UOG faculty explore the role of social change in climate change at Taiwan conference
In a conference co-hosted by the University of Guam College of Natural & Applied Sciences and one of its sister agriculture colleges in Taiwan — the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources at National Chung Hsing University — experts from five countries and multiple disciplines came together to exchange knowledge on how social change can help combat climate change.
Held on Nov. 2, 2023, in Taiwan, the International Conference on Sustainable Culture hosted academic, industrial, and government sector experts from the U.S. and Taiwan as well as Japan, Germany, and the Netherlands.
The 2023 Hamburg Climate Futures Outlook Report states that halting disastrous climate change will require significant social change. So the ICSC conference, in its second year, aimed to further the conversation on how culture can drive sustainability and, more specifically, explore issues that hinder humanity’s ability to make a needed agroecological transition.
“This conference provided a valuable opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary debates about how we can collectively contribute to a sustainable future,” said Dr. Kuan-Ju Chen, an associate professor of agricultural economics and chair of the Asia Pacific Studies Center at UOG.
Topics of discussion focused on practical ways to pursue an agricultural ecological transformation and what applications are being practiced in different countries. A delegation of UOG faculty presented on their specific research projects and areas of expertise that could inform social and agriculture changes elsewhere.
In response to national data showing high stress levels and suicide rates among farmers, Chen orchestrated a case study on the stress levels of Guam agricultural producers, who are a crucial component for Guam’s sustainability and agriculture resilience. He shared that Guam’s farmers reported stress driven by production costs and long hours and how this newfound knowledge can now inform the development of specific programs that can better support farmers.
Dr. Mari Marutani, a professor of horticulture with UOG CNAS, presented on the agro-ecological transformation that has occurred in Guam over the last century. She shared how the influence from the military and tourism has shifted the types of produce in demand, and these crops have faced obstacles, such as higher temperatures and humidity, tropical storms, lack of planting materials, and lack of a structured marketing system. She said a new generation is prioritizing locally grown produce once again to shift back from global market demands to a more sustainable island culture.
Professor of Global Resource Management Fred R. Schumann from UOG’s School of Business & Public Administration brought yet another discipline into the discussion. He presented on how tourism destinations could play a role in encouraging global citizenship and educating visitors and tourism suppliers about the importance of sustainability.
The conference participants also got to see first-hand some successfully implemented projects. One was a green campus initiative to increase student awareness of sustainable living led by CANR Dean Shaw-Yhi Hwang. Another was National Chung Hsing University’s Horticultural Therapy Garden and wellness program, which its research shows are producing positive outcomes for the community.
“I have always been aware of the mental and physical benefits of horticulture and gardening, but I was not aware of the great potential it has for improving the quality of life in our island communities,” Schumann said. “I can see the potential for us to do something similar that will not only help create an environment for healing and therapy for our residents, but also create new jobs, minimize waste utilizing circular economy principles, increase the local production of food and other products, and boost our economy by offering horticulture therapy activities to our tourists.”
UOG’s involvement in the conference came about during a University of Guam delegation’s visit to Taiwan last January. The exchange of expertise and ideas between faculty has laid the foundation for continued collaboration in various fields. The universities can explore avenues for mutually beneficial research projects, faculty exchanges, and student mobility programs related to sustainability, global studies, horticulture, and applied economics.
For more information on UOG’s endeavors with its sister universities in Taiwan, email Dr. Kuan-Ju Chen at firstname.lastname@example.org.