Berkeley - Dozens of environmentalists from Egypt, Indonesia and many other parts of the globe are gathering at the University of California, Berkeley, over the next three weeks for a unique program that emphasizes global perspectives in sustaining natural resources.
Among the problems the 37 participants will tackle in the second annual summer course of the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program are deforestation in the Republic of Georgia, where an acute energy crisis forces the poor to rely upon firewood for heating and cooking; the problem of managing natural resources in the context of government instability in the Ukraine, which has gone through four Ministers of Ecology in the past four years; and the control of invasive pests and plants in New Zealand, which until recently had been isolated from other land masses for 80 million years.
The mission of the program is ambitious. "Many of the natural resource problems we have today are international in scope, so what's important in sustainability are global solutions," said David Zilberman, co-director of UC Berkeley's Center for Sustainable Resource Development at the College of Natural Resources. "We're fostering international collaboration through this program in an effort to help people from different regions reach some sort of common ground in the way they think about environmental issues."
The Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program was launched by the Center for Sustainable Resource Development in August 2000 with a $1 million gift from UC Berkeley alumni Richard and Carolyn Beahrs. Additional funding has been provided by grants from various foundations and some private donations.
The summer certificate course includes six workshops, each taught by an inter-disciplinary team of faculty from UC Berkeley and other experts, educational field trips that illustrate natural resource management issues in this state, and interactive panels and case study exercises. This year's course runs until July 13.
The Beahrs program is geared towards mid-career professionals in the field of environmental management. Thirty-seven participants were chosen this year from about 100 applicants. "We looked for people who would be able to translate what they learned here into effective policies," said Robin Marsh, who directs the program with Zilberman. "These participants come to UC Berkeley, where they have access to top-of-the line researchers in natural resource management. They receive training, improve their skills and then go back to their country stimulated to do better work."
Marsh said that by the end of the year, those who have completed the summer certificate course will have a chance to submit proposals for grants of up to $8,000 to help establish innovative conservation projects. The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation have provided $130,000 for the new small grants initiative.
Vince Resh, professor of insect biology at UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources, said the diverse background of the scientists and policy makers in the program enriches the course. He pointed out that they have often had to operate in very difficult economic conditions and have come up with innovative solutions to manage natural resources.
For instance, Sami Kamel from Egypt is faced with the challenge of motivating underpaid local civil servants in implementing development projects. He expects to learn more about setting up a system of incentives for local workers through the Beahrs program.
"The program is a fantastic experience for those of us that teach in it and for the participants," said Resh, who is heading a workshop on Natural Resources and Ecosystem Management for the program. "It's fascinating to see how people interact in problem solving with each other. Africans, Asians, Eastern Europeans - they all bring their experiences and share their expertise in developing solutions to environmental problems."
Participants from last year's summer course have kept in contact with each other through an active alumni network set up through the Beahrs program. "We need international linkages to eliminate barriers of nationalism and country boundaries, to gather together as human beings who live in the same ecosystem, our lonely planet, the earth," said Ade Cahyat, executive director of a community forestry non-governmental organization in Indonesia and a participant in the 2001 summer course.
"Now I don't feel alone, because I know that I have friends all over the world from whom I can get advice and support for my projects," said Cisse Dieneba Sow, coordinator of the African Women Leaders in Agriculture and Environment in Mali and who also participated last summer.
"Through this program, we generate a worldwide network for the next generation of environmental leaders," said Zilberman. "They are not people who run ministries now, but people who will run ministries in the future."
Information about the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program can be found at http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/BeahrsELP.