Professor Comments

Environmental Equity - what is it?

One thing that comes to mind is "Education".  What IS education.  I once attended a meeting of Indigenous Aboriginals.  The local "White/Anglo" government office scheduled the meeting for 7 PM at a downtown office building.  A long table was set up with water containers holding ice, fresh water and accompanied by glasses in front of each seat, a pen, and writing paper.  7 PM came and went, as did 8 Pm ....and 9 PM.....what happened????

Providing someone a 'Seat at the Table' requires an understanding of the 'Table'.  Some might recall that in the Korean and Vietnam wars, MONTHS were spent deciding what layout the negotiation tables would have.  Silly???

Aboriginals have a cultural ethic to meet under a large central tree.  The tree represents elders, the ground a table, the sunset closure.  So they meet at sunset, not 7 PM.  They meet at a Tree, not an office building.  They sit on the ground for a table.  And interestingly enough....they 'negotiate' until TOTAL concensus is reached.  In our society that may take a while.  But perhaps in their 10,000 year history they have learned that winning a battle is not necessarily winning the war, and 'giving in' is not always such a bad means of 'negotiation'.

The point is, that when dealing with other cultures education we must be cognizant of their perception of life & reality.  Why do Indonesians have such high birth rates.  Think back to when you were in high-school and how you might feel if all your friends were getting married and having cute little babies?  Would you believe some imported educator?  What if having another child ensured that you would have income from another person working in the fields harvesting rice?  What if it gave a chance at a better life that you could never have, or enough money to send one child to school?

These are EXTREMELY difficult questions with no easy, right, or straightforward answers.  So should we give up?  No, I think not....but we should try to remember the 'Table' when designing education and action oriented programs.

Keep up the good ideas - because it's the diversity of perspectives that solve problems.