intertwined roots and routes: immigration, healing, and connections with birds

migrationisnotacrimeOur current age called the Anthropocene – climate change, super-diverse societies, and other expressions that are occurring at such magnitude – “change” permeates our contemporary societies, public opinion and our scientific and political imagination. For thousands of years most species, including homosapiens have been migrating. Nowadays, it happens so much faster and it’s causes are often a result of climate change, war, and a cumulation of political decisions that seem like a domino effect.

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In current public discourse these cumulative effects are not taken into account and the plight of immigrants, migrant workers and refugees are misunderstood and scapegoated as a burden to receiving countries.

As much as the concepts of immigrants are socially constructed and there is a false dichotomy between citizen/non-citizen, it is important to look at how human mobility has shaped identity and our environments.

Cristóbal Pizarro does this work finding the connections between human mobility, place and biodiversity, and how birds can help immigrants adapt to change.


screen print called “Birds Over the Cityscape” by Erik Ruin & Jesse Purcell

In our interview with Cristóbal we discuss how he began seeing the connections in his own life. Through understanding the different historical processes of colonization as a Latin American – the formation of nation states and national identity, and the erasure of Indigenous culture – he felt disconnected from his bicultural memory. By actively remembering meant finding meaningful connections. The key to healing for Cristóbal was learning more about himself and birds.

His work is therefore grounded in emancipatory tools that subvert the colonial and scientific objective paradigms of academia. Often this means that biodiversity and immigration isn’t really researched together and there are huge conceptual gaps that need to be bridged.


Etching called “Pájaro en Mano” by Fernando Martí

Considering this, we talk about the damaging rhetoric that paints animals/plants/humans as “invasive”, such as immigrants and urban dwellers and how building radical narratives means highlighting the beauty in movement and sociality between species. For example, how humans have coevolved alongside Crows and that pigeons have become ties to home for Italian and Turkish immigrants in New York and Berlin, at the same time that they are a means of socialization with new immigrants in their neighbourhoods.

The lives of birds are often overlooked, and even our relationships with animals can be complicated. Take the high-tech domesticated fowl we consume who originated from Asia and claim that eating their bodies are “natural” to us. There is also undesired guests or invasive species (e.g., European starling and Monk Parakeet), or ignored cosmopolitan urban dwellers that occur in everyday life in cities around the world like Pigeons and Gulls.

Cristóbal says that since we are living in the Anthropocene, this means that we need to achieve a forceful understanding of our connectedness and interdependency with nature. “Such an understanding does not grant humans political laissez-faire towards the nonhuman world; instead, it emphasizes our shared responsibility to care for others and for ourselves”. Ultimately this leads to a framework of action.


photo of Cristóbal Pizarro co-producing nature

[Cristóbal Pizarro is a Chilean PhD Candidate in Social and Environmental sustainability at the University of Waterloo. He has a broad interdisciplinary training in veterinarian sciences, ecology, conservation and environmental philosophy. He is also passionate about birds, in their full biological extent and social expressions, including bird interactions with humans in culture and everyday life. In his research in Canada, Cristóbal study immigrants-bird relationships as proxies of social dimensions of the Anthropocene, including the link between human mobility, biodiversity and place]


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