Sustainable Study Abroad Grant Recipients 2011-12

Fall 2011

Benjamin Bates
Middlebury School in China (Kunming)
"A Historical, Social, and Medical Investigation of Chinese Traditional Medicine"
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an important component of Chinese culture and history.  But the understanding and use of TCM is not static.  In fact, just as TCM has been shaped through thousands of years by philosophies and religions throughout East Asia, the concept of TCM is being shaped by forces that originally acted against and eventually succumbed to an impartial and inexorable force known as globalization.  Globalization has allowed the means for rapid technological developments, but has also enabled certain cultures, traditions, and philosophies to be overrun by external influences.  In order to recognize how to harness globalization as a force able to advance technology, grow economies, and improve international health while also allowing the preservation of humane cultures and traditions, we must understand how the forces of globalization have been influencing cultures and traditions – leading to my research question, “How are the concepts and practices of TCM being shaped by the forces of globalization?”

Stuart Fram
SIT Madagascar: Natural Resource Management and Biodiversity Conservation
"Reconciling Environmental Conservation and Economic Development in Madagascar’s Andringitra National Park" 
Considered one of twenty-five global biodiversity hotspots and one of eight megadiversity countries, Madagascar features incredibly high levels of endemism with both its flora (89% endemic) and fauna (82% endemic). Unfortunately, such fecundity is largely negated by Madagascar’s weak economy, which is fueled primarily by subsistence farming and the practice of slash-and-burn agriculture, or tavy. One region within the country where this conservation/development enigma is particularly relevant is the Andringitra mountain range, home to Andringitra National Park. Containing over 100 species of birds, over 50 species of mammals (13 species of lemurs, which are 100% endemic to Madagascar), 55 species of frogs, and more than 1,000 species of plants, the park functions as the central link in the longest unbroken chain of rainforest remaining in Madagascar, stretching from Ranomafana National Park in the north to Pic Boby in the south. However, three different cultural groups – the Betsileo, the Bara, and the Tanala - live within the boundaries of the park and have cleared much of the lowland forests through tavy to survive. Independent researchers and organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have taken it upon themselves to work with the local residents to develop new resource management strategies (often involving ecotourism) that counterbalance harmful agriculture whilst stimulating the local economy, but after roughly 15 years, the WWF has released little regarding the progress/results of their endeavors. While an underlying goal of the projects has been to maintain the cultural integrity of the Betsileo, Bara, and Tanala people, one is left to ponder at the dearth of published results. Through a month-long experiential investigation involving immersion with the local people, interviews with organizations like the WWF, and independent research, I hope to gain a better contextual understanding of the conservation/development situation in Andringitra National Park and shed light on the current state of continued efforts through promoted transparency and evaluation. The resulting paper will hopefully function as a barometer for the effectiveness of similar types of aid-related work being carried out in other parts of Madagascar, as well as in other countries in Africa.

View Stuart Fram's presentation 

Joshua Kessler
Middlebury School in Chile
"Huerto Orgánico (Organic Garden)"
The goal of this project is to teach students at the Liceo Pablo Neruda in Santiago, Chile how processes within our environment occur, how our actions effect these processes, and what actions we must take to maintain a sustainable environment.  These lessons will be delivered in an engaging manner with the majority of the learning occurring through the students’ transformation of the neglected area behind their classroom into a thriving garden with its own greenhouse and compost system.  Furthermore, this garden will become a supplementary laboratory which will be used by all science classes to support relevant material outside the textbook.  Additionally, it is the hope of this project that the students will apply the knowledge gained from creating and managing the organic garden through their daily actions.  Lastly, this project seeks to create a positive relationship between Middlebury College and the Liceo Pablo Neruda for future endeavors that will be mutually beneficial to both institutions.

Spring 2012

Gillian Lui
Middlebury School in China (Kunming)
"Photographic Representations of Environmental Values Among China’s Youth"
The world’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide and a country notorious for its stories of environmental degradation involving species extinctions and waterway pollution, China is also the world’s leading investor in renewable energy technology and, just in the past 15 years, has witnessed the establishment of more than 3,500 environmental non-governmental organizations. While these seemingly contradictory phenomena may lend a sense of unpredictability to China’s future involvement in global environmental initiatives, what is undeniably clear is the immense power that China’s up-and-coming youth possess in defining the environmental attitudes and actions that China as a society will ultimately choose to practice. Through Middlebury’s Sustainable Study Abroad Grant, I aim to research components of the environment that China’s youth value most today, with a focus on how these perspectives might differ depending on geographic and sociocultural context. I will ask university-aged students from Beijing, China’s industrialized economic and political capital; Kunming, an environmentally engaged and developed city within a province designated as a Global Biodiversity Hotspot; and rural, ethnic minority villages of Yunnan Province to capture, through photography, particular aspects of their surroundings that represent or define what the environment means to them, in hopes of identifying parts of their environment that fundamentally possess value to them. These entities may, in turn, represent components of their environment that they would be more willing to sustain and work towards maintaining in the future. Understanding which aspects of the environment that China’s youth truly value, and thus parts of the environment about which China’s youth may likely be more concerned, will provide invaluable direction for the proactive development of future, environmentally oriented efforts that may be more sustainable and well-received among China’s youth, due to their direct relevance to the youth’s interests.

Maya von Wodtke
Middlebury School in Chile
"Conservation of Concón Wetlands"
The wetlands of Concón have been identified as a site of high importance to central Chile’s biodiversity, and in particular the migratory bird species that flock here in all seasons.  As this site is in danger due to human impact, I was inspired to involve the community in the clean-up, reforestation, and enclosure of the area.  Not only will this project allow the ecosystem to recuperate, but through community involvement in the green-up and planting of native tree species, the project will generate awareness about the importance and richness of the Mediterranean ecosystem.  Furthermore, this will serve as a lasting site for bird watching, fostering a stronger connection to the environment, and appreciation of native species.

Lauren Yang
Danish Institute For Study Abroad and Middlebury School in China
"Smart Cities-- What a Growing Monolith can learn from Copenhagen"

The 21st century will be ruled by the city. Though they occupy only 2% of the landmass of the Earth, they consume over 75% of the Earth’s resources. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, with that percentage growing rapidly. In China alone, it is projected that 350 million people will move to cities in 2030 and to accommodate this growing population, China is hurriedly building new cities from the ground up. The agriculture industry is steadily decreasing and rapid urbanization is taking effect. Keeping this in mind, countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Finland are building new cities as showcases for innovation, talent and design, preventing this urbanization from becoming an environmental disaster by creating faster, smarter, clearer and more intelligent urban environments— “Smart Cities”.  With my grant, I plan to document this growing “Smart City” phenomenon. I will be documenting my experiences and travels through video blog posts, observing and recording my observations on new development projects and reflecting on my time in China. At the end of the semester, I will compile these posts into a short documentary. With my classes Integrated Sustainability (Architecture) and Sustainability in the Alps, I will also be traveling to other regions at the absolute forefront of sustainable design, including Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; Vorarlberg, Austria; and the small, Danish island, Samsø, which became 100% renewable and environmentally sustainable energy in only ten years. I will be biking, visiting climate-friendly public housing projects, traveling to various Smart Cities, learning about passive solar techniques, and figuring out how we can build cities for the future.