eNews

Welcome to our archive of our news publications. Below you will find stories from our monthly EcoLogic eNews, as well as our Interviews with EcoLogicians. You can also read archived copies of The EcoLogical Landscape, our print newsletter, by clicking the links in the right sidebar.

 

For more stories and reflections about our work, check out our blog, EcoBlogic!

 

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5 Composting Latrines for La Chinantla

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Country: Mexico

Project Region: La Chinantla, Oaxaca

Project Page: Conservation of the Papaloapan River Watershed in La Chinantla, Oaxaca

This March in La Chinantla EcoLogic constructed 5 composting latrines with local community members from the community El Naranjal. 4 more latrines are due to be completed this month, but the rainy season and increased precipitation in tropical La Chinantla have caused delays. Such latrines help to reduce water pollution, improve community health, and even more importantly for EcoLogic—latrines serve as symbols and demonstrations of how to change habits and have pride in one’s community.

Read more about our impact this past month.

33 Participants from Local Communities in Totonicapán

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Country: Guatemala

Project Region: Totonicapán

Project Page: Forest of the Water Spirit

This past March in Totonicapán, the site of Guatemala’s best conserved highland oak-pine forest, EcoLogic provided the financial support for an assembly between the Natural Resources Council of the 48 Cantons and community leaders from the local area. This provided space for elected community delegates to speak on behalf of their particular community’s needs, share knowledge on the conservation efforts they’ve undertaken, and revisit previous project activities to ensure continued progress with EcoLogic and 48 Cantons leadership, who serve as community conservation allies. This assembly had 33 participants from local communities in total, 33 men and 3 women.

Read more about our impact this past month.

4 Forest Monitoring Visits in the Foothills of Olanchito

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Country: Honduras

Project Region: Olanchito (Uchapa-Pimienta watershed area)

Project Page: Communities Organizing for Watersheds

This past March in Honduras, EcoLogic staff along with our local partner the Association of Water Committees of the Southern Sector of Pico Bonito National Park (AJAASSPIB), completed 4 community-led forest monitoring visits to monitor illegal logging activity, gather data on insect outbreaks, and prevent fires in the standing forests critical to the Uchapa-Pimienta watershed. Volunteers and field staff conducted visits in the communities of Agalteca, La Gloria, California, Suyatal. In total, these visits included 10 men and 2 women from local communities and brought these local monitoring groups together with representatives from the Honduran Institute of Forestry Conservation (ICF).

Read more about our impact this past month.

A Deep dive into the Cerro de Oro Dam that Changed the Landscape of La Chinantla

Background

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In this map produced by EcoLogic intern Christine Gregory, you can see the state of Oaxaca highlighted in the inset map and the small green area showing the precise location of La Chinantla in Oaxaca’s northeast corner.

La Chinantla, a region located in the Northern part of the State of Oaxaca—which itself is nestled in the Southwestern corner of Mexico, is a highly biodiverse, mountainous landscape—considered one of the most ecologically complex regions of Oaxaca, and even the entire country. It is one of the few regions in Mexico where so many distinct ecosystems coexist in such proximity—vast, sprawling expanses of oak forest, lowland tropical humid forests, scrub and dry forests, cloud forests, and high evergreen forests cover this lush, humid land. La Chinantla is also the place the Chinantec and Mazatec people (whose total population numbers over 100,000) call home.

Read more about La Chinantla.

Field Interviews from Mexico with Imelda Esteban Yescas & Jasmin Guadalupe

In order to get more stories directly from the field to you—our kind readers, supporters, allies, and friends—we have started implementing and experimenting with communications techniques. We aim to give EcoLogic field technicians an easy method to create consistent streams of stories and photos that will allow us to analyze, communicate, monitor, and evaluate the human elements of our conservation work—like empowerment and social change.

While we are still in the pilot stage of this process, these two stories were collected by Oaxaca Field Technician Severiana Domínguez González, whose brilliant work you’ve read about of before. Severiana, as usual, went above and beyond—providing us with short journalistic accounts of local beneficiaries who are involved in our fuel-efficient stove initiative in La Chinantla.

We hope you enjoy this close-up view of Severiana’s work and insights from two local women who partner with EcoLogic.

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Imelda Esteban Yescas

Inside Imelda Esteban Yescas’  Kitchen

By Severiana Domínguez González

Hear more from Imelda & Jasmin.

Local Partnerships and Self-determination in Pico Bonito, Honduras: An Interview with Warren Darrell

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Basilio Martinez and Warren Darrell of Ecologic with AJAASSPIB technician Roberto at the water source on the Coyoles river.


Last week, EcoLogic sat down with Warren Darrell, an EcoLogic Ambassador. Warren had previously spent time journeying around Honduras to places like Copán, Lempira, and Colón where he observed the prevalence of hillside agriculture and soil degradation, as well as emerging conservation strategies such as soil-conserving agroforestry. Warren told EcoLogic that over the years, through his travels and interests, he learned that the key to successful development and conservation projects is involving local people and their community organizations and helping them enact the change they want to see. In his own words, Warren supports organizations that have an approach to their work that align with his international aid mantra that “supporting the right people and organizations is more important than the amount of support,” and after visiting Honduras, he says EcoLogic’s work confirms that.
Hear more from Warren.

EcoLogic Ambassador in Action: My Trip to Pico Bonito, Honduras

This guest blog is written by Warren Darrell, a retired environmental engineer from northern Virginia, who became involved with EcoLogic in the summer of 2016 as a Steward of Nature (our monthly donation program). Having spent some time Honduras, Guatemala, and other Latin American countries to volunteer with various sustainable development organizations, he was intrigued by EcoLogic’s community-based approach to watershed conservation and sustainable agriculture. But giving monthly by himself wasn’t enough. Ultimately, he wanted to help EcoLogic raise funds as an Ambassador — EcoLogic’s volunteer fundraisers who help us spread the EcoLogic message and garner support from family, friends, and colleagues. And to do that, Warren wanted to visit our work in person so that he could witness and verify its impact.

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The water source in the mountainous rain forest, which we reached after a steep and slippery hike.

See more photos from the field.

An Association of Rural Villagers Leading by Example at the Landscape Scale in Honduras

3D models of watersheds show community members where water collects and travels to their villages. This is a group constructing the model for San Juan and San Dimas in Honduras. (2)

3D models of watersheds show community members where water collects and how it travels to their villages. This is a youth group constructing the model for the villages of San Juan and San Dimas in Honduras

In 2016, EcoLogic was invited by Dominique Calaganan, a member of our advisory committee, with whom we are connected to thanks to our relationship with the PARTNER network, to write an article on how our work at EcoLogic contributes to a global conversation about local governance in international development and conservation. We chose Honduras mainly because we wanted to help people see what good governance by-and-for local communities looks like, which is alive and well in the communities we support. But we also had the aim of helping our peers and other organizations learn from and replicate what we’ve done. We wanted to connect with academic audiences to give a humble example of what an international non-profit of our size can do to help facilitate and strengthen real grassroots efforts in practice. Perhaps most importantly, this article intended to continue to raise the profile of our inspiring partners in Honduras—because they deserve it.
Read on to see the full published article.

Fernando Recancoj’s Most Significant Change: Empowerment & Adaptation

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Fernando Recancoj stopping for a snapshot mid conversation with me next to the “viveros,” or tree nurseries, in Totonicapán

This week, in EcoLogic’s regional office in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (known locally as Xela, a homage to its indigenous name Xelaju), EcoLogic Communications Officer, Riley Hunter, sat down with Fernando Recancoj, long-time EcoLogic Field Technician for our Totonicapán project to get a better idea of what makes EcoLogic unique, why Fernando has stayed so committed to EcoLogic for 9 years, and why he is confident that EcoLogic the best place for him to create change and help rural and indigenous communities conserve their natural resources in Totonicapán.
read on to hear more from Fernando.

Illegal Logging in Totonicapán: A persistent problem requires a unique approach

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The long, windy highway from the town of Totonicapán to the edge of the communal forest– EcoLogic’s tree nurseries are located

This article is the first installment of a multiple-part story series intended to take a deep-dive into a specific issue — unsustainable timber extraction, or logging — at one of our long-standing project sites: the Communal Forest of Los Altos de San Miguel in Totonicapán, Guatemala. As the story unfolds, you will learn about the complexities of the logging issue, the players involved and their needs/motivations, the impact of logging on forest resources and biodiversity, as well as the unique history and current realities of Totonicapán, Guatemala.

read on for more about Totonicapán.

Guatemalan Environmental Journalist, Lucy Calderón, Wins First Place for Article on Climate Change in Totonicapán

This past November, Guatemalan environmental journalist Lucy Calderón took a trip to our project sites in Totonicapán, Guatemala to write a story on how local environmental groups are confronting issues of climate change. Lucy and Guatemala Country Officer, Mario de León, met at a climate change event (Congreso Nacional de Cambio Climático) in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala and Mario invited Lucy to visit and experience our community-based conservation work. This December, after Lucy published an article about her experience with EcoLogic to various news outlets focused on conservation, she was awarded the first place prize by LatinClima and the Earth Journalism Network, CATIE (Tropical Agronomic Research and Teaching Center)  and the Dutch Embassy in Costa Rica for the best Latin American story on adaptation to climate change.

Below, in Spanish and English, is Lucy’s article, and the videos and photography that accompany her story. We are very proud that she chose to write about our work, and we congratulate her for being awarded first place!

*Note: The original article was written in Spanish. EcoLogic intern Dulce Gutierrez has provided English translation for this article, and each Spanish paragraph has an English translation that immediately follows

Educación y organización comunitaria son claves para convivir con el cambio climático 


See the rest of Lucy’s article.

Bravo! A Great Success for EcoLogic’s Not-So-Typical Benefit

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The excellent table facilitators and EcoLogic Executive Director Barbara Vallarino

Dear friends of EcoLogic,

Thank you so much for attending EcoLogic’s third annual Turning the Tables benefit. For those of you who made it, we’re so grateful you could join us to celebrate EcoLogic’s impact and come closer together as a community of allies dedicated to a more sustainable, just world. For those of you who couldn’t make it this year, we hope this event summary inspires you to join us in the future! It was a big success not only for us, but for rural and indigenous people in Central America and Mexico—as well as for our caring community here in Boston.

EcoLogic’s third annual Turning the Tables, which took place on October 20th, was a unique and creative evening full of dialogue between concerned citizens who care about the issues that affect people and planet. EcoLogic hosted both core supporters and new guests at the historic Commander’s Mansion in Watertown. The space was thoughtfully decorated with paintings made by artisans in Guatemala, videos relayed from field staff in Honduras, and auction items donated from Mexico, Belize, and beyond!

See more photos of the event.

From Socioeconomic Studies to Educational Talks: A USAC intern’s Experience in Totonicapán

At EcoLogic, we love to brag about our amazing interns. With bright minds and unbridled enthusiasm, they bring a wealth of much welcomed, fresh energy to our work. However, we don’t often highlight the brilliant interns that offer the same great ideas and helping hands to our regional staff and our partners in the field.

In Totonicapán, Guatemala, there’s an intern who brings exactly all the qualities and benefits we’ve just described, and has worked with EcoLogic and our local partner, The Natural Resource Council of The Mayors of the 48 Cantones, since early 2016. Her name is Rosario Concepción Morales Tzic.

Rosario was originally linked with 48 Cantones through her program at the University Center of Totonicapán, part of the University of San Carlos in Guatemala. Rosario’s original project was to undertake a socioeconomic baseline study of a community in the area with the help and guidance of 48 Cantones. As Rosario mentions in the video, her involvement and role expanded once she connected with EcoLogic Field Technician Fernando Recancoj and became aware of our work. Shortly after, EcoLogic staff and USAC students began to explore their mutual interests and eventually formalized a partnership with the university, so that students in the area could learn about and participate in projects related to community-based conservation.

Below is a short video of Rosario explaining a bit about her work and why she has enjoyed partnering with EcoLogic. It is in Spanish, but no worries if you don’t speak it—we’ve subtitled it for you. We hope that you enjoy a bit of insight into her fieldwork and maybe get a chance to practice your Spanish listening skills, too!

See more on Rosario’s study.

Staff Spotlight: Severiana Dominguez Gonzalez

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Last week at EcoLogic we were reflecting on our work in Mexico and our particularly impressive staff in the region, when we realized we were long overdue for a Staff Spotlight on a uniquely passionate and powerful Field Technician. Severiana has been with EcoLogic since 2012 and has amassed many inspiring stories while working with rural and indigenous communities in Oaxaca, and especially enjoys seeing the benefits that EcoLogic’s work provides for women. So, we sat down with Seve (pronounced: say-vay) as she is called for short, to shine the Staff Spotlight on her this month and make sure our supporters and readers know about her dedication and amazing impact.

Here’s what she had to say (in English and Spanish):

See what Severiana has to say.

PhotoVoice: An All-Staff Activity to Share Knowledge and Engage our Experts in the Field

You’ve likely heard this before, but at EcoLogic we implement a number of participatory workshops and activities. We do this so that communities recognize themselves as co-owners of project plans and initiatives, and our partner communities themselves can drive the conservation process in a way that aligns with their needs and interests. We believe that communities must be involved throughout the entire project cycle, from initial planning all the way to monitoring and evaluation. Our commitment to participatory processes ensures that our projects respond to locally defined needs and priorities, and are adapted to the unique environmental and social challenges of each community. This approach advances our mission to empower rural and indigenous people—and increases the likelihood that our initiatives are sustainable over the long-term.

Participatory approaches to development include a number of valuable tools that facilitate the inclusion and engagement necessary to give an equal voice to all involved. One particularly useful method used for this is called PhotoVoice—which is a process that allows people to identify, represent, and enhance their projects, plans, and goals through a specific photographic technique.

Just as we believe all community members must have an equal voice and a seat at the table, we think the same principles must be applied to all of our staff. So, this past September, EcoLogic engaged all US-based and regional staff in an organization-wide activity meant to gather information and insight on how EcoLogic is understood, identified, and represented in the many diverse communities in which we work across Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. The activity was meant to enable people to reflect about EcoLogic’s strengths and voice their opinions, while also promoting dialogue and knowledge-sharing. Participants were asked to each select a photo that they believe exemplifies EcoLogic’s role and process of working, and were later prompted to reflect upon the pictures through both written narratives and group discussions—a methodology called PhotoVoice.

Our recent PhotoVoice workshop had over 20 participants that engaged remotely from the regions in which we work. Together, participants shared over 20 photos and accompanying narratives that shared important information about EcoLogic. We plan to incorporate this information into a wide variety of project planning, fundraising, and communications materials. But most importantly, the activity gave everyone an opportunity to voice their expertise from the field in their own words, with their own representation. The meaningful dialogue and reflection about EcoLogic’s work that the activity generated will be integrated into our organizational vision, allow us to grow, and shape our future plans and project designs around rich, quality, information gathered from the knowledgeable minds of our expert staff.

Oh, and as a bonus, everyone got to share amazing photos that others had yet to see! Here are some of our favorite photos and reflections:

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Name and role: Marco Acevedo, Program Officer for Mexico

Project and location of the photo: Chinantla, San Lucas Ojitlán

Approximate date: 2013

Title: Perseverance and Transcendence

From your point of view, why is this photo significant and how does it represent EcoLogic’s role?

This photo represents two aspects of EcoLogic. The first is the perseverance that EcoLogic has to continue our work even when the road isn’t easy or when we encounter many obstacles. But, we have been able to build processes that allow us to advance and grow. The second aspect has to do with with how we propel conservation and bring it to the people and the lessons that we learn along the path of doing things together.

See more PhotoVoice reflections.

Connecting Local Partners & Communication Networks—A blog by EcoLogic intern Andrew Shifren

By Andrew Shifren, EcoLogic summer intern and student at Emory University studying history and environmental management. Andrew interned with EcoLogic during the summer of 2016 after being selected for a Forest Foundation grant, which is a competitive application process and places students with non-profits who have aligning interests and skills. The program aims to foster the next generation of public service leaders. Thank you, Forest Foundation, and gracias, Andrew!

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Andrew enjoying the natural wonders of the world

Before the Forest Foundation placed me in a summer internship at EcoLogic, if you were to ask me what communications consists of, I would probably have said “e-mail.” Needless to say, I had a lot of catching up to do during my first week on board. I was lucky enough to join EcoLogic at a time when they were crafting a new communications strategy, so I stepped into an environment with few rules set in stone and plenty of opportunities to innovate and pose new ideas. It was also an office environment with dogs—I loved the dogs.

Learn more about communication maps with Andrew.

The Southern Pine Beetle Plague: A Threat to Resilience and Livelihoods

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Local partners and community members constructing firebreaks in Northern Honduras

EcoLogic works diligently with our local partner organizations to build resilience in rural communities through our solutions that protect both people and the planet. Yet, in addition to our ongoing work, there are situations that emerge  that demand urgent and immediate action. A current example of this is happening right now in Honduras, in what experts are rightfully calling this an ecological catastrophe. An abnormally severe outbreak of the southern pine beetle—Dendroctonus frontalis—is ravaging pine forests across the country. While this beetle has long been present in Honduran forests, climate change and its effects are causing more frequent and severe outbreaks.

The pine beetle attacks pine forests, particularly those that have been weakened by lightning or fires, or where there is high stand density. Once 20-30 pines are attacked, southern pine beetle infestations can spread rapidly if no control is applied. Under conditions of outbreak, the bark beetles can then kill healthy pines, too. The bark beetle develops within the bark of infested pines and new adults then fly in search of a new host.

In order to control the spread of the pine beetle plague, EcoLogic and its partners will continue implementing the strategy promoted by the Honduran Forest Conservation Institute (Instituto de Conservación Forestal, ICF), which advises to cut down infected trees as well as healthy trees within a 50 meter radius of infected areas (a distance which prevents adults from reaching new healthy pines). Given this necessary clearing of trees, reforestation of healthy trees and ongoing management are key components of the response. Firebreaks will continue to be built, along with controlled burning and removal of combustible matter, and the forests will be monitored by rangers.

Learn more about the Southern Pine Beetle plague.

From a Gentlemans’ Agreement to Effective Governance: A Retrospective on a Cross-Border Alliance leading to Healthy Fisheries in Belize and Guatemala

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Traditional transportation—a family navigates the area

After six years of hard work and perseverance of Guatemalan and Belizean fishing communities, and support from the Oak Foundation, EcoLogic’s project, Cross-Border Alliance for Healthy Fisheries, has reached a series of major milestones. As we plan with our local partners, and write proposals to potential funders, we wanted to paint a picture of the important progress to date and share the successes of the project and all of the people involved.

This project is located in the lower Sarstoon (Sarstún) River Basin and adjacent coastal-marine area on the border between Belize and Guatemala—the Amatique Bay. There is a combined total of over 50,000 hectares of terrestrial wetland conservation areas. This incredibly unique ecosystem is imperative to biodiversity as well as to the livelihoods and cultures shared by fishing communities (Garífuna, Maya Q’eqchi’, and Mestizo) on both sides of the border. However, a decades-old international boundary dispute has created barriers to cooperation, integration, and trust among border communities.  Furthermore, both Belize’s Toledo District and Guatemala’s Izabal Department suffer from some of the highest levels of poverty and malnutrition in their respective countries.

Learn more about this cross-border initiative.

En Respuesta/In Response: On Photography and Coexistence/Sobre la Fotografía y Convivencia

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In San Francisco de la Paz, Honduras; with Don Jose (or Don Tiva), the father of the owner of the school I worked at—a man who, though he has since passed, told me many stories and taught me very much about the history of his people and his country. / / En San Francisco de La Paz, Honduras; Don José (o Don Tiva), el padre del dueño de la escuela para la cual trabajaba. Este señor falleció hace unos años, pero me contó muchas historias y me enseñó mucho sobre la historia de su gente y su país.

Last month, we published an eNews article titled On Photography and Coexistence with Nature, written by EcoLogic Field Technician Antonio Reyes Montejo all the way from his project site in Ixcán, Guatemala. Like we mentioned in the last article, EcoLogic is always aiming to improve how we communicate, as an organization and to our external audience, so this article is meant to be both a reply to the field staff in our region‐with whom I work closely but may not have the opportunity to speak with or see on a daily basis—as well as a visual-based introduction to me, Riley Hunter, EcoLogic’s new communications officer.

*Writers note from Riley: This article is written in English and—to the best of my ability—in Spanish. So please follow along in either language and excuse any errors.

El mes pasado, publicamos un artículo en nuestro noticiero electrónico mensual titulado Sobre La fotografía y convivencia con la naturaleza, escrito por Antonio Reyes Montejo, nuestro técnico del campo, desde el proyecto en Ixcán, Guatemala. Como se mencionó en el  ultima artículo, EcoLogic siempre está intentando a mejorar nuestras comunicaciones como organización y a nuestro público externo. Este artículo es una respuesta a nuestro personal regional—la gente con quien trabajamos y conversamos muy cercanamente—y también como un introducción a las fotos y personalidad de nuestro Oficial de Comunicaciones, Riley Hunter.

 *Nota del escritor (Riley): EcoLogic siempre está intentando mejorar nuestro comunicamos como organización y a nuestro público externo, este artículo está escrito en Inglés y—a lo mejor de mi capacidad—en Español. Favor de leerla en cualquier lengua y disculpen los errores.

Tell me how you first became involved with EcoLogic and what is your role now?

Cuénteme cómo usted se incorporó a EcoLogic y cuál es su papel?

Read the rest of Riley’s story.

Featured Project: EcoLogic’s Indigenous Community Engagement in Mexico’s National MRV system gets GCFF and International Spotlight

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Participants in training for forest carbon monitoring that EcoLogic has helped coordinate in Chiapas, Campeche, Jalisco, and Quintana Roo, since 2014

EcoLogic was one of a handful of institutions awarded Governors’ Climate & Forests Fund’s (GCFF) financial support, to continue to make crucial headway in ensuring that rural and indigenous communities in Mexico are involved in and can benefit from emerging REDD+ strategies.

REDD+ strategies have a complicated history where the need for a rights-based approach has been identified and echoed across the international community. We have written a few articles on the past to explain how we approach REDD+ with indigenous communities. We’ve explained how we define and use it, and blogged about the confusion and push for clarity involved in the process. Also, we’ve recently been featured in a beautifully photographed Featured Project section on Governors’ Climate & Forests Fund’s website, which marks a proud milestone in our project due to the recognition of our success. And the publicity gives us another opportunity to direct attention to the important community-based work that we do!

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EcoLogic and its Campeche-base partner, SURverde (surverde.org), were invited to Jalisco by Gabriela Lopez Damian, from the Secretary of the Environment in Jalisco (http://fiprodefo.jalisco.gob.mx/) to lead a community workshop on carbon monitoring and share lessons learned in Campeche and Chiapas

The GFC article—which is republished below—is an interview with REDD+ Senior Program Manager, Andrea Savage, and does an excellent and eloquent job of communicating to the community of international experts on the subject. But we highly recommend heading over to the GCFF website to see the amazing photos that accompany the article.

After the interview, we’ve included a couple of excerpts that did not make the final published version, which focus on the community-based components of our work that we know our readership loves.

Read the interview.

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