Lesson 1: It’s a small world, after all

The Wolong Nature Reserve is remote, rural, rustic. But it's also global.

Words that describe the Wolong Nature Reserve:  Remote. Rural. Rustic.


Yep. Global works. Understanding how the flora and fauna in Wolong coexists with the people who live there offers a model with how that web of connection spans the globe.

Understanding coupled human and natural systems is key to sustainability – and holds the promise of recovery – from natural disasters like earthquakes to the ecological affronts of mismanagement and exploitation.

Push and pull between wildlife conservation and human need defines China’s efforts to protect its treasured and endangered giant pandas. Well-intentioned policies to preserve or restore wildlife habitat often placed hardships upon the people who live in the Wolong Nature Reserve. Ironically, even love for pandas proved dangerous. The tourism that grew from a human fascination with pandas caused more forest degradation as trees were chopped down to cook food and build lodging for those tourists.

So imagine what it means when a major earthquake hits “remote” Wolong, as it did in 2008. The shake felt ‘round the world.

That’s just one example of telecoupling, which refers to socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances. The award-winning telecoupling framework is more comprehensive than traditional approaches that usually address environmental or socioeconomic issues separately, or focus on what’s happening within an area. 

The telecoupling framework is being applied to issues all over the world – from trading of goods and products such as food and energy to water transfer to species invasion. This new way of better understanding the world – and thus being able to make better policy decisions – essentially was born in Wolong.



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