture, or it won't take route. I've argued that time is not fungible, it's not tradeable that that half an hour when your firstborn arrived, or you had the kiss with your loved one and stretched it to half an hour is not the same as the half an hour getting the root canal. Those are completely different half an hours. It's about experience. I've argued that knowledge is not in our heads, it's in our relationships with the habitat, and different people have different relationships, and we can draw on that knowledge. And I've argued that collaboration is a methodology of hope, a rigorous methodology of hope to deal with wicked problems. So, I did get across those landmines. This is on the way back. I'm just coming out of visiting the Kirghiz in Afghanistan. You can see I'm slouching so, I'm exhausted. I'm just exhausted and I'm cold. And the Kirghiz have lent me a horse and a 12 year old boy to come with me, to take back the horse. And I was asked, were you thinking about the Taliban? And I'll be honest, and those of you who do research, know that, sometimes we get so single minded that all we're thinking about is the work that needs to be done. Maria understands that. I wasn't thinking about the Taliban, I wanted to get across. But my answer is, what were the Kirghiz thinking when they gave me the horse and the child? What if I kept the horse and the child? Research is all about trust. It's trust between the communities of practice and communities of inquiries, we trust each other and we sit down with each other and we trust that we will respect one another's knowledge. And then, we will focus on the practical problems that face us. Any questions? I'm sorry I've gone a little longer.

[ Applause ]

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You can learn more about Dr. Kassam at his website, dnr.cals.cornell.edu/people/karim-aly-kassam/.

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