Guest Speakers

Photo from his website


One of my classes this semester is “Climate and Development” and the professor likes to have a guest speaker in this class. We’ve had two guest speakers so far and both of them gave us a very interesting speech. I’d like to write about the recent one, Dr. David Roland-Holst from UC Berkeley. He is an adjunct professor at UC Berkeley and specializes in agricultural and natural resource economics.

His expertise also extends to China and its climate change related policies. He talked a lot of issues of climate change but his last comment was very interesting so I’d like to share it here.

He was saying that after China became the second largest economy in the world (after the US), many OECD countries are saying something like, “welcome to our rich country club!” to China; however, China and India were the two largest economies in the world during the 19th century, so it is not appropriate for the OECD countries to make above-mentioned remark. That is to say, it is inappropriate for rich North to tell South what to do. Another growing economy is Brazil but same here. And here comes his interesting anecdote.

His friend works for one of the US government agencies and he was visiting this friend in DC. The friend said that he was introducing forest expert from Green Peace to the Brazilian minister of Forestry. This minister is US educated and speaks perfect English. David, his friend and forest expert were waiting for the minister but he didn’t show up. After 30 minutes, the minister finally showed up with bunch of his people but didn’t seem to stop to talk to the three guys who had been waiting for him. So the three guys were moving with the minister and talking to him at the same time.

David’s friend = F
Forest expert = E
Minister = M

F: He is an expert in forestry from Green Peace (introducing this guy to the minister).
E: Nice to meet you sir.
M: It’s pleasure meeting you. Unfortunately, my schedule is packed today. But when you come down to Brazil, make sure to contact my office, ok?
E: Sure…(that’s it?)
M: Oh, I actually have a question. I’ve been curious about how much forest has been cut down in the US. I heard that about 75% of original forest in the US has been cleared out. Is that number about right?
E: …that sounds right.
M: Oh, and I also heard that 96% of all trees in the US has been cut down at least once. Is that figure close enough?
E: …(looking at F and wondering if he should answer this question)…um, I think I heard that figure too.
M: Thank you very much. Oh, one last thing. Maybe we can teach you guys how we should treat indigenous people.

What’s implied here is that Brazil has been doing much better in terms of forest management and indigenous treatment. This might not be true for every aspect of it since, let’s say, technology transfer from the US definitely helps Brazil. But I really enjoyed listening to this story and think this is very true. Developed countries, especially the US in my opinion, can get very arrogant sometimes and forget to respect other countries. I believe international agreements and developmental projects must come with respect for other countries.

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