Faculty Interview: Lynn Thiesmeyer
Field of Study: Development Theory (South East Asia), Gender and Development, Social Theory
United States of America
The Impact of Rural Development in South East Asia on Developed Countries, Including Japan
I study rural development in South East Asia and I do consultation in Thailand, Myanmar, China, and Laos. The key to rural development is to consider not only the natural environment, but the total environment and conditions of the area. In our globalized world, when a developing country is impacted by climate change it impacts the food supply in developed countries.
My work involves understanding the reality of life in rural villages. I examine each household, and gather financial data including loss caused by climate change, income and employment opportunities, as well as demographic data. In terms of innovation, I believe it is important to be up-to-date on the most recent findings in relation to climate change. While we can get information through mass media, from governments, and ‘experts’, most people have few opportunities to know what the people on the front lines of climate change – mostly rural people – have to say. Our surveys give voice to those who are otherwise unheard. Using the data we are collecting to create sustainable rural development policies along with industry, government and academic communities will prove to be a real innovation.
Protecting South East Asia with the Wisdom of Environmental Innovators
The Environmental & Economic Research Institute in Myanmar plans to offer training programs in rural areas, focusing on bio-diversity and environmental conservation in economic development. Currently I am in charge of curriculum development for the Institute.
One of the problems emerging in South East Asia as a result of climate change is illegal immigration. Historically, legal migrant workers were common in South East Asia, however, as a result of climate change an increasing number of peasant families, who can no longer rely on their land for sustenance, are crossing national borders in search of jobs and a place to live.
The impact of climate change in the region is particularly serious. The Mekong River for instance has been both flooded and struck by droughts in recent years. In the latter case farm lands have turned barren, and are unable to support crops. As a result people simply set out, travelling by foot, often walking for weeks and crossing borders in search of a job. One of the main destinations, Myanmar, is also suffering desertification in its central region (though the north still remains lush and green), which exacerbates the situation.
The Environmental Innovator Program brings together experts from different disciplines. My goal to gain insights from the group and to find the solutions that can help people cope with problems such as these. One idea is to create small communities that work to find solutions at the local level. Another is to promote connections between Japanese corporations and engineers and any locality in need of their help. One outcome of this work could involve activities such as policy-making in cooperation with municipal governments.
I sincerely encourage students who are interested in rural development policy to join us in our efforts. Students from abroad who already have work experience are also welcome.. We are particularly looking for students who are ready to become actively involved in our work and are motivated by their desire to improve their abilities, but also to put their skills and knowledge to use in the aid of others. I would like those who understand and value this approach to join in with me.