What does education look like in remote mountain villages where electricity is nonexistent or unreliable? How does a developing country seeking to grow its economy, boost tourism, and expand its infrastructure do so sustainably? Earthducation Expedition 6 aims to find out — and share what it learns with teachers and students around the world beginning April 27.
This journey — sixth in a series of seven-continent explorations — investigates the intersections between education and sustainability in Nepal, the roof of the world. Led by Aaron Doering and Charles Miller of the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development, with funding from the University’s Institute on the Environment, the expedition will travel through May 8 to this diverse ecological area that boasts some of the most majestic geographical wonders on Earth.
“Nepal is home to eight of the world’s ten highest mountains and the largest concentration of glaciers outside the polar region — glaciers that feed almost every major river system in Asia,” Doering said. “This small landlocked nation emits a mere 0.027 percent of global greenhouse gases, a minute contribution toward global warming. Yet Nepal is one of the countries at greatest risk from the impact of climate change.”
Nepal is currently one of the least developed countries in the world, with the lowest per capita energy consumption. However, with a largely rural population that relies heavily on natural resources and a press toward modernization, Nepal is facing numerous environmental challenges, including air pollution in its urban centers, deforestation, erosion, watershed disruption, pesticide use, and indoor air pollution related to the burning of wood for fuel. Global warming, meanwhile, is instigating rapid melting of critical glacial ice, increasing extreme climate-related events, and threatening the livelihoods of millions of already impoverished communities. Inadequate infrastructure, lack of institutional capacity, and a high dependence on natural resources constrain climate change resilience and are a major challenge for the people of Nepal.
The World Bank has acknowledged that the most successful advances in quality of life and education in Nepal have been concentrated at the community level and stem from community-based initiatives. It is these types of initiatives that the Earthducation team will seek out and share — in the urban center of Kathmandu, the tourist mecca of Pokhara, the small mountain village of Nangi, and the farm-strewn plains in the south. The Earthducation team will spend time in each region, learning about the unique cultures, education and sustainability challenges, and innovations there.
Along the way, Doering and Miller will capture sustainability stories from a diverse array of individuals, exploring the daily and lifelong learning that begins in the home, school, and community, as well how different cultures live responsibly and within limits to ensure a healthy future for generations to come. The Earthducation team will share this adventure learning journey and their interviews live online — along with field reports, media scrapbooks, and educational activities for classrooms — at Earthducation.com. There teachers, students, and the general public can also view archived materials from the first five expeditions: Burkina Faso, Norway, Australia, South America, and the North American Arctic. The team hopes visitors to the site will also share their own sustainability stories, in the growing EnviroNetwork.