International Journey for Teachers

Roland Geyer

Bren assistant professor Roland Geyer returned from spending ten days in the Galápagos archipelago, becoming the third Bren faculty member to travel abroad with the Toyota International Teacher Program in the past three years. In 2008, Professor Arturo Keller accompanied teachers on a journey through the Galápagos, and last year Professor Tom Dunne traveled to Costa Rica with another group.

Acting as study leader, Dr. Geyer presented four lectures on a variety of environmental topics during the program, providing the scientific background and global connections teachers needed to connect what they learned in the Galápagos with the environmental challenges in their communities and around the world. All of the lectures build on economic, social, and environmental realities and behavior, what Dr. Geyer refers to as the "three pillars of sustainablity."

In his first talk, an introduction to environmental sustainability, Dr. Geyer offered a big-picture discussion of the Earth, the ecosphere, the natural resources that humans use as inputs in the "anthroposphere," and the resulting outputs in the form of waste and emissions. "Nature is both a source of the inputs and a sink for the outputs," he says. "That's where environmental pressure comes from in terms of biodiversity. In the local context, the Galápagos has loads of species that feel the pressure of humanity's need for land as a resource. My interest is mostly in the human-nature interface, for which the Galápagos is a great example."

A second talk covered the global environmental issues confronting the world today, and the third talk was on pollution prevention and how it differs from pollution control. "The latter looks at the 'end of the pipe' and how to collect and recycle waste through a variety of actions, such as reuse or by putting a scrubber on a coal-fired power plant," he explains. "Prevention tries to avoid creating the pollution in the first place."

In the fourth lecture, Dr. Geyer addressed the sustainability of supply chains from an international perspective, demonstrating to the teachers the global impacts of actions we take in the United States.

"Natural resources come from one country, they are processed in another, the product is manufactured in a third and then sold in the U.S.," he says. "What I want the teachers to realize is that we may not be in the Galápagos or Chile or China, but what we do and buy every day at the end of the global supply chain has an impact all over the world, back to where the resources came from.

"For me," he adds, "the Galápagos is more an example of the human-nature interactions and the pressures that result in a nation where you have treasured ecosystems that are exposed to the effects of human development because they are next to it."

His overall goal during the ten-day journey, says Dr. Geyer, was "to contribute to the teachers' having a desire and also the knowledge and tools to incorporate environmental sustainability into their syllabi and curricula. If they feel inspired to do so from a product-life-cycle perspective, that would be good."

The 24 teachers were selected through a competitive process conducted by the Institute of International Education (IIE). While in Galápagos, the teachers have visited model conservation initiatives and met with biologists and conservation experts as they explore the natural wonders of the World Heritage Site. Through visits to local schools and shared service projects, they will have also had the opportunity to exchange teaching practices with Galápagueno educators, fostering lasting ties between both groups.