Entering the profound flux of Vietnam
When I joined IUCN Vietnam in August 2009, there were lots of changes occurring within the organization that reflected the changes occurring in the country. IUCN Vietnam was in the process of shifting the types of projects it works on and redefining itself in this quickly developing country. Vietnam has already met the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty over the period of 1990-2015 and is now the world’s second largest exporter for rice. All the development has put a strain on environmental resources. IUCN Vietnam is now involved in many projects that work to create a balance between development and conservation.
It was really exciting for me to join IUCN Vietnam as this change was occurring. My life was also in a state of profound flux because I had just moved to Hanoi after graduating from Dartmouth College in the United States. I was able to jump right into the action and start my work as the communications focal point. I’ve been soaking up knowledge from the experts on the IUCN staff and have learned a lot about the conservation challenges at hand.
I have become informed about IUCN Vietnam programs by writing articles and newsletters. One of my main goals was to use new media tools to make communications more effective. I have worked to make the website more interactive by adding video content to each article.
Another way I used new media was to create a webpage for conservation NGOs based in Hanoi . This site helps to connect the NGOs so that we can all work together towards a common goal. I also used Google maps to show where each NGO has projects around the country.
One of the most rewarding experiences I have had was the opportunity to attend an IUCN ecotourism workshop in Cambodia in January. Tourism can aid in development and conservation if it is carried out correctly, but this is a great challenge.
As I see it, there is a constant battle between conservation and development. The ever-elusive goal is to figure out how to align the two seemingly contradictory issues. I wish there were ways that Vietnam could learn from the mistakes of other nations so that it can set a new example for development instead of committing the same errors. For example, from China we have learned that it is important to do environmental accounting to see if progress is really happening. Also. every day more and more cars arrive in Vietnam. If there was more of a focus on implementing public transportation systems instead of adding cars to already-polluted cities, Vietnam could side-step many of the problems that the United States is now facing.
I feel sad when I see young kids here with pollution masks. Everyone should have the right to clean air, among other environmental rights. I really hope that the work that IUCN Vietnam does can help people realize the importance of protecting the environment.
I am not an expert on conservation, but I have learned a lot from attending various meetings and writing articles. I have become aware of the environmental issues at hand and want to do my part to promote conservation along with development in this evolving country.