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Public service challenges, solutions focus of TED-style talks at ASU

"Free Sahara" textile print made in a Sahwari refugee camp
April 14, 2015

Growing up in Limassol, a small town on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Christine Buzinde witnessed the negative impact tourism can have on a community.

“This was an area in the early 80s where coastal tourism was overdeveloped and a created a strain on local resources,” said Buzinde.

Buzinde, an associate professor in the Arizona State University School of Community Resources and Development, says hotels in Cyprus were actually utilizing more resources than locals. She points to the rationing of water for local residents while hotels were allowed to freely use water for fountains for aesthetic purposes.

“I realized then that there are some substantial negative impacts endured by host communities,” Buzinde said. “But we can not overlook the substantial social, environmental and economic benefits availed to communities that adopt a sustainable approach to tourism development.”

Finding a way to balance the good and harm of tourism on communities is the focus of a TED Talk-style presentation Buzinde will give at the Public Service Talks series, at 6 p.m., April 21 on ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus. Sponsored by the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, the presentations showcase the passion and research of the students, researchers and professors that make up the college.

For Buzinde, the speaker series is an opportunity to discuss the role of the individual tourist in the equation.

“As global citizens, the onus is on each one of us to contribute to the sustainability of the different touristic destinations that we visit,” said Buzinde. “So my hope is that attendants are able to understand and appreciate their role in fostering a sustainable outlook that is necessary for the tourism industry to make substantial strides in sustainable tourism development. I will encourage them to think about how they can become agents of sustainable change during their touristic encounters.”

Refugees turn to art, not arms, in fight for recognition

Tiffanie Ord is planning to attend what is called “the most remote film festival in the world” at the end of this month. It’s held in a refugee camp in southwestern Algeria. She will be there to document how the Sahrawi people have turned to art in their fight for human rights and self-determination in Western Sahara.

“The idea to use art to get the word out about one of the longest and most unknown conflicts in the world was so intriguing that, in 2013, I went to the arts festival in the refugee camps,” said Ord, a doctoral student in the School of Community Resources and Development.

A formerly tribal and nomadic people, many Sahrawi people were forced to relocate when Morocco and Mauritania determined borders in the mid 1970’s, following the end of Spanish colonial rule. Sahrawi leaders fought back, resisting Moroccan rule. A truce was reached in 1991, leaving tens of thousands of Sahrawi people in refugee camps in the harsh Algerian desert.

Since armed conflict and political strategies have yet to result in international law being honored, the Sahrawi government in exile has pledged to support nonviolent arts-based activism in partnership with international NGOs. So rather than take up arms again, the Sahrawi have turned to paint, film, music, poetry and calligraphy.

“Arts and culture, as a collective action, can assist in building community-driven social change,” said Ord. “It’s an underutilized approach within the area of activism, especially in areas with long-term oppression.”

Ord will discuss and show the many forms of art the Sahrawi and their allies utilize in their fight for self-determination and the many ways this non-violent strategy is growing into an international solidarity movement.

Leadership: key to managing impacts of drought

Dave White monitors news reports about California’s drought with a degree of concern but also relief. He feels for those dealing with the devastating effects, but is thankful that Arizona leaders took steps to prevent Arizona from suffering a similar fate – at least so far.

“The situation is California is much different than Arizona. They are in immediate and real crisis,” said White, an associate professor in the School of Community Resources and Development and co-director of the Decision Center for a Desert City.

Arizona implemented progressive laws to govern groundwater use starting in the 1980s that protected supplies and encouraged conservation. White says those efforts have made Arizona resilient during the current drought.

He will talk about Arizona’s water future in the era of the “mega drought” during the Public Service Talks on April 21.

White points to a recent NASA study that raised the increasing likelihood of a so-called “mega drought” in the future that could last 30 or more years.

“These kind of future scenarios are beyond anything that we’ve ever experienced in the last 100 years,” says White. “These long sustained droughts and these climate change impacts should serve as an impetus for a call for action and a realization that even though we may be in a good situation now – and the situation in California is different from Arizona – in the long run, we’re all kind of in it together.

“In the past, we’ve seen an era of competition between the states in the western United States, and even competition between cities within the same state,” White notes. “And increasingly, we’re seeing the benefits and the need to focus on cooperation of the states within the Colorado River Basin.”

White says cooperation will be more important than ever, especially at the local level. He plans to talk about what needs to take place among local leaders during his presentation.