Thai Life

Environment- University students head Down Under for inspiration

PHUKET: Prince of Songkla University (PSU) continues its campaign to build a strong foundation in sustainability on the island through well-educated environmental leaders.

The youth environment leadership project ‘Our Common Backyard’ was an initiative to do just that through the new International College of Arts and Sciences Phuket, with the help of funding from the Australian government.

The students were taught that sustainable development is a process of learning how to think in terms of ‘forever’. It is about balancing and integrating the long-term future of the economy, the natural environment and the well-being of all members of the community – key ‘compass’ points of Society Environment Economy Knowledge (SEEK) indicators for Phuket.

An essay contest, which saw more than 80 students from schools and universities in the Andaman region participate, was used to selected 50 participants to take part in a three-day workshop at PSU.
Those taking part in the workshop were required to address two major environmental issues facing Phuket: wastewater management and marine conservation.

After three days, the field of 50 was whittled down to five promising representatives selected as environmental ambassadors for Phuket, to travel to and team up with the University of Queensland (UQ) and assess the strategies being implemented in Australia.

Led by Dr Chantinee Boon-chai from PSU and Dr Bob Beetong from UQ, the students joined members of the local environmental group Friends of the Escarpment Parks in Toowoomba, Queensland.The non-profit community group is focused on the management, maintenance and development, as well as the public use, of Toowoomba’s bushland escarpment parks.

“The students learned how to create environmental monitoring programs through partnerships and the use of citizen science via the example of South East Queensland Healthy Waterways,” Dr Chantinee said. “They were also excited about the idea of the reverse garbage program, which was managed by the partnership between Lifeline and Toowoomba Regional Council.

“Overall, the exposure to a variety of ideas about how the community can take part in monitoring and solving environmental problems in creative ways has definitely inspired students to want to do something about the problem in their home.

“In their final presentation, students showed their peers about the importance of everyone doing their bit for the environment and being the change they want to see in the future.”Though the countries are vastly different in size, population, history and culture, the students returned to Phuket with the realization that protecting the environment and creating a sustainable island – be it a big one or small one – starts with us.

Similar to the Friends of the Escarpment Parks, which works with the local government agencies, the PSU initiative to develop environmental leaders will work with the local Phuket government, as well as other organizations, such as Asia-Pacific Environmental Network, SEEK Phuket, Rotary Club of Patong Beach and UQ.

— Peter Harris

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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