Nautilus

The Queer Ecology of the Colombian Civil War

The former Luis Guillermo Baptiste began her transformation into Brigitte in the mid 1990s, when she was part of a cadre of scientists helping to establish the Bogota-based Humboldt Institute, a hybrid public-private biodiversity research foundation. With her rainbow-dyed hair, tattoos, and willingness to entertain just about any question put to her, the landscape ecologist, now 53, is one of Colombia’s most visible transgender citizens. Her wide acceptance as a public intellectual—she is a national columnist, a frequently cited environmental authority and now head of the Humboldt Institute—seemed in keeping with an increasingly tolerant Colombia.

When Baptiste arrived in New York this past summer, it was with the resolve of someone gearing up for the greatest challenge of her career. She took up a six-month residency at Columbia University to set priorities for what was being dubbed the pos-conflicto: the end of hostilities between her country’s military and the leftist guerillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Colombia is considered home to about a tenth of world’s biodiversity. But for five decades, the conflict stymied investigation in remote parts of the country, leaving species undescribed, ecosystems ill-defined, and vast ecological damage unchecked.

A changing landscape: A FARC commander walks through rainforest recently burnt by peasants to clear space for pastureland. The war made areas like these less accessible to scientific

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus9 min read
Let’s Play War: Could war games replace the real thing?
In the spring of 1964, as fighting escalated in Vietnam, several dozen Americans gathered to play a game. They were some of the most powerful men in Washington: the director of Central Intelligence, the Army chief of staff, the national security advi
Nautilus5 min read
Game Of Thrones And The Evolutionary Significance Of Storytelling
I told myself it was absurd to be discontented with the way Game of Thrones ended. Why should I feel anything for the fate of a fictional world? Even so, I watched with interest, on YouTube, videos of how several of the episodes—particularly “The Lon
Nautilus10 min read
The Spirit Of The Inquisition Lives In Science: What a 16th-century scientist can tell us about the fate of a physicist like David Bohm.
I’ve been talking to Jerome Cardano for years now. What’s more, he talks back to me—in a voice that often drips with gentle mockery. He clearly thinks my sanity is as precarious as his always was. Jerome was Europe’s pre-eminent inventor, physician,