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International class focuses on environmental issues

By Daniela Mohor Daily Planet Staff
Friday July 27, 2001

A group of 37 people from 20 different countries sat at tables and on the lawn around Pat Brown’s Grill on campus yesterday, to share their last lunch together. The group is the very first class of a new UC Berkeley international program. 

Launched by the university’s Center for Sustainable Resource Development, the new Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program started at the beginning of July thanks to a generous donation from UC Berkeley alumni, Carolyn and Richard Beahrs. 

Designed to foster collaboration between countries in environmental management issues, it brings outstanding environmental experts from around the world to Berkeley for a three-week summer course. It is conceived as the starting block of a long-term cooperation. 

“Practically every environmental issue we’re looking at goes beyond the national borders,” said ELP co-director Robin Marsh. “We are convinced that the only way to achieve progress and environmental protection and at the same time social equity is by working in a global manner.” 

The $7,000 course combines workshops on topics such as water management, or population poverty and the environment. The group takes field trips to places like Napa Valley, the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada. It also includes a number of special sessions on timely issues. 

The possibility of interacting with a diverse group of specialists attracted Carmen Guerrero-Perez, a natural resource specialist in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Through the program, she said, she sought exposure to the environmental issues her country is not familiar with. 

“I’m from Puerto Rico and I have the island’s prospective,” she said. “I wanted to get an up-to-date version of what is going on in the world and how these issues are being managed in different locations.” 

To many of the participants, the opportunity to compare policies was indeed one of the most valuable elements of the course. Alejandro Guevara, a researcher in environmental policy and economics at the Iberian American University in Mexico City, said that he mostly learned from his classmate. One of them, for instance, told him about a successful management plan used in Africa that could work in Mexico. 

“He gave a good example of how reforestation can help reduce climate change and at the same time increase productivity in very poor villages,” he said referring to a Kenyan student. “It’s very relevant to us because I think Mexico’s minister of environment is very much concerned about the issues of poverty relief and environmental preservation and how to make these two objectives compatible.” 

One of the highlights of the summer course was a simulation of the negotiations of the Kyoto Pact, which aims to curb global warming. Each participant represented a country and after hours of negotiations, the group reached an agreement. Part of the excitement came from the fact that it happened only a few days before 178 countries signed the treaty in real life. 

Another strength of the program, students said, is that it goes beyond the summer course. 

“We have to sign a contract of a future project that we are going to conduct after the workshop is over,” said Guerrero-Perez. “We have to provide a timeline of when this is going to be completed, how we are going to measure the desired outcomes, and who within the program we would like to have more direct contact with.” 

The program will also rely on an alumni network to continue fostering cooperation among participants. If everything goes well, the network will even create satellite centers in foreign countries. A steering committee is already in place and program coordinators hope the first centers will open by 2003. The centers would sponsor conferences, collaborative research with UC Berkeley and opportunities for training.  

“The idea is that some organizations in other countries would like to have a more permanent presence of the environmental leadership program that is geared toward the particular issue of their country,” Marsh said. 

For additional information on the ELP visit the following Web Site: http://www.CNR.Berkeley.EDU/BeahrsELP/