Head, Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs,
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Thank you very much, Rita. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I want to paint some different pictures here.
I still remember my own reactions to the pictures of the earth from space: The big blue marble still sticks in my mind as the catch phrase that was used to describe its appearance. In that instant, the notion of one earth, interlinked ecosystems, and the dynamic character of the earth's systems all became very real to me as well as to a lot of other people. I visualized weather patterns moving across the globe and volcanic eruptions spewing forth, sending ashes high into the atmosphere and around the globe, affecting worldwide weather.
The view from space did not include the borders and the boundaries of the nation-states that we are so used to seeing in our atlas views of the world. Living things, as well as weather and radio waves and flora and fauna, and now we find capital, also move across these borders, unknowing, unseeing, and unheeding the lines drawn by the planet's human inhabitants.
More recently, we have been struck by the pictures of human populations moving to avoid the wars and conflicts around them. The movements of refugees from Rwanda and the ethnic conflict that erupted between the Hutus and the Tutsis made graphic the human and the environmental toll of war and armed conflict. For me, a news story brought home the real face of this as I sat with my own family at the dinner table and viewed the effects of the displacement on families. It was a picture of a woman, her husband, and her eight children. He squatted on the ground, his head in his hands, the pain and the distress on his face, separated from his land and his livelihood. She was a constant motion machine, taking charge of organizing their space: Setting up camp; finding fuel; food and water; preparing the food; feeding and caring for the children.
There are multiple stories from this conflict too many people in too small a space; the lack of sanitary conditions; the spread of disease; the loss of life; the orphaning of children; and the degradation of the environment; as well as individual stories of heroic people trying to survive in the face of incredible odds. Heroic people tried to help them survive, and tried at the same time to keep from despoiling the environment. At once the human and environmental ravages of wars and conflicts were made real by this picture.
There were deeper implications to be drawn from these stories as well: The peace that we continue to seek, the challenges of development that we have yet to meet, the tools that science and technology can provide for addressing challenges of development, the worldwide responsibility to address development issues, and the fact that our efforts at development are probably doomed to failure without the active participation of women.
At this point we have to ask: What is our vision for our planet? I want to stop here and say: Let us begin with the assumption, and a quote from Dorothy, from "The Wizard of Oz," and that is, "There is no place like home." Literally and figuratively, there is no place like home.
Surely for most of us this vision of the planet must include control of population, decreasing influence of humans on climate, protection of species, and on and on with the things that we heard from our speakers.
The speaker that just preceded me has a vision that has a major goal for technology, but I am anxious to get into the question and into the discussions, because in some ways I think that our solutions have leap-frogged our problems.
We want to live harmoniously with nature within our ecological means. As a whole for humankind, I propose we introduce the notion of sustainable human development. United Nations Secretary-General Boutros-Boutros Ghali talks about envisioning development as the most important task facing humanity today, and defines those elements essential to development as peace, economy as an engine of progress, environment as the basis of sustainability, justice as a pilar of society, and democracy as good governance. Within us all there is this notion that a country's principal asset is its people, and within a favorable international climate their development is how the country's development is achieved and sustained.
Education is a key aspect of human development, including education in science and technology.
I want to focus much of the remainder of my remarks on a high leverage area that I believe responds to all of these visions that we might have for development and sustainability for our earth and for the people who inhabit it. I want to emphasize the role of science and technology in achieving these visions, and emphasize what it can mean to those most in need.
I had an opportunity over the past year and a half to serve with a group exploring the gender dimension of science and technology for sustainable human development. This work was done by eight commissioners and eight advisors; I was the advisory representative to this group from North America, under the umbrella of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development, the Gender Working Group. This work from the Gender Working Group is going to be considered by the full Commission for its contributions to the deliberation of the World Conference on Women to be held in Beijing in September of this year.
Why women? Because they, that is we, and those for whom we care, the young and the old, are the overwhelming proportion of the poor; because women are over half the world's population; because we cannot afford to ignore their talents; because their roles and responsibilities and family and community place them at the center of sustainable development issues.
In many parts of the world, it is the women who have responsibility for food security. Women carry most of the responsibility of reproduction and family maintenance. Women are the care-givers, the gatherers of fuel and water. In addition, our efforts within the Gender Working Group pointed out that a substantial amount of local traditional knowledge is held by women, especially in the areas of agriculture, environmental resource management, and health.
Given the areas of women's responsibilities, it should be easy to conclude there is a major role in science in technology, and yet discussions of women in development often move forward with no input on the possible role of science and technology.
Those of us from science and engineering are often on the margins of national and international discussions on women in development. At the same time, and on the other hand and in a like manner, we have moved forward in discussions and strategies about development without considerations of women, without the involvement of women, without an understanding of its effects on women, without the understanding of the need to consider women's roles and responsibilities in the family and in the life of the community.
Whether science-based development or not, it is hard to see how it can be effectively mounted or expected to succeed without women. Yet, this is what has been done. As we have moved from the panel to break-out groups and back, we are reminded again and again that the pressing problems of the world are ones which must have women at the center of those discussions.
This morning, Tim Wirth talked about issues of population growth and the problems with a population that is outstripping its ecological means. While we recognize the need for continuing research for contraceptive options, we also have come to understand the links between higher female literacy rates and lower fertility rates. UNICEF's "Strategies to Promote Girls' Education," a publication from UNICEF, points out this link between population and the education of women and the effects on the Other social indicators: links between education of mothers and healthier families and the education of mothers and their commitment to the education of their children. Education provides the knowledge and skills that contribute to and benefit from development efforts, especially in areas of health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and the environment. The links to science and technology in these areas are obvious.
Then there are links in the other direction as well. The same report pointed out the link between countries with large gender gaps in primary education, and its correlation with lower GNP. It is not clear to me whether this is considered cause or effect.
We talked about species diversity. There is much in the research that points out that indigenous knowledge systems are gendered, and that within women's indigenous knowledge systems are understandings of utilization of species and forest products that are extensive and that would be valuable to the rest of the world if they were tapped.
There are opportunities for connecting modern science and indigenous knowledge to the betterment of all: For example, using the local knowledge that women have about food characteristics and species characteristics and varieties, and issues such as taste, storage characteristics, etc., to be able to select and utilize modern techniques of biotechnology, and put together the characteristics, or the selection of characteristics, which these women desire, which they are willing to use, and which are likely to be incorporable into the life of the community.
At the same time, we ought to be able to acknowledge these local communities and compensate them for their contribution to our knowledge base and to our product base.
In her plenary address at the recent AAAS Annual Meeting in Atlanta, the Honorable Gertrude Mongala, Secretary-General for the United Nations Conference on Women, noted that in Africa 75 percent of the food is produced by women and with simple tools. She stated, "With science and technology, they would be great farmers."
Beyond the daily basics of food, shelter, water, fuels, and health maintenance, we must build local capacity and infrastructure to address the long-term problems that they and we face. Basic education for women in science and technology in developed and developing countries, this in the context of schools as well as in the context of something called "public communication" or "public understanding." We need to tap into our old technologies as well as the new ones, and look for the opportunities to use these as the basis of educating and continuously educating about science and technology.
We must recognize the role of women as scientists and engineers, and the value that they play in policy-making and decision-making roles in science and technology. I have been at the table, and I have not been at the table. Trust me. The discussion is different when we are at the table: Meeting the needs of women as well as men in development; balancing the desire for cash crops and the concerns of subsistence, that is, the food we sell as well as the food that we eat; melding the advantages of modern science and local knowledge systems.
In too many of our discussions, developing countries have been viewed only as problems, not as integral components of the complex ecology of Planet Earth. I think that we have to shift our view of developing countries from being only the targets of development to being the partners in development, recognizing that there is no such thing as "Your end of the boat is sinking."
We have to provide access to technology for sure, because quite frankly, I believe that information "haves" and the gap between information "haves" and "have-nots" is growing. We have to develop more scientists and engineers. I found Peter Raven's arguments quite compelling about the need for indigenous science capacity within the countries of the developing world.
This also means looking at our own institutions, to figure out if, what we provide in the way of advanced education to the rest of the world will meet the needs of these people when they return, if they return, to their own countries: To highly skilled people from the rest of the world, as we are not meeting our own needs for our own production of advanced people within this country. Finally, promoting science and technology literacy as though a world depended on it, because it does. Thank you.
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