By Professor Robert Fleming

In the eastern division,  the Argentine government has promoted development by offering substantial financial inducements to people to settle and work in this region, one that diplays relatively cold weather and long, dark winter nights. A good example of the success of the plan is Ushuaia, a settlement squeezed into space bordering the Beagle Channel. Starting with a town of only around 12,000 residents the population has now increased to a city over 60,000, and as this is a port of call, or the jumping-off site, for ships heading to and from the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Peninsula, it is bustling with visitors in the summer months. Over 200 cruise ships dock here anually.

Ushuaia City on the Beagle Channel marks the southern border of the island.

These days tourism is a major economic driving force here and records show that back in 2015  over 300,000 visitors arrived on the island, the majority  (55%) from ArgentinaNumerous other business activities are promoted in this eastern part of the island including extracting oil and gas, as well as peat ‘mining,’ and logging. In addition, factories that produce textiles and plastics have been constructed in economic free zones  while raising beef cattle is important as this region is free of hoof-and-mouth disease.

As with most mountainous tracts, foothill areas rise up on both sides of the main spine and each altitude level comes with distinct biological constituents. In the case of Tierra del Fuego the eastern foothills of the Darwin Range lie on the dry side  where the lower slopes are home to a variety of herbaceous plants including beach strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) and calafate (Berberis buxifolia), both of which were gathered by the Yaghans for food. Stands of trees grow where conditions allow, and among these is the conifer,Pilgerodendron uviferumin the cypress family, the southernmost cone-bearing plant in the world and one often found in association with subpolar beeches, Nothofagus sp., and Winter Bark,Drimys winteri, the bark used by early travelers to prevent scurvy.

In contrast to the Argentinian portion of Tierra del Fuego, the western or Chilean part of the island is mountainous terrain not much visited save for the flats that border the Straits of Magellan and a wee sliver in the southeast near Usuhaia. This remarkably wild territory with no road access and no human settlement includes the main spine of the Darwin Range, a southern section of the Andes that runs NW-SE for some 130km/80mi with summits at 900m/3000ft or over and Mt Darwin topping out at 2580m/8460ft.

From the highest points of the range, the descent to the west is precipitous. So much so that in about 14km/8mi from the crest, cold ocean water laps at the slanting rocks. These steep western slopes face into strong, often gale force winds and receive copious amount of precipitation and thus it is no wonder that passengers looking northeast from a ship plowing through the ‘inner passage’ marvel, clouds permitting, at spires of exposed rock or slopes covered in snow and ice all between valleys choked by massive glaciers that debouch into the sea.   Conveniently,  in the summer,  elevations abuting the ocean are completely free of ice and some cliffy areas are selected as nesting sites by penguins, cormorants and other sea birds.

Where the slopes of the Darwin Range disapper into the water is not the end of the continental shelf as the latter extends westward in some places for some 60km/37mi before dropping off into the deep ocean blue. This shelf,  bustling with biological activity, is covered with shallow water and dotted  by a maze of islands, all with shorelines, bays and coves.  As expected, the composition of cold-water plants in this area along with fish and numerous invertebrates is similar to that seen near Cape Horn.   And above sea level, the scattered islands may feature fresh-water Sphagnum bogs in open terrain, these sometimes fringed with carnivorous Sundews. Also, where conditions are favorable, forested tracts of southern beeches shade ground-level orchids, ferns, and fungi.

‘Indian Bread’ fungus (Cyttaria harioti) grows on southern beeches.

Noting the exceptional nature of this area, much of the Darwin Range was incorporated into the 14,600km2/5,637mi2Alberto de Agostini National Park in 2005. Later, in 1960, Argentina established the  Tierra del Fuego National Park, now 630 km2/243 mi2, which abuts Agostini on the southeast.  A major feature of the Tierra del Fuego park is that it is linked to nearby Ushuaia by a good road that allows visitors to have a close look at the park’s ecosystems.

Gavilia lutea, a ground orchid.

A Dog Orchid– the scientific name is still being worked out.

Stepping out of a vehicle in a parking lot near the large Acigami (Roca) Lake in the Tierra del Fuego park one is surrounded by subantarctic beech forest. This is home to Magellanic Woodpeckers, the males of which are impressively red-headed, as well as a number of small birds including the Tufted Tit Tyrant flycatcher.  Moreover, besides Acigami Lake, the open valley floor is sprinkled with small lakes and ponds, all connected by running streams: the haunt of beautiful Ashy-headed Geese and impressive Upland Geese.  This is also a  hunting ground of the South American Gray Fox,  aptly named by locals the ‘Swimming Fox,’ for indeed the canine readily takes to water.  And at the height of summer, in January, many species of wildflowers appear including  terrestrial orchids, especially creamy or yellow Gavilea species with dark marks on enlarged lower lips.

Lake Acigami (Lake Roca) is 11 km long and is partly in Chile and partly in Argentina.

A Swimming Fox.

Looking up the side slopes from the valley, one sees that with increasing altitude the hillsides gradually transition from the  forests of the lowlands into open slopes of Andean alpine scrub.  Around the 600m/2000ft altitude level and above,  the landscape features mostly low-growing herbaeous plants, often grasses, and is dotted with small bushes including, among others, Barberry, Gaulteria, and the Chilean firebush (Embothriumin the Proteaceae family). This is a preferred habitat of the guanacos, one of world’s four camel species, that roam here in family parties led by the dominent female. And cruising over this wide-open habitat looking for their next meals are Andean Condors with wing spans of up to  3m/10ft.  A likely favorite feast of the vultures is the remains of a guanaco killed by pumas.

Guanaco family.

After a number of research studies in areas bordering the Beagle Channel highlighted the special nature of the region, visionaries established the Omora Ethnobotanical Park near Puerto Williams on  Navarino Island.Subsequently, after a five-year effort, the Omora team working with  Chilean government, persuaded UNESCO officials to establish the 49,000km2/18,572 mi2Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve to additionally protect the Tierra del Fuego and Agostini national parks as well as territory as far south as the Cape Horn National Park.

The biosphere reserve concept, now widely implemented around the world, is that the wise use of the natural resources in regions with special biological significance can provide a sanctuary for plants and animals, while also promoting a sustainable living for the resident humans. And currently we see a growing understanding of the fundamental need for a community approach to conservation, one that involves local players at the center with assistance from regional and global multidisciplinary practitioners. Today there are good examples of the  success of this approach.  The Omora Ethnobotanical Park is one.

The working plan of this Omora effort showcases an approach to conservation that promotes environmental research, education, and conservation through  a set of ten interrelated principles involving multiple institutions, actors, and disciplines on local, regional, national, and international scales (see Ten Principles for Biocultural Conservation at the Southern Tip of the Americas: the Approach of the Omora Ethnobotanical Park.  Ecology and Society 13(2):49).

Besides persuading national and international officials to designate this area as a biosphere reserve, the Omora effort has led many other successes. For example, recognizing  the region’s amazing moss and liverwort diversity has led to training bryophyte botanists at the University of Magallanes and to ‘hand-lens tourism’ showcasing the rich diversity of these plants to both local residents and outside visitors.

In addition, a four-year project studying the  Magellanic Woodpecker  has  resulted in positioning this bird as a “flagship” species of the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve and the bird has now become an emblem of Puerto Williamswith woodpecker images seen throughout the town on posters, clocks, and calendars, among other places.  This big, black bird nests in holes in large, mostly dead, trees and it is now understood that in order to sustain the population,  there is a distinct need to protect old-growth forests where dead trees still exist.  This woodpecker campaign illustrates the usefullness of transferring scientific information into local programs in order to achieve conservation ends.

Overall,  the creation of the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve in 2005 was a major achievement and human activity in this region is now guided by the concept of three zones: an inner core available for scientific study and educational purposes that is open by permit only, a buffer zone that permits sustainable outdoor recreation including hunting and fishing, and a transistion zone encompassing towns and villages that cater to the needs of the local population. Adhering to these principles, much of the extreme southern tip of South America may well be safe-guarded for the use and enjoyment of many generations into the future.


By Professor Robert Fleming

Only a few island groups on our planet have remained mostly free of human impact and with good fortune, a portion of the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago, below the Beagle Channel, is one of these. Here lies the small (244km2/94mi2) Cape Horn National Park, which encompasses both shallow marine habitats along with the island groups of Wollaston and Hermite. Cape Horn Island itself is a miniscule part of the reserve.

Some of the islands below the Beagle Channel are treeless andexhibit tundra formations as well as alpine habitats, these often intermixed with freshwater ecosystems such as peat bogs that are repleat with species of Sphagnummosses. Indeed, the whole region is a bryophyte hotspot, especially well known for its great diversity of cold-adapted liverworts and mosses.

Shaded areas on islands west of the Darwin range are conducive to fern and moss growth.

In addition, other islands in the region  are partly covered with a mixture of southern evergreen forests or subpolar deciduous forests. A main component of the former is the southern beech Nothfagus betuloides, and the white-flowered Drimys winteri (in the Winteraceae family). While the  deciduous forests are mostly composed of the southern beeches, Nothofagus pumilioand N. antarctica.

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By Karen Milnes

Mike Rechlin, professor at Future Generations University, gives a tubing demonstration.

Everybody knows about Vermont maple syrup, and it’s time to put West Virginia on the map. With an estimated 0.04% (USDA—NASS) of the state’s tappable maples in production, there’s a lot of room for growth. And if this industry is doing anything, it is growing. And fast. According to a survey conducted by the Appalachian program at Future Generations, the number one component in helping our state’s maple industry expand is the need for more sap from more taps.

With ongoing innovations in the sap to syrup process, a growing number of West Virginia producers are capable of processing a lot more sap than they can obtain. Backyard syrup making is not only a mountain tradition in these parts, it’s a growing hobby as the farm and food movement sweeps across our nation. The Sweet Opportunites: Tapping West Virginia’s Maple Resource project at Future Generations University aims to start networking sap collectors and syrup producers, setting up a “hub” model, already popular in more established maple syrup producing states. What’s nice about this model is that it allows, for fairly minimal overhead, just about any landowner with maples on their property and a maple syrup producer nearby, to break into the industry with little risk. Oftentimes, sap collectors simply selling their raw sap are able to pay off the collection equipment in the first year. In a relatively short time, they can begin scaling up their operations and considering purchasing larger equipment to begin producing their own syrup.

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Our Learning Management Coordinator, Paula Smith, attended our field-based course in India in January. See what she has to say about the experience!

Why did you attend this field-based course on the Gandhian Method?

 I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend the Gandhi course in India. I work with the Future Generations certificate program, so I’ve helped to plan and manage this course in years past, but it was such a rewarding experience to be there in person and see all the hard work come together for a great learning experience. It helped to give me insight on how to coordinate the student experience even better going forward.

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By Mark Lambert

If you would’ve told me at this time last year that I, my wife, and our business partners would not only be producing, but delivering West Virginia Pure Maple Syrup across the state, I would’ve had to “lol.” Literally. Not just in a text or an email.

With the help of Future Generations Maple Sap Collecting and Syrup Processing certificate program, we’ve gone from wondering what our next step in the foodservice and transportation business world might be to learning how to collect sap on a commercial level. More than this, we’ve learned how to process that sap into syrup, label and bottle it for retail, and distribute not only our own finished product, but also other producers’ syrup, to retailers all over the state of West Virginia.

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Melene Kabadege is a Rwandan health professional and practitioner who attended Future Generations University as a member of the Class of 2007.  A nurse with a Bachelor’s in Public Health and 16 years working for World Relief’s health and nutrition programs, Melene was seeking a way to become a true Community Health specialist.

When she met Dr. Henry Perry in 2014, a member of the Future Generations faculty at the time, and learned about the University, she realized that her dreams of bringing positive and sustainable change to her community were more achievable than she thought. She credits her education here with building her knowledge and skills in community empowerment, social change, leadership, and how to leverage and lead community successes. This empowered her to bring about lasting healthy changes in her community.

Through the Master’s program, Melene became more confident in her abilities as an agent of change and sustainable development. This inspired her to start Community Fountain Project, an NGO with the purpose of working hand-in-hand with the community to improve lives. Community Fountain Organization is currently implementing the INEZA Project, which aims to prevent under-nutrition and reduce stunting in the Kamonyi District of Rwanda.

Farmer Field and Learning School

A member of Future Generations Global Network, as are all Future Generations graduates, Melene succeeded in winning a small grant from the organization in 2017 with the purpose of implementing a Farmer Field and Learning School. Here farmers serve as teachers to their peers and join together in a farmers’ cooperative. The Project areas of intervention were: improving farming techniques, improving nutrition in the first one thousand days of a child’s life, and improving saving and learning skills. Melene’s group worked with local leaders to ensure proper project monitoring.

Hands-On Nutrition Session

After six month’s of project implantation, the team noted several behavior changes taking place in the farmers’ households. Notable outcomes include: couples participating in nutrition learning adopted better nutrition practices for pregnant women and children under age two, families have improved hygiene and feeding practices, men have taken on an increased role in child care, improved farming techniques have been taught and adopted, farmers have been mobilized towards the operation and maintenance of community works, erosion control plants have been put into place, and 25 saving and lending groups have been implemented that all remain operational.

Voluntary Savings and Loan Program

At the end of the first year, the program has been considered successful and highly appreciated by community members and leaders alike. The project was implemented in 3 out of 12 Sectors of Kamonyi District. Fundraising activities are currently ongoing with the aim to extend the INEZA Project to cover all sectors of Kamonyi District and to become a learning center for community partnership in reducing stunting and improving the life of the vulnerable people.

Congratulations to Melene on her impressive work, and our thanks for sharing her story!

Make sure to follow the blog for more stories on the inspiring work being undertaken by our incredible alumni!


Future Generations lost a friend when John Campbell passed away in November of 2018. He encouraged us to take risks; specifically to push against the limits of accreditation policies to achieve the true purposes of learning. Although no longer physically here to encourage us, his message endures. “Do the right thing,” he said, “then explain you broke the rules because not doing so would have been a worse thing.”

We first became acquainted with John a decade and a half ago when he came as a member of the Higher Learning Commission accreditation team, sent here to inspect whether Future Generations was meeting the requirements of higher education and deserved accreditation. His job was to ‘check the boxes’ and make sure we were following the rules. What set John apart was that in checking the boxes, he was searching for achieving the higher purposes of the regulations.

John spoke at length with our president, Daniel C. Taylor, and the message he gave was that to achieve learning requires going forward, building on the resources present in the place. The place of Future Generations University is the world, with students from around the world who learn from the world … and most importantly shape their local worlds into better places. John recognized the potential in our idea, which was new at the time, and remained in contact with the school until his death.

Please join us in remembering John’s remarkable life with the following account, kindly provided by his family.

 

John Roy Campbell, PhD, DSC, DLitt

June 14, 1933-November 17, 2018

John was born near Goodman, Missouri and grew up on a small farm. He was the first of his immediate family to graduate from high school, and credited the receipt of a scholarship from the Sears Roebuck Corporation as the impetus to enroll in the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU). There he earned a B.S. with honors in Dairy Science from MU College of Agriculture in 1955, working three part-time jobs while doing so in order to fund his education.

Also during this time, a friend introduced him to Eunice Vieten, who shared his background of having grown up on a dairy farm. The two married and remained happily so until his passing, raising three children and later becoming grandparents along the way.

After receiving a fellowship to pursue Master of Science degree in Dairy Manufacturing, he served one year in the Army reserves, having been in the ROTC during college. Following that, he served two years of Active Duty in the Army’s Seventh Artillery. After discharge from the Army, he returned to Columbia to pursue his PhD in dairy cattle nutrition and physiology at MU. He continued serving as a member of the National Guard Army Reserves Field Artillery for the next 22 years, rising to the level of Lieutenant Colonel and Battery Commander of his unit. In 1983, John received The Meritorious Service Medal from the United States Army for his service.

Following completion of his PhD in 1960, John joined the MU Dairy Science faculty where he quickly rose through the ranks to become a full professor in 1968. He received nearly every award available to faculty members during his 17 years teaching there.

John taught several courses relating to dairy husbandry and animal sciences, and co-authored two textbooks. He viewed students as “our nation’s most valuable resource.” He wrote his book In Touch With Students: A Philosophy for Teachers (1972) to share his teaching philosophies with others.

In 1977, John was recruited by the University of Illinois as College of Agriculture Associate Dean and Director of Resident Instruction. In this new role, he demonstrated a zeal for the land-grant philosophy of higher education – providing educational and career opportunities for the sons and daughters of the working classes. He gained support from private individuals and corporations to establish a merit-based scholarship program to help recruit, recognize and support high-caliber students to pursue careers in agriculture, home economics and related professional fields. He selected the name Jonathan Baldwin Turner (JBT) Agricultural Merit Scholarship Program in honor of one of the initial proponents of land-grant universities. The program has been highly successful with alumni holding prominent positions in industry and at universities.

In 1983, John was named Dean of the College of Agriculture at the University of Illinois. Innovation, dedication and cooperation with people, both within and outside the College of Agriculture, were hallmarks of his deanship. His leadership was central to the College obtaining $61.2 million for construction of five new facilities. Colleagues have referred to his time at Illinois as “a golden era.”

John was appointed the fifteenth President of Oklahoma State University (OSU) on August 1, 1988 and served until 1993. At OSU he continued his student focus, championed international involvement and inter-university partnerships, and expanded distance learning. He resigned as OSU president in 1993 to teach in the OSU College of Agriculture and resume writing. In 1998, he published his fourth book Reclaiming a Lost Heritage: Land-Grant and Other Higher Education Initiatives for the Twenty-First Century, which has been used in teaching Honors Courses and educating others on the heritage of the land-grant system.

John retired from Oklahoma State University in 1999 and returned to Columbia, Missouri to take aim at new goals and opportunities. During this time, he served as a Consultant-Evaluator for the Higher Learning Commission/North Central Association and on the National University of Natural Medicine’s Board of Directors from 1998-2013. He also continued presenting lectures for numerous organizations. Having viewed the need for changes to increase societal perceptions of higher education, he wrote a novel titled Dry Rot in the Ivory Tower: A Case for Fumigation, Ventilation, and Renewal of the Academic Sanctuary, and another textbook, Companion Animals: Their Biology, Care, Health, and Management.

Throughout his professional career, John demonstrated a caring attitude toward and sincere interest in students, their careers, and personal lives. He had the privilege of teaching more than 12,000 students and published more than 100 papers. He accomplished much and left a legacy at each of the universities where he served.

He loved to tell stories and share the knowledge he had gained through his many journeys and discussions with people from “all walks of life” and was quick to extend congratulations to others on their accomplishments. At this time of loss, a smile comes to mind envisioning John sharing stories with those who preceded him in “graduating to heaven.”


Summary from Just and Lasting Change  by Associate Professor, Noam Schimmel

An article in Britain’s Guardian newspaper recently suggested that as much as 50% of the planet needs to be set aside from human habitation to stave off mass environmental degradation and irreversible destruction of animal and plant species.

The intention behind this argument is a good one: to conserve the earth’s biodiversity and natural life forms.

These have their own intrinsic value, but also ultimately benefit people in ensuring that natural resources are protected rather than exploited to the point of unsustainability; that air, land, and water are protected in ways that promote public health, and that global warming and other forms of environmental harm are mitigated.

But there is a fallacy at the heart of the notion that the primary way to advance conservation is by removing people from nature.

People and nature are not necessarily adversaries. There are many examples, including contemporary ones, of people serving as successful guardians of nature, rather than as antagonists to the environment and its conservation.

The misguided notion that people and nature are adversaries has sullied conservation since the incarnation of the modern conservation movement. It needs to be acknowledged and addressed because it both hinders and slows environmental conservation and can contribute to denying the human rights of people who depend on nature for their livelihoods.

For many people, as individuals and as communities, their lives, values, and cultures are intimately and inextricably bound with nature.

Read more…


Summary from Just and Lasting Change  by Associate Professor, Noam Schimmel

When you think about football, chances are you don’t think about community development, shared resources, a commitment to a non-profit ethos, and a cooperative approach to owning and managing a sports team.

But there is an open secret about one American football team that, while famous for the quality of its players and the passion of its supporters, should also be famous for its communitarian spirit, structure, and values.

As the Green Bay Packers By-Laws state, ‘The association shall be a community project intended to promote community welfare and that its purposes shall be exclusively charitable.”

This challenges the dominant paradigm of what drives sports in America and around the world: profit making. Sports are big business and they are, for the most part, run as big business.

But there are exceptions.

And it turns out that while the Green Bay Packers do make money what they do with that money and how they reinvest it in their community is what is so unique and notable, beyond their sporting excellence.

As Paz Magat, the author of this chapter in Just & Lasting Change, writes,

“The Green Bay Packers are one of the most iconic teams in American football, a team that has won thirteen championships – more than any other American professional football team – and a team that comes from the smallest city of any professional football team. So how is this team a charity? How does it promote community welfare? The answer is that instead of making money, the purpose of the team is winning for the community.”

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Summary from Just and Lasting Change  by Associate Professor, Noam Schimmel

About Abraham Lincoln so much has been written it appears unlikely that there is more to say about him that might be new to readers. But, there is a part of Lincoln’s legacy that is genuinely underexplored and not widely known and it merits attention.

Lincoln was committed to advancing human development in a young United States in a way that was deeply democratic, progressive, and marshalled human resources in innovative ways that were ground-breaking and far-reaching for his time. The legacies of the policies and programs he advanced remain as defining features of American life today, and he had an animating vision of unity in diversity that informed those policies and programs.

We take the holiday of Thanksgiving for granted; it has become one of the defining features of American cultural life. Whatever one’s religion, ethnicity, politics, heritage – wherever one comes from – Thanksgiving is widely celebrated by a huge cross-section of Americans.

What many don’t know is that we owe Thanksgiving to Lincoln, who set it aside as a holiday of thanks that he had the foresight to recognize would unite Americans despite their many divisions. To this day, it continues to do so and to bind Americans across boundaries of difference, both real and imagined, small and profound.

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Summary from Just and Lasting Change  by Associate Professor, Noam Schimmel

An Example of SEED-SCALE in Arizona

Seed-Scale has been used by Native American communities to explore and assess their communal needs and resources and to advance development that stems from the community and reflects its needs and preferences.

The White Mountain Apache of Arizona have historically had mixed experiences of government neglect as well as government support, with government support often creating unsustainable relationships of dependency that undermined dignity and freedom.

Daniel Taylor reflects upon the history and culture of the Apache of Cibecue Valley:

“The two thousand Apache of the Cibecue Valley, in eastern Arizona, are the most isolated members of the White Mountain tribe. A high percentage of the people still speak the Apache tongue, and they try to keep the older ways alive. Older residents tell of idyllic childhoods spent in the forests with deer and other wildlife as neighbors, when Cibecue Creek still abounded with trout and beaver. They tell of times when women spent their days collecting plants for food and medicines while men and children spent their days on horses. Young people are encouraged to learn traditional stories, dances, and handicrafts and to take an active part in rituals that strengthen tribal identity and values.”

Read more…


By Katie Larson

 

When do we learn about sustainable development?

How do we learn about sustainable development?

Who is this we that I keep mentioning?

Is sustainable development only a topic for development professionals?

Even if we learn about sustainable development as children, which children get access to the “juicy”, life-changing content, produced by the United Nations, climate scientists, and development professionals?

If you speak English, you can easily access this “juicy” content. If you are confident in English, you can go further and sift through this content. If you have cultivated your critical thinking skills, you can go even further and compare the content you are reading with the reality of sustainable development in your context.[1] Think Bloom’s Taxonomy. Then think about how English fluency fundamentally impacts who gets access to the knowledge critical for understanding and meaningfully supporting the health of our changing planet.

Now, what if you are not confident in English? Imagine that you can’t sift through the many amazing resources available on sustainable development. Maybe the only content you can access is general information. You know what I mean, the information that explains that if we drive our cars less then we can stop the polar ice caps from melting and save polar bear habitats. Two very important issues to solve, yet, superficially examined and far from many people’s day to day realities.

Those of us in the development sector know that sustainable development has many definitions and that its diverse definitions, applications, and manifestations are a result of complex contextual realities. Yes, sustainable development is certainly a concept to associate with solutions to climate change. However, sustainable development as a solution must be understood in context, in a way that values local economics, health, infrastructure, and all of the other important topics of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Here is where the study of language and the study of sustainable development are similar. According to the Communicative Approach in language learning, when learning how to communicate in another language, the learner’s context matters. Imagine you are a 10th Grade student living in rural Vietnam with a high likelihood of never traveling outside of your country. You go to English class (a required subject) and open up your textbook (published in London) and scan the lesson. The lesson asks you to imagine you are discussing your recent trip to Piccadilly Square in London. What did you see? What did you eat? How were the British people? Now ask yourself, am I going to be engaged in learning how to communicate with this kind of content? Also ask yourself, will this lesson give me skills for a future career? Students who cannot link content to context and who see no relevance in learning about things they don’t think will help them in the future, are not going to seek greater fluency in a foreign language. With content unconnected to context and irrelevant to the student’s future, English language study becomes a tool only for those few students who think they will travel and/or find employment outside of Vietnam. But the truth is, English is a global language. It can be used in rural and urban Vietnam to connect people, business opportunities, science, and funding from around the world. It can also be used to foster international collaboration on sustainable development solutions for communities.

The process is the same with sustainable development knowledge acquisition. What if the content you access is tooooo unconnected to your context? What if you don’t have the English skills to sift through the content? What if you don’t have the critical thinking skills to compare and contrast content with context? Will your sustainable development education equip you to visualize sustainable development in your context? For many, the answer is no. Arctic ice problems are important. However, if they are presented as an isolated challenge, they will seem like frivolous topics of study for someone living in a tropical river delta…say the Mekong River Delta. And those of us fluent in sustainable development know just how connected the ice caps are to our oceans and the river deltas that neighbor oceans. With superficial sustainable development education, students exit school without understanding the ways in which their actions and future careers might help or hurt Earth’s ecosystems.

Now, I have a BIG question regarding English fluency as a tool to access, sift through, and critically think about sustainable development. Can we drive English language acquisition while driving sustainable development knowledge acquisition?

This is a question that Bending Bamboo is trying to answer.

What is Bending Bamboo you might ask? Bending Bamboo is a process for acquiring intercultural, communicative, competence, confidence and collaboration (iC5) skills in English and sustainable development. Bending Bamboo does this by connecting English and sustainable development to context. It currently operates in Can Tho, Vietnam – the hub of the Mekong Delta. Over a two-year cycle of workshops and online forums, Mekong Delta teachers and professionals work together to acquire their own iC5 skills and then create a curriculum that teaches these iC5 skills to their students and employees. The first deliverable of this cycle is a teacher text. The next is a student text. Both incorporate local research on sustainable development in Vietnam and South East Asia. Both incorporate the knowledge of the teacher, farmer, tour guide, and corporate professional. They both seek to support English language and sustainable development knowledge acquisition.

In its most recent workshop in July, Bending Bamboo began to visualize a concrete answer to this BIG question.

During 60 hours of workshop learning, participants were introduced to sustainable development information and stories from local and global perspectives, in English. Local and foreign experts were brought in to share their science with the participants, in English. As proficient English speakers already, the participants could sift through the content of the workshop. Tasked with reviewing and comparing sustainable development content from here and there, teachers also cultivated their critical thinking skills. For 18 participants, this was their second Bending Bamboo workshop. For these 18 participants, post-workshop evaluations showed that both their communicative English confidence and sustainable development knowledge confidence grew!

That’s good news. Bending Bamboo participants are citizen-leaders in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. They are knowledge bridges for their communities. These citizen-leaders are now critically interacting with local and global sustainable development discourse. Even better, these citizens are, inherently, strategically positioned to spread their knowledge. Bending Bamboo is currently leveraging this strategic positioning through the collaborative creation of the Bending Bamboo Teacher Text for grade 10-12 teachers in Vietnam. Next is the collaborative creation of a Bending Bamboo Student Text for Grades 10-12. With these two tools, participants and the Bending Bamboo team can tangibly impact a student and citizen’s ability to access and meaningfully engage with sustainable development discourse.

As Bending Bamboo continues to answer, through data, its BIG question, it also eagerly and intentionally looks forward to answering the next question. It is a BIG BIG question. Can the integrated Bending Bamboo curriculum not only drive communicative English and sustainable development knowledge acquisition, but also drive sustainable development action?

Now, just for fun, I shall end with two more questions. These are BIG BIG BIG questions to get you excited and thinking about the potential of creating and implementing, context-driven, quality education. Approximately 50% of Vietnam’s population is under age 25[2]. What happens when Vietnamese youth are confident in integrated iC5 skills for English and sustainable development? What impact will this rising generation of Vietnamese citizens have on their provincial, national, ASEAN, and global communities?

 

[1] Interested in this statement? Read: Powell, Mike (2006). Which Knowledge? Whose Reality? An Overview of Knowledge Used in the Development Sector. Development in Practice, 16(6), 518-532.

[2] From the General Statistics Office of Vietnam


Summary from Just and Lasting Change  by Associate Professor, Noam Schimmel

Human development that significantly advances quality of life does not have to be expensive.

It is often assumed that to make major advances in the quality of human well-being development efforts that address healthcare, education, food security, and the well-being of women and children are necessarily extremely resource intensive and therefore dependent on massive outlays of funding to advance human security.

But this is not the case.

Successful forms of development that have been transformative in positive ways and are well documented in development literature show that human well-being can be advanced with basic resources that can be found in most communities, including in countries that lack financial resources and are classified as low income.

Put simply, financial wealth is not a prerequisite for fundamental human development.

More significantly, trust, cooperative communal efforts to pool resources and expand them, careful and equitable planning, and support of local and national government coupled with local grassroots efforts are often sufficient to advance human development.

These advances lead to tangible improvements in life expectancy, improve quality of life and enhance health outcomes, promote the realization of the human rights of children and women and human rights more broadly, expand educational opportunities, and raise incomes and improve food security.

How is this possible and where has this been done? In Kerala, India.

Kerala, a region of South India, made huge advancements in human development without being dependent on external aid for enabling this transformation.

Kerala achieved the best health and education levels of development in India already by the 1960s, and continues to sustain them, while also maintaining the highest rate of political participation in India.

But, counterintuitively, it was also the poorest state in India when it had these dramatic health and education achievements.

In this seeming contradiction we can find vitally important lessons about advancing human development which may be counterintuitive, and for that reason merit attention.

Development research attributes Kerala’s outstanding social achievements to several factors.

Daniel and Carl Taylor, pioneers of community development together with UNICEF, explain that these include political leadership that was largely genuinely interested in advancing the welfare of Kerala’s residents and was not morally corrupt, a matrilineal tradition amongst many high caste Hindus in Kerala, a church that grew in adherents and advanced greater equity amongst its values and aspirations and promoted interreligious tolerance that also received the support of Hindus, and a progressive people’s movement that advanced social reforms.

According to Taylor and Taylor, this social movement initially fought back against caste-based discrimination but continued beyond that, advancing public literacy and education, promoting land reform, and making scientific knowledge broadly available to the public which has also played a role in public advocacy for continued environmental conservation.

Momentum built on momentum in positive interlocking ways: advancing women’s rights, promoting expanded educational opportunity, and providing enhance economic opportunities for trade that were open to a broad cross-section of the population all acted synergistically to advance human development.

The high literacy rate, for example, has enabled the average Keralan to follow newspapers and hold political leadership accountable in democratic elections and in between elections.

The evidence Taylor and Taylor provide is substantive and significant: In 2001 while life expectancy was 74 years in Kerala it was 59 years in all of India. Literacy in Kerala amongst females was 87%, while it was only 39% in all of India. In 2011, Kerala was the only state in India in which there was no preference for male babies; in 1991 its gender ratio was 1,036 females to 1,000 males, compared with 927 females to 1,000 males for India as a whole.

Kerala’s successes are impressive, sustained, and genuinely life altering for individuals and for society.

Taylor and Taylor note that economic wealth did eventually result from these substantial advances in human development in Kerala.

Today Kerala enjoys both high levels of social development and economic growth and greatly increased financial resources.

It is instructive to turn to Kerala’s history to learn that opportunities abound even in places that are initially resource-poor.

Human development can be enabled and derive energy from largely indigenous sources.

To be sure, Kerala’s model is unique to Kerala and its circumstances.

But undoubtedly, it has lessons for all countries seeking to advance human development and to the United States and other countries when conceptualizing and implementing development aid.

These lessons are encouraging in their affirmation of local capacity to advance positive social change from within that draws upon domestic human resources, some – but relatively moderate support from abroad, and the values and social policies that advance equity, social justice, and human emancipation which ultimately can unleash human development and well-being.


 Adapted from Empowerment on an Unstable Planet: From Seeds of Human Energy to a Scale of Global Change, by Daniel Taylor, Carl E. Taylor, and Jesse O. Taylor

(All photos throughout post taken from various Future Generations activities in Nepal.)

Traditional development has not dealt kindly with Nepal and has not succeeded despite huge investments of both human and financial resources over many decades.

If the best current development practices were effective, then they should have worked in Nepal. Six decades, several billion dollars, and the careers of some of the world’s finest development professionals were invested in the kingdom to reduce poverty, illiteracy, and illness. Yet today, 30 percent of Nepal’s population remains below the poverty line, with one-fifth of the country living on less than a dollar a day; half the population is illiterate, and mortality for children under age five is sixty per thousand live births.

How is this possible and what were its causes?

There were plenty of good intentions in all the right places. Economic growth was to reduce poverty. Education and elections were to build accountable government. Health services were to double life expectancy. For each, targets were set, and programs were generously funded. But while there was progress in many measurable program indicators, in each sector dysfunction grew in terms of how system relationships were functioning. Programs that were started fell apart when funding was diverted to other programs that interested donors. Newly built school buildings and schools a few years after being built by donors looked abandoned.

This dynamic is not unique to Nepal. Indeed, it characterizes the failures of traditional development programs around the world which Nepali development projects typified.

Intentions were good, outcomes were not.

Looking at Nepal as a case study helps to understand why community-based development that is genuinely communally oriented and involves real local participation and implementation is far more likely to succeed and be sustainable than traditional development projects reflecting huge, external outlays of cash and foreign expertise, but without local participation.

Without an integrated role for the Nepali government on national and regional levels to work in a three-way partnership both with local Nepali communities and with external development and aid agencies – and the resources and expertise they bring – development in Nepal was not sustainable.

The Taylors argue that although Nepal lacked financial and human resources initially, in the 1950s, when development projects began, Nepal actually had access to extensive financial and human resources available since that time, for over sixty years. In other words, the failure of Nepal’s development trajectory is not because development was working and was simply underfunded and/or not sufficiently expanded across the country. The problem was and remains that it was not working effectively, and it was not responsive to community needs.

According to the Taylors, by 1999 the bottom fifth of Nepal’s population suffered from greater poverty, malnutrition, and lower overall human development than in 1949. Traditional development programs implemented during these fifty years did not consider how the Nepali economy in the 1950s and through the 1990s was systematically excluding a huge sector of the Nepali population.

The core reason why the quality of life had gone down for the bottom quintile was that the currency of change had shifted. In 1949, a barter economy based on human energies gave employment options to poor people; but by 1999 the monetary economy had removed labor-based options; money was now required to participate in the modern world.

Had traditional development efforts been sensitive and responsive to this reality and the challenges it created for one fifth of the population, Nepal’s development trajectory would likely have been a much different and better one.

But they were not.

Further, even the development efforts they pursued that reached some of the remaining 80% of Nepal’s population, had relatively poor results and often ended in neglect or desertion because they did not link local communities in a meaningful, participatory way with the regional and national government and with foreign aid agencies and were not communal oriented.

Pockets of development would often take place in an isolated, temporally-bound manner creating the illusion of development momentum and positive change. Once the money and human resources stopped coming in, the development projects ended, development indicators declined, and local communities had neither gained in capacities nor resources to advance their own development and sustain it.

By definition, a program of development that relies primarily on external support and that does not reflect local communal needs and participation will eventually peeter out when funding ends and when human resources experts complete whatever block of time they have committed to a particular development project and country. When they leave and when funding ends, projects decline and eventually – often – die out altogether, with no one locally available to maintain and continue them.

Thus, there were decades when it appeared that traditional development was working: roads were being built, schools constructed and staffed with teachers, the economy diversifying, and Nepalis working abroad and returning to Nepal remittances that assisted Nepalis in Nepal to raise their incomes and their human development. Hotels and restaurants opened in Katmandu raising incomes and increasing employment there.

But these economic changes and expansions were not well distributed across the country in an equitable way and many were not long lasting.

The lack of democratic accountability, a rigid and exclusionary caste system, and high levels of corruption all contributed to the failure to advance development that was genuinely and sustainably transformative.

The international community acquiesced in maintaining old-order structures. For example, during these decades not one embassy or aid agency had more than a handful of token low-caste employees in managerial positions or engaged in systematic affirmative action hiring. Development was growing into a world of appearances: outputs were measured and contracts fulfilled, but connections between programs tended to be ignored.

When the monarchy was overthrown what resulted was civil war, mass violence, and chaos. Although efforts were made to write a new constitution and find more effective forms of governance that were truly inclusive and responded to the needs of the people, corruption, dysfunction, inequality, injustice, lack of responsiveness to local and regional needs and preferences, and collapse of the rule of law characterized Nepal.

By 2010, a once-expanding infrastructure built by foreign assistance was crumbling: roads, government offices, clinics, schools, postal services, agriculture extension services, even tax collection. An increasingly corrupt government system could not maintain infrastructure that aid had built. Ancient divisions of caste and tribe persisted, crippling social advancement as half of the national population, women, still were only symbolically included in decision making.

In contrast to the failures of traditional development efforts, Nepal has had substantial success in local, community-based development efforts – though these have not been extensive enough to lift the entire country out of poverty and they have received far less support from both the Nepali government and external donors than traditional development efforts. Many of these efforts are ongoing.

Nepal is filled with such examples [of community based development]: community-based clinics and schools, forests, microcredit schemes, and water supply systems. Even more persuasive proof of people’s energies are the thousands of trails, temples, village waterspouts, and herculean terraces built without any external assistance… Another example of the diffuse, emergent manner in which the people pulled themselves forward lies in Nepal’s ecotourism industry.

But these successes, outside of several select cases such as eco-tourism, have not been able to scale-up and are limited to local, grassroots initiatives.

Nepal is perhaps unusual in that although it has a record of failed traditional development – as many countries do – it simultaneously has a record of successful community based development which many countries do not.

Nepalis knows how to lift themselves out of poverty and advance their development.

SEED-SCALE has been well demonstrated in Nepal in a variety of contexts – from community-based road and bridge building efforts that have been high quality and extremely cost effective – with lasting benefit expanding trade and enabling improved travel for access to healthcare and markets to sell goods and services and produce grown in the countryside – to a sophisticated eco-tourism enterprise and range of extensive tourism related businesses incorporating tour guides, restaurants and hotels.

Many Nepalis have adapted to the opportunities provided by tourism to increase their income and use that income to improvetheir quality of life through better healthcare, housing, and educational opportunity.

While many of these programs have not been able to expand beyond largely localized programs, if the Nepali government on the national and regional level and foreign donors and aid agencies learn from the mistakes of the past and build on the successes of SEED-SCALE, Nepal will be able to advance its own development sustainably and successfully.

Then the community development that is currently taking place on a relatively small scale could eventually characterize the country as a whole for the better of all its citizens and contribute to equitable, expansive, participatory, and sustainable human development.


**Photos throughout the post are from Future Generations-affiliated CHW programs around India.

It is possible to provide life saving and life sustaining healthcare at an extremely low cost using well-trained non-professional community health workers.

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