Sustainability of Mountain Environments
Introduction | Learning Objectives | Required Reading | Instructor's Notes
In Lesson 1 you read a little bit about the meaning and the importance of mountains in the global environment, and a bit about mountains in geographical inquiry. In Lesson 2 you were asked to start digging through the mountain websites so as to get a sense of how much useful and very timely information is at your fingertips. Now, in Lesson 3, you are asked to focus on a few key websites and your small Worldwatch Textbook so as to appreciate the importance of mountains in a time of rapid global change in both the physical and the cultural environment. The current thinking behind mountain research has changed in the last 20+ years to include the acknowledgment of the role of human activity in shaping, conserving and damaging mountain landscapes; and also to recognize the multitude of threats to the very existence of mountain peoples and ways of life in many parts of the world.
In this Lesson you will read about the momentum behind the attention that mountains now receive, beginning with the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, through the International Year of Mountains in 2002, and continuing right into April, 2007, with your participation in this course. You are reading this material because you are interested in the topic, because you are intellectually curious, because you want to do well on the quiz that will follow, and because it should catapult you into your First Research Essay - which is due no later than May 11. As noted in the description for your Research Essay (see Course Content), your task is to deal with the sustainability of mountain environments somewhere in the world; therefore, the concepts in this Lesson will certainly be part of that paper.
Upon successful completion of this lesson, you will be able to:
Understand the concept of Sustainability as it applies to mountain environments.
Understand and appreciate the worldwide focus on mountains and the institutional framework that has developed around this focus.
Understand the priorities that have been laid out for effective action to conserve mountain ecosystems and cultures.
Effectively write the introductory section of your First Research Essay.
Be so excited about studying mountain environments around the world that you will ask permission to travel the globe for the rest of the term.
Instructor's Notes and all the embedded internet links
Denniston, 1995, High Priorities: Conserving Mountain Ecosystems and Cultures; pages 1 - 21 and 54 - 65 (and you might as well read the whole little book)
Earth Summit: United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992) - Pages 1 -4; use the red arrows at bottom of page to advance.
People and the Planet - put "mountains" into the "search patp" box and see what articles you get - read them.
The Mountain Institute - Why Mountains?
During the short lifetime of the youngest person in this class there has been a consistent and concerted effort to raise the profile of mountains and mountain-related issues in the global policy arena. Why? Read the first paragraph of your small textbook, as follows: "Mountains make up one-fifth of the world's landscape and are home to one-tenth of the world's people. An additional 2 billion people depend on mountains for much of their food, hydroelectricity, timber, and mineral resources. All told, fully half of the world's peoples, as well as a surprisingly large share of its biological diversity, depend on mountain watersheds for fresh water. In an era of increasing water scarcity (a topic that competes for attention with global warming), perhaps no category of the earth's major biomes has greater value for for geopolitical and environmental security. Yet, in the deliberations of governments and organizations worldwide, the fate of the mountains has been largely ignored."
Ignored? No longer. It was at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 that mountains were finally recognized as a critical issue on a global, not just a local, scale. This 1992 Conference was sponsored by the United Nations Council on Environment and Development (UNCED). Please read the first four pages in this document which is listed under Required Reading; make some notes on the major goals and intent of the conference as outlined in the document. This was a significant milestone in assessing the global environment, in particular that section referred to as Agenda 21 - a wide-ranging blueprint for action to achieve sustainable development worldwide. Now, don't panic; I am not expecting you to read this entire bureaucratic document. However, you should read Chapter 13 - "Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Sustainable Mountain Development." Be familiar with the primary goals and strategies of this agenda. Then, as you go through the rest of the term, and the rest of your life, consider whether or not these goals are being met. And another, perhaps easier, way of reading Chapter 13 is on the The Mountain Institute Page.
There are a multitude of research and development initiatives that have sprung up to promote the goals of the Earth Summit. One that you should be familiar with is the Mountain Agenda. This is an informal group of people, drawn from the academic and development cooperation communities worldwide, who have a professional interest in sustainable mountain development. The group was created prior to the Rio Earth Summit to enhance the position of mountains on the global development and environment agenda. Read the definitions under Terminology - "Mountains" and "Sustainable Development." Then take some time to really explore this site; I guarantee that you will want to use it as you develop your research papers. For example, you should find a link to Mountain Research and Development, the leading interdisciplinary and development-oriented journal specifically devoted to the world's mountain regions. Several years of this journal are available online through the PSU Library. Check it out now, or check it out later! Also, look at the publication list and you will find some documents that are downloadable - most of them in English.
The next step chronologically is The International Year of the Mountains (2002), announced via this link with a press release from the United Nations University (you never heard of that University did you - mean neither!). The official webpage, launching the year and some of the associated events, can be viewed here (link). I show you this mainly so you can click on the first item on the page and go to a great Mountain Photo Exhibit. If you have Flash on your computer, you can go through the whole slide show. If not, you can do so by clicking on each of the countries/regions in the menu on the left side of the page. Be sure to go to the page which gives the Detailed Image Descriptions and Links To Images - this is a great visual tour of mountain regions of the world, many places that you and I may never see in person. Then again, who knows what the future holds for any of us.
“It’s not the plan that is important, it’s the planning.”
One final reading task. In the Required Reading section, you were sent to People and the Planet website; this is a really colorful and informative site. You found several articles on mountain environments on that site and probably read them all. But, just in case you missed them, be sure to read:
UN study reveals scale of crises facing mountain regions (26 Feb 2002)
Mountains and People (31 October 2003)
Mountains: Vital for Human Survival (21 Sept 2004)
....and many more....
Assignments - This Is What You Have To Do These Two Weeks
Review the materials. Do all the Required Readings (including Instructor's Notes and embedded links).
Discussion Topic #3 (20 points). The details of this assignment are listed under the Course Content icon. Carefully read the instructions and proceed. Be sure to pay close attention to the due dates for the initial essay and for the follow-up posting.
Quiz: The quiz will be available when you wake up on Thursday, April 26, and will close down on Monday morning, April 30. You will have 90 minutes for each quiz - plenty of time if you are familiar with the material and have taken good notes.
First Research Essay: The details of this assignment are listed under the Course Content icon. The Due Date is May 11, so you might as well get started.