A Living Past: Environmental Histories of Modern Latin America (Berghahn Books, 2018) is a wonderful collection that seeks to provide a general overview of environmental history within Latin American history. Edited by John Soluri, Claudia Leal, and José Augusto Pádua, this fantastic book is meant for specialists and non-specialists alike. In the book, and our conversation, the editors propose four key features that characterize much of the scholarship in the region, and they discuss the contributions of specific authors, scholars who propose new ways to think about old and new problems: the building of the nation-state; the history of forests; the place of tropicality within lived realities and discourses of peoples and nations; exchanges of goods, commodities, and peoples; agrodiversity, etc. This book (also available in Spanish) is a great addition to the scholarship both in terms of its broad scope, the inclusion of multiple regions, and perhaps more importantly, because it invites us to think about Latin America’s place in the broader field of environmental history. Ultimately, A Living Past pushes us to take the environment seriously and to think carefully about the materiality that surrounds us, one that, as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, is undeniably relevant. A must for all!
Lisette Varón-Carvajal is a PhD Candidate at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. You can tweet her and suggest books at @LisetteVaron