Findings, vol. 1 (though it's not really vol. 1)
Stories old and new & some of life's good things. A new digest from Movable Worlds.
Hello! I’m Emily, and this is a newsletter about how we seek and tell stories to make sense of a rapidly changing world & our personal and collective place in it.
Actually, the format of this letter isn’t representative of what I usually email out, but I thought a digest with links to individual stories more appropriate on this occasion since there were multiple disconnected things I wanted to share. Enjoy!
This longform piece for South China Morning Post, which includes a historical retelling of the Nipah virus outbreak in Malaysia, about why we should all care more about the increased frequency of zoonotic disease outbreaks. It’s also printed in the April edition of SCMP’s monthly magazine. (It has a lot to do with how we eat and produce our food, so highly relevant to how we live!) Since SCMP is paywalled, you can read the story on my website. I found this piece fascinating to report and research, and there will definitely be a newsletter riffing off it.
This multimedia story for Between the Lines, a newsletter of Malaysian affairs, based off a reporting trip I did in Sabah’s Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands. (Do allow the page to finish loading before scrolling, as it’s pretty media-heavy.) I had wanted to see the Wetlands’ more remote reaches for myself, and learn about how its local and indigenous inhabitants are working with activist nonprofits and government authorities to better conserve the ecological integrity of its mangroves and other ecosystems while maintaining their economic livelihoods—and whether they could be an example of proactive, rather than reactive, stewardship. I may post some reflections as a letter in the near future, but for now, read this piece I wrote about the start of my journey and follow me on Instagram to see the photo journal I am sharing of my trip. I had also posted more context about this piece on a Mastodon thread.
I find it weirdly satisfying to put myself through the paces when I travel. The demands of being on the move invigorate me. There’s something about the straining my body that makes it feel used and useful—a welcome reminder, perhaps, that I’m in control of it, that I can make it do what I want it to do, and that it can withstand some wear and tear from sustained activity. The tightness in my right shoulder from always carrying my backpack on my right side. The clawed tension in my feet and the swelling in my calves from really using my legs again (I make myself walk as much as possible when I travel, so I pay closer attention to my surroundings). The lack of sleep from trying to squeeze in too many activities in a day while keeping up with other time zones for work outstanding, and trying to accommodate the sleeping cycles of others when I stay in hostels. Even the occasional angry red spots that mar my skin from bug bites of undetermined origin (luckily so far, nothing antihistamines haven’t help)—not letting them bother me too much can feel like a small triumph.
Dear readers, being able to take you with me, every step of the way, means a great deal. Please sign up if you would like to receive more letters like this in your inbox and to support my writing and curiosity. You can also make a paid subscription. Thank you!
A shoutout to Mae, who wrote a guest letter for Movable Worlds in March about the eternal dilemma of leaving or staying that so many people—and not just fellow Malaysians—found they could relate to. I was really gratified to hear that writing that guest letter helped her get into the groove of writing again after years convincing herself that maybe she didn’t need to write write, and that it helped her get back to beginning her newsletter, so wonderfully named MAEmoji. Read her first letter, in which she describes her writing journey:
Getting back here feels a bit like discovering an old piece of clothing you once wore all the time but got sick of how it made you feel as your perception of yourself slowly changed.
I’ve loved working with all the people who took the time to pen thoughtful guest letters for Movable Worlds. I love being edited by a good editor, and I try to do the same here for other writers. So, if you’ve got a story you think you’d like to have a go at, please get in touch.
Haulout, a short film about a lone scientist in the Siberian Arctic witnessing the death of walruses caused by warming seas. I came to it because I love Evgenia Arbugaeva’s photographs, which—like this film she recently made with her brother—always have something of the fairytale about them and celebrate the meaning that can be found in solitude at the farthest edges of the world.
These doggies are finally out of the woods—one growing out of her most vulnerable puppy stage and the other recovering from a bad hindpaw injury ❤️ Glad that W.C. and I no longer have to shuttle back and forth to the vet’s…
Admin note: Since there are quite a few more of you new here, I thought I might help you around the architecture of Substack, which is building up into more of a social network, not just a newsletter platform.
Besides the newsletters you receive in your email (which are also published online), Substack has also enabled “Notes” and “Chat”. More about how I’ll be using them here.