Eduardo Brondizio, distinguished professor of anthropology and an IU alumnus, is this year’s recipient of the Volvo Environment Prize. The prestigious prize is awarded annually to a scientist or group of scientists across the globe with long-term focuses on environment and sustainability.
The Volvo Envrionment Prize Foundation awarded Brondizio with the prize Nov. 22 in Gothenburg, Sweden for his contribution to studying human environment interactions in the Amazon. Brondizio was also invited to attend an academic event that followed the ceremony at the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm on Nov. 23.
Brondizio has spent more than 30 years integrating social science into environmental change and sustainability by bringing awareness to issues such as deforestation and urbanization. His work studies areas such as Amazonia and how that may set an example for surrounding regions.
“In many ways, my work has been documented in the transformation of the Amazon,” Brondizio said. “Understanding the factors affecting the transformation of the Amazon and responding to emerging questions and problems that help us to deal with and find better pathways forward for more sustainable development in the region like the Amazon.”
Brondizio has viewed the rate of social and environmental change that has occurred during the last 50 years in the Amazon. This includes transformations such as expansion of infrastructure, population growth and deforestation.
He said an important role in his studies has been viewing Amazonia through two different lenses. The first perspective looks at how his findings in the Amazon connect to ethnographic field research, household surveys, ecological assessments and regional spatial analysis. The second perspective combines his research with direct action on the grounds of the Amazon.
“The combination of working on the ground, understanding the perspective of people and understanding of how large-scale factors like policies and markets, and ideas affect people on the ground. And how decisions on the ground also affect how the environment is transformed in the Amazon, and the other aspect is to look at similar questions about human environment interactions at a global scale,” Brondizio said.
Stacie King, IU professor and chair of the anthropology department, has co-taught research design and proposal writing for graduate students with Brondizio. She commended his ability to facilitate research.
“What I love about Eduardo is he is always good at identifying practical ways of answering research questions and identifying what’s really good about a research question and figuring out a way to answer it,” King said. “The other thing he is really great about doing is thinking beyond anthropology, thinking across multiple disciplines.”
When King heard about the award, she said she looked at past winners and was impressed by their work in environmental science.
“I could thoroughly see why he was selected as a winner,” King said. “I am extremely proud but also humbled by the scope of his research and the impact and importance of his work. We are really lucky to have him at IU.”
As an IU alumnus, Brondizio was introduced to this area of work through Emilio Moran, a former IU professor and an expert on the human ecology of the Amazon. While he was a student, Brondizio went on one of Moran’s month-long trips to Brazil to study the human ecology of the Amazon.
“That was the beginning of my groundwork in 1989, which I continued,” Brondizio said. “I continue to go to the same place I went for the first time in 1989 and follow the transformation.”
Dana Vanderburgh, a sixth year PhD student in anthropology, has been a student of Brondizio’s and his assistant instructor multiple times. Vanderburgh worked alongside Brondizio, preparing course material and helping with lectures.
“He really is championing an understanding of environmental challenges and sustainability that really centers people,” Vanderburgh said. “For him, he has been such an advocate for that in so many spaces from the really big UN to the small communities he’s working with and highlighting that environmental challenges, challenges with sustainability. All of that is a people issue, and there are solutions that can come from people.”
While the ceremony for the Volvo Environment Prize was held in Gothenburg, Sweden on Nov. 22, a recorded live stream is still available to view.