By Mary Jane Parmentier
The World Wide Views conference in Arizona was very reflective of our state, both in terms of human diversity and the issues that were raised. I was a facilitator at a bilingual Spanish/English table, and indeed we used both languages throughout our discussions. Some participants were fluent in Spanish, but found it easier to read in English; others preferred to read in Spanish but were comfortable conversing in either language. Everyone seemed interested in the topic, however, and we had two languages to enrich our discussions.
One thing that kept coming up and resonating with many of the participants were examples of the tension between economic development and protection of biodiversity. While levels of awareness of biodiversity issues varied within the group, which included high school and college students, professionals and others, they were all quick to see the dilemmas in Arizona, particularly where we are in Maricopa Country, which has seen an enormous amount of growth and human development affecting the desert. For instance, we discussed copper mining in the state, which is on the increase, and destruction of the natural environment. Due to our participants’ origins and experiences, we also were able to bring in examples and issues from several Latin American countries. For instance, overfishing is an issue on the Pacific coast, and the group discussed the differences between commercial and small scale fishing, and their variable economic impacts. In the end, there were many creative ideas for solutions which centered on involving local community and educating citizens about biodiversity and what can and should be done.
I found this experience to be very rewarding, with the chance to discuss such an important and current issue with local Arizona citizens.
Mary Jane Parmentier is a senior lecturer for the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University.