Sustainable Study Abroad Grant Recipients 2009-10

Fall 2009:

Shannon Engelman
SIT Tanzania
"A vegetation study in the coral rag forest"
Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park, established in 2005, is the only national park in Zanzibar, TZ, meaning that it is the largest remaining forest area on the entire island. Conservation efforts began in the 1950's, when local villagers realized that their demands for building materials and fuelwood could not be met if deforestation continued at its alarming rate. Over time, the area of the protected forest has increased and now includes five distinct vegetation types, including mangrove forest and a coral rag forest. The park is also home to half of the world's population of Red Colobus Monkeys, who are endemic to Zanzibar. I will be using my Sustainable Study Abroad Grant to increase knowledge about the coral rag forest and to improve tourism in the forest, since tourism is the primary source of income for the forest itself, as well as many of the local people who are employed by Jozani. The first goal of my project is to conduct a vegetation study in the coral rag forest to determine if the vegetation is changing with time. Next, I will clear a tourist trail through the coral rag forest, since the trail system currently does not include a coral rag trail. The third goal is to produce a map of the trails for tourists using GIS, and the last goal is to design a tourist brochure to provide them with detailed information about the forest. My overall goal is to enhance the tourist experience so that the National Park will continue to receive funds to pursue their conservation activities in this forest that faces extreme pressure from local communities.

Nora Hirozawa
Middlebury School in Latin America, Argentina

2-Part Project:

"350 Buenos Aires- Marcha en Bici"
On October 24th 2009, thousands of people from around the world will unite to support sustainable actions as part of the international day of climate action coordinated by In Buenos Aires, a city of reputably reckless bus traffic and dangerous streets for cyclists, hundreds will gather at the central Plaza de Mayo for a mass bicycle march through the microcenter of Buenos Aires, ending in front of the Casa Rosada, the primary government building in Argentina. In addition to demonstrating sustainable conscience in the weeks leading up to the climate talks in Copenhagen, the bicycle march will also function as a protest for the right to alternative transportation within the city

"Los Cartoneros: the unofficial recycling phenomenon in Buenos Aires"
In terms of sustainability, one of the most striking contrasts between Buenos Aires and many other cities of comparable size is not only the fault of a centralized recycling system, but the presence of unofficial “cartoneros” that fill this need. Cartoneros can be found throughout the night on nearly every street corner in the city, selecting garbage which they then carry out to the Buenos Aires province in carts, or sometimes carts pulled by horses. In unofficial recycling centers in the suburbs of the capital, the cartoneros are then paid for the delivery of sorted garbage. This decentralized phenomenon of recycling appears to be recognized by the government, but has yet to be coordinated on any sort of municipal or national scale. In this project, I aim to investigate the fine line between the official and the unofficial in the recycling system in Buenos Aires, as well as the origin of the cartoneros, whose position is distinct from general garbage diggers. Through this investigation, I also hope to demonstrate the benefits and disadvantages to having a decentralized system of recycling.

Kaitlynn Saldanha
Middlebury School in Latin America, Argentina

"Sustainable Development in Patagonia"
In today’s increasingly globalized world, developing nations face a dilemma: should development come at the cost of sacrificing environmental concerns, or should the environment take priority over development? As a developing nation with an emerging economy, Argentina faces this constant challenge. In Patagonia for instance, the “internationalisation” of land as it has been named, involves the Argentine government allowing large tracts of land to be sold off to the highest bidder; the rich and famous around the world rapt by the area’s pristine charm and vastness. Despite conservation efforts, Patagonia shelters some of the newest and most extensive development projects within Argentina. Although not all of the projects are unsustainable, the majority share a common flaw: the land being used is inhabited by indigenous communities whose ancestors have lived off the land for centuries. At the end of my semester in Buenos Aires, I plan to spend a month investigating the status of sustainable development and the “global land grab” currently taking place in Patagonia. Is Patagonia another example of how industrialization, modernity, and economic interests are seizing the few virgin lands and its people that still remain? What do current sustainability initiatives in Patagonia look like, what problems exist, and what can we learn from them? Through my investigation I hope to foster a sophisticated understanding of the status of sustainable development in Patagonia in an effort to reveal Argentina’s role as an emerging leader in the global economy.

Jonas Schoenefeld
Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile
"Sustainable University Initiative Chile"
Environmental issues, whether global warming, ozone depletion or overfishing, require university programs that provide a global vision, but also knowledge and skills to find future solutions that benefit all of humanity. To date, according to Manfredo Langer Ramirez of Chile’s CONAMA (Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente—National Environmental Commission), a government organization, Chile has no university programs that teach students a global perspective, such as the Environmental Studies Program at Middlebury College. What’s more, this lack of programs is accompanied by limited current initiative of Chilean universities to engage in sustainable practices as well as student bodies that are generally unconcerned about pressing environmental issues. In recent years, however, Chile has experienced a growth in environmental concern which is slowly manifesting itself at many levels of society. The goal of this project is hence to support an initiative by CONAMA that brings together university administrators from the Metropolitan Region of Santiago (Chile’s capital), student representatives as well as government officials to initiate sustainability programs at university level. Working as a liaison between Middlebury College and Chilean universities, I’m planning to tap into decades of experience in sustainable practices and programs at Middlebury College to provide examples, suggestions and active support for this growing Chilean environmental movement.

Melissa Segil
Middlebury School in Latin America, Uruguay
"Getting Montevideo to 350- Starting at la Playa Pocitos"
The goal of our project in Uruguay is to raise awareness about the climate change reality facing both our local and global communities. On October 24th, communities around the world will rally behind the number 350, and call on our world leaders to support strong climate change legislation in Copenhagen. Here in Montevideo, we will host a potluck picnic at la Playa Pocitos (Pocitos Beach) and invite students, families, friends, and professors to get involved. There we will also distribute educational materials about what 350 means, how this number affects us and how we affect it, and how we as individuals can help get to 350. We are hoping to get "350 Goals" as well: 350 individual commitments to reduce their contributions to climate change. The day before the international day of 350 actions, along with the help of the Univerisidad ORT, we will host a presentation from a professor specializing in sustainable tourism, followed by discussion and a screening of "An Inconvenient Truth." We will also have a panel discussion regarding the ways each person contributed to climate change and can reduce their impact on the environment. We invite everyone to get involved! As individuals, we are the most direct way to get to 350 as soon as possible.

Spring 2010:

Luke Eastman
Middlebury School in Latin America, Chile
"A National Survey of Chilean Attitudes Towards Littering on Beaches"

The presence of litter on Chile’s beaches is a serious problem, disrupting wildlife, polluting the water, and damaging the beauty of the country’s vast coastline. The majority of the trash comes from the Chilean people, not from international sources. To help solve this problem, we need to first determine the attitudes of the Chilean people, such as: how much they value the country’s coastline, what they think should be done about littering, what kind of person litters and how often, whether they are aware of its effects, and how willing they are to take personal initiative to solve the problem. Thus, we will conduct a national survey of the Chilean populace with the goal of submitting the results for publication in an academic journal.

Brittany Lehnhart
Middlebury School in France

"Slow Food: Tradition meets Sustainability in European Culture and Cuisine"

“Good, clean and fair food” is the mantra of the Slow Food International, an organization dedicated to encouraging the tradition behind local food. This movement was quick to take hold in the European countries of Italy, France and Spain in which an elemental adoration of food already existed; however, across the Atlantic it has had little impact. Slow Food emphasizes equal dedication to pleasure and responsibility. Much of its efforts are to increase consciousness of the environmental implications of mass produced and processed food. In the US approximately 40 - 50% of the food produced goes to waste each year. It seems shocking that a large urban city, like Paris, France, can eat more locally than towns in the American Midwest, however, big American capitalism and the food industry have drowned out small farms and local business.
Here in the United States we have departed from closeness to our food. We have replaced corner bakeries with large overbearing super stores that sell vegetables in boxes and toilet paper. We have become a culture of fast food and pseudo-natural ingredients. A recent eco-friendly push has revolutionized green food options with the booming organic industry, yet it remains an industry only accessible to the elite. The corner bakeries that don every European street corner are still owned by the same families, serving the quality ingredients from the same local providers they have relied upon for centuries, and what is more, their clientele represents all walks of life. During a semester observing the culture, tasting the food, and speaking with the people, in addition to close work along side Slow Food France, I intend to ascertain a new understanding of sustainable eating practices, one not based on a fad, but centuries of cultural molding that have lead to automatic and natural eco-friendly eating habits. I hope to return with fresh ideas to compliment the current environmental food movement with insight into its practicality and accessibility to all Americans.

Jia Liu
Middlebury School in Germany

"Low Carbon Technology and Policy in Europe"
European countries such as Germany, England, Demark and Norway are world leaders on pursuing low carbon economy, an economy which has a minimal output of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the biosphere. Low carbon economy not only helps maintain a sustainable environment, but also creates a healthy framework for economic development. The main concerns from contries around the world, however, are the high cost and the potential harm on economy of this pathway. Although the countries attending 2009 Copenhagen Conference did not reach an optimal accord to prevent climate change due to concerns and even suspicion, the final agreement showed positive movement towards a greener economy. During my semester abroad in Berlin, I plan to research independently about the newest technology available in Germany, England, Demark and Norway and their policy in pursuing a sustainable development with low carbon footprint. I will be using the grant to make contact and visit renewable energy factories and farms. My goals are (1) to gain knowledge about the successful low carbon development in these four countries, and (2) conduct a study (or senior thesis) about the potential application of low carbon economy on other contries, especially developing countries.

Rachel Ochako
CIEE Senegal

"Harmonization of conservation and development is a reality"
Fish, a meal I love having grown up by the shores of L.Victoria. Fish is also a meal found in bounty in just a few places, yet enjoyed heartily worldwide. In Senegal, fish makes up the largest percentage of exports. Like other fishing industries around the world, it has begun to show signs of declining fishing stocks from over fishing. Not more than five years ago, the Senegal government undertook a cooperative project with WWF to ensure sustainable fishing in order to prevent rapid depletion of fish stocks through WAMER (WWF’s West African Marine Ecoregion).My research aims to see the benefits of this program. I aim to prove that development and environmental conservation can be harmonized, even though at first glance it appears that this program would have reduced earnings of fishermen by cutting fishing stock. And finally, I aim to observe whether this harmonization is a reality at the grassroots level, meaning, is conservation still a foreign idea imposed by authorities , or is it well understood by the artisan fishermen.

Danyang Zhao
Middlebury School in China

"Transportation and Air Pollution in Modern China"
City design defines how people live, feel, work, and travel. A well-planned metropolis can minimize its own ecological footprint by reducing resource and energy use. For many cities, the main infrastructure is its transportation system. In recent years, China has become the fastest growing car consumer in the world. Images of cyclists crowding busy intersections have been largely replaced by daily scenes of congested highways and polluted skies. The proliferation of cars in China, as it historically has in many other countries, has led to significant environmental impacts. Most notably, in the summer leading up to the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing had been widely criticized for the intensity of its air pollution. Automobiles, as a significant contributor to smog, were banned in the city during important days of the event. How the growing country plans to balance between economic growth and the health of its citizens is an important topic that deserves international attention. The project will draw on my experience in Beijing and Hangzhou, both historic cities now adapted to a modern world. As an increasing number of Chinese citizens move to the cities, how will city planners respond to the challenges of the future? Will there be a movement for more highways or subways? In my time at China, I hope to gain insight into the future of Chinese cities, and explore how the growing car culture has affected the air quality of the cities and the lifestyles of its residents.

Click here to view the presentations of Luke Eastman, Nora Hirozawa, Brittany Lehnhart, Jia Coco Liu, Rachel Ochako, and Melissa Segil.

Click here to view the presentations of Shannon Engelman, Kaitlynn Saldanha, and Jonas Schoenefeld.