James A. Trostle

“Illness on the Road: The Political Ecology of Remoteness in Esmeraldas, Ecuador”

“This is an ideal site in which to assess the health-related effects of rapid social change,” said James Trostle about a road completed in 2001 linking the northern Ecuadorian coast with the highland sierra. Trostle’s project at SAR was writing a book about a long-term, multifaceted, interdisciplinary research project on the effects this road had on disease risk and transmission. Begun in 2003 and refunded through 2012, the project is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

From the Interview

“The project’s in an area where a road was built for the first time about eleven years ago, an area that used to be completely dependent upon rivers for transportation. So what we’ve been doing has been following through what happens when a road is built for the first time and secondary and tertiary roads are built, logs start to be taken out, palm plantations start to be put in, gold mining begins, oil exploration begins, and the fabric of social life changes dramatically. People can move in ways and in philosophies that they never could before. How do people adjust to rapid social change, and how does their health respond to dramatic social change?”

Why does your work matter?

“Books are funny things. They can be dead on arrival, or they can have some life that propels them into the future. It’s with some hubris that I wrote a book proposal here, because I wasn’t completely sure that I could do it. “After the road is built, in some ways it ‘disappears’ from consciousness, but all these things happen upon it and the road sets in motion all the people who move on top of it with products and messages and vehicles.”—James A. TrostleIf the book matters, it will matter because I end up, because of my time here, being capable of telling a compelling story that describes real incidents, real people, real challenges, real destruction of the forest, real dramatic transformations of the environment—but that is compelling because it pares it down to a series of understandable, absorbable, and interesting features or parts. … I hope it will help people envision and imagine and smell and feel and see a world unlike their own, but still understandable, and understand the kinds of day-to-day challenges that people in that other world are facing in this almost cataclysmic, high-velocity set of changes that they’re living through.”

Find out more about James A. Trostle by visiting the SAR website (opens in new browser window).

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