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Thailand RPCV Julia Marton-Lefevre is expert on drought
Thailand RPCV Julia Marton-Lefevre is expert on drought
Drought remains a hot topic
By Shannon Brennan / Lynchburg News and Advance
March 17, 2003
Though a light rain fell throughout Central Virginia on Sunday, drought was on the minds of about 20 people who gathered at Randolph-Macon Womanís College.
Now that monthly rainfall levels are almost normal and rivers look full, "should we be worried about water?" Daniel Bowman asked those who gathered.
Gil Cobbs likened the drought to spiraling gas prices: Americans donít think long term. They wonít give up their SUVs until they canít afford the gas.
"We only react in a crisis mode," he said.
Wayne Dahlgren agreed: "If we donít hear about it, we donít think about it."
The conversation about the environment and development in Central Virginia was sponsored by R-MWCís environmental studies department and the Greater Lynchburg Environmental Network.
But it became an international discussion because of guests from India, England and Canada.
Kirtida Oza is the William F. Quillian Jr. Visiting International Professor at R-MWC this year. She is also a fellow of Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD), a program started in 1991 by the Rockefeller Foundation to foster leadership among people ages 28 to 40 in 70 countries.
Because of Ozaís work at the college, the programís international director, Julia Marton-Lefevre, accepted the invitation to visit Lynchburg.
Marton-Lefevre, who is based in London, was born in Hungary and moved to the United States at age 11, becoming a U.S. citizen, and later, a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand. She ended up in Paris and was director of the International Council for Science before assuming her role with LEAD.
Marton-Lefevre said her organization promotes "sustainable development," which means we need to look after the planet so we leave something behind for future generations. The hitch is that it means we might have to give up some of the luxuries that we take for granted.
"All this comes down to changing lifestyle, and thatís not so easy," she said.
The drought served as a perfect example. Dahlgren, who chairs Lynchburgís Planning Commission, noted that the message during the drought was: "Here in Lynchburg, we donít have a problem."
Bowman, who, along with Cobbs, serves on the Robert E. Lee Soil and Water Conservation District board, noted that city leaders, including a member of City Council, spread that message.
"Itís an astonishing attitude," he said.
People in nearby counties understood the drought a bit better. Diana Duckworth, who teaches environmental science at Rustburg High School, noted that some of her students didnít bathe as much as they would have liked in late summer and early fall.
"Many of their families had to dig new wells," she said, and even then, some didnít strike water.
She noted that if water levels return to normal, development will proceed as if nothing happened.
"Next time we get our cyclic drought, it will be worse," Duckworth said.
Oza said the concept of drought is so different in other parts of the world. In her region of India, which has been in drought for four years, thousands of villagers have no potable water.
"It is really a life-and-death situation in many places," she said.
Bowman noted that consumption issues in this country have to be addressed in a meaningful way.
"We are a country that believes itís OK to wash our cars and water our lawns with potable water," he said. "I would guess most of the rest of the world would think weíre crazy."
Jane Dougan, a LEAD fellow from Ontario, Canada, gave an example of that thinking. She said a woman from South America asked her what a garage was for, and she couldnít believe Americans built houses for their cars.
With only 5 percent of the worldís population, the United States consumes 25 percent of its resources.
Marton-Lefevre said there is a tremendous anti-American feeling throughout the world, not only because of U.S. consumption, but also because of the threat of war in Iraq. As a citizen of both the United States and the world at large, Marton-Lefevre said Americans must show true leadership in the world to salvage its reputation.
Leadership requires listening, dialogue and building consensus, she said, qualities the United States is not exhibiting at the moment.
The group expressed dismay about changing peopleís attitudes about managing the earthís resources before weíre in crisis mode.
"I was a child of the í60s and I look around and say, ĎWhat happened?í" Dougan said.
With 1,500 fellows, LEAD hopes to reach more people around the world, Marton-Lefevre said.
"We want to find like-minded people, who together, can change the world," she said.
ä Contact Shannon Brennan at email@example.com or (434) 385-5561.
When this story was prepared, here was the front page of PCOL magazine:
This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?
Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."
In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.
Read the stories and leave your comments.