Life and Death on the US-Mexico Border

As an ethnographer and an EMT, Harvard anthropologist Ieva Jusionyte has a front-line perspective on tensions at the politically fraught border between Mexico and the United States.

Image of protesters on both sides of the border fence during rally

Ieva Jusionyte has always been drawn to tensions at the border.  As a graduate student, she went right to the heart of the drug and human smuggling nexus of Puerto Iguazu, a town at the tri-border area of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, to research how the media reported on crime. While there, she developed a deep interest in the experiences of firefighters and rescue workers, and later, in the US, trained to become a certified emergency medical technician, paramedic, and wildland firefighter. 

Most recently, she embedded herself at the US-Mexico border for a year, using her technical skills to help first responders on both sides of the divide. She reasoned that firefighters and EMTs would  face many of the human consequences of national security policy on a daily basis. In order to fully leverage her insights as an anthropologist, she felt she needed to participate.

In Nogales, Arizona, she volunteered as an EMT with the suburban fire department, responding to 911 calls—whether it was for a wildfire or for a critically ill or wounded person. Across the border in Nogales, Mexico, she delivered first aid to injured migrants and deportees on a bench in a soup kitchen, which also served as a humanitarian and legal center. Her forthcoming book, Threshold: Emergency and Rescue on the U.S.-Mexico Border will bring together the experiences of the first responders and residents of the local border communities, to take stock of the real-life impact of US national security measures.... Read more about Life and Death on the US-Mexico Border

Looking for Green in the Desert, an Irishman is Lured to Bahrain

In his new book, Paradoxes of Green: Landscapes of a City-State, Gareth Doherty, assistant professor of landscape architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, captures the tension between staying green and being sustainable.

Photo of Bahrain

To Gareth Doherty, there's no such thing as a single color "green." There are just too many hues and variations to commit to one label. Doing fieldwork in Bahrain, a desert nation in the Persian Gulf, he found a palette of colors, each imbued with the history, social dynamics, and politics of the island nation. Even when they live in a desert, people need green. On his daily walks across this arid, thirty-mile-long island, he documented the persistent presence of green, from green-painted roofs and doorways to a flourishing of scrub in the desert after a brief rain shower.

Because people hunger for green space, states and individuals will go to great lengths to get it, taking steps that are at odds with sustainable development. Doherty investigated the resources required to keep Bahrain green, and explored the facts and myths of how a country lost its fresh water and its iconic date palm groves over the past century. His fascination with fieldwork also has led him and his students to the Bahamas to study the sustainable development of an island archipelago, and to Brazil, where states experience different amounts of rainfall and seasonal blankets of green.

The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs asked Doherty about his year in Bahrain, and what he’s discovered about how people use and respond to the various colors of green in their landscape.... Read more about Looking for Green in the Desert, an Irishman is Lured to Bahrain

Pursuing Sustainability—Connecting Science and Practice


Image of William C. Clark


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Friday will welcome 130 heads of state who have pledged to sign the Paris Agreement, the UN global agreement on managing climate change. For William Clark, Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy, and Human Development at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), sustainability is a global imperative and a scientific challenge like no other.

He sees the Paris Agreement as just one step, though an important one, in this urgent pursuit, as officials wrestle with how to meet the needs of a growing human population without jeopardizing the planet for future generations.... Read more about Pursuing Sustainability—Connecting Science and Practice

The Secrets of Containment: Making the Invisible Visible

Image of woman in mask on street

Peter Galison, the Joseph Pellegrino University Professor at Harvard University, is fascinated by the “concrete visuals behind what might appear to be pure abstraction.” His new film Containment is about nuclear waste and its safekeeping for now and the next 10,000 years.

The film is co-directed with Robb Moss, Harvard College Professor and chair of the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, a friend with whom Galison also produced the documentary Secrecy, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008.... Read more about The Secrets of Containment: Making the Invisible Visible