Learning form The Mistake of Others

Sandy Jan Labarosa, Philippines

As I woke up this, I realized that we only have like less than a week here in Missoula. That makes my day somewhat a bit blue. Yeah, things come and go fast and we have to accept that.

Our first activity for the day was to visit the Milltown State Park, which is the nation’s largest superfund complex. Our speaker, Mike, discusses a comprehensive background about the state park’s history and purpose (Figure 1).

He also mentions that 100 years ago, there was a dam built here but was removed due to several environmental impacts such as contamination of drinking water due to the accumulation of contaminated sediments from copper mines, fish kills and ice jams during high flows. With government intervention and community involvement in the restoration process, the then highly contaminated confluence of Clark Fork and Blackfoot River is now slowly recovering (Figure 2).

The story of Milltown State Park strikes me very hard and my co-fellows. I’d feel like, the I want to send our decision makers here so that they can see what are the potential effects of damming a river to the community and the environment since the Philippines has a lot of damming projects too. I want them to learn from the mistakes of the past people of Montana. Also, before we leave the place I ask one of my co-fellow (Ploy) on how she will take the lesson of Milltown State Park to her home country. She said that it is the stakeholder, including the government, that should be changed because a lot of institutions and NGOs have conducted studies about the impacts of damming on the aquatic life in the Mekong river but they don’t pay too much attention instead they just focused on the economic benefit the government can get from it. The scenario in their country is quite depressing but with there’s still hope because there are still people who are really working hard to address such environmental issues in their home country.

After we learned about the Milltown State Park, we went to Missoula Food Bank to learn about how they address food insecurity in the city of Missoula. Also, how they address malnutrition among school children which don’t have access to healthier foods. It’s very heartwarming to see that these people are devoting their time and effort to help the homeless and poor household have something to put on their stomach. Even people that came from other places are welcome to their food bank! Then we got the chance to repacked raisins to be given out to kids as part of their program to provide a balance diet on primary school pupils (Figure 3).

On the afternoon session, we attended our last UM classes! For the transboundary issues class with Dr. Len, we talked about the Coral Triangle Initiative (Figure 4). This topic is somewhat significant to me since our country signed for the coral triangle initiative (CTI), a partnership between six countries which includes Malaysia and Indonesia aimed to protect and regulate the activities at the coral triangle. I realized that CTI is more effective in addressing environmental issues than the Mekong River Commission (MRC) since CTI implementation is conducted in local, national and international setting. Unlike the MRC they don’t have teeth to implement their work.

The next session with Dr. Nicky and Peter is interactive and very interesting. We played the game Climate Challenge which simulates on how the decision of political leaders affects the economy and welfare of its citizens in conjunction with the country’s carbon emission and its impression to neighboring regions (Figure 5).

I learned from this game is that it is not easy to make decisions on which law or projects to be pass. Since, every project or law has its own benefits and downsides. Also, it is very hard to balance things out like providing social services, reducing carbon emissions, maintain the economy, and maintaining the popularity to stay in the position. After the activity, we went to climate change class and learned about the effects of climate change to wildlife (Figure 6).

With the rapid change of global temperature and climate, some species of animals has only four choices to make and i.e. to move, acclimate, evolve or die. I am very interested on this topic because it tackles a little bit about conservation genetics. This is very important to us to learn the different responses of different species to climate change since this will give as cue on what conservation approach should be followed.

The day ended up in a spectacular star gazing show at NAC which we learned about the stars, constellations and planets.

There are a lot of thing I learned from this day. I would like to highlight the most important thing I learned from all the session and that is to LEARN FROM THE MISTAKE OF OTHERS.

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