12 June 2011

Spreading Knowledge

A professor once said, "Knowledge is meaningless if you don't affect multiple levels." What I've learned during these intense last three months is that the scope of knowledge itself is relevant. An organic farmer will value how to make her/his own compost fertilizer over knowing how the chemical components in fertilizer help break down the soil; on the other hand, an NGO covets the skill to conduct research so that they can provide as much information to a community as possible. What is important to know shifts relative to where a person is and what that person is doing. Most importantly, knowledge, as a general rule, should not only serve the area where it was gained, but must transcend to higher and deeper levels to be more effectively sustained.

Like "knowledge," the words "development" and "globalization" also have very different meanings depending on a person's perspective and location. For a company like the Puthep Mining Company, development plays into globalization when erecting a copper mine in order to give Thailand more clout as a global player in the international market. To a community of fishermen working to preserve their wetlands after being flooded by a dam, development and globalization might look like increasing members in their movement by extending to other communities in the world dealing with the same issue.

If knowledge is dependent on where you are, and knowledge is meaningless unless shared, then different places' knowledge-base must be shared with other people in other places. To some, this sharing of knowledge is one method of development. To others, this is also globalization at work: It is spreading skills and resources to increase knowledge in other plans. But the paradox comes when the resources being shared are destroying the integrity of a place, then the resource is irrelevant to have. As soon as infrastructure as development impedes on intellect as development, then something's gotta give.

Just as knowledge must be shared and interpreted through different lenses in order to practically implement it, there needs to be interaction between multiple players on the global scale when discussing ideas of development. Large-scale development schemes that have the potential of impacting hoards of people need to first reach an understanding with the people it would be affecting to weigh the pros and cons of erecting the project. Ideally, this is what an EIA is meant to fulfill (whether or not this process is righteously carried out or not is another story).

The daunting "project time" has begun. Our DG group is splitting up to spread our collective knowledge on globalization, development, and human rights out among the Isaan region. Despite our separate focuses and goals with each project, each of us are playing the role of educator in one form or another. We are all acting in part as researchers, compiling information to enhance the fight of the effected community with which each of us will be working, based on the need of each community. Our development is our globalization: we are taking the knowledge that we gained while studying here and our previous knowledge from before we studied abroad, and spreading it throughout multiple communities so that they may develop their organizations to become more efficient and more powerful.

Jamie Martina
University of Pittsburgh

No comments: