Fishing boats at a beach near Quang Tri Province, Vietnam stow their
nets at the end of the day. Credit: Mike Hoffmann/Provided
In a tale of
two life experiences, Mike Hoffmann went to Vietnam for the first time
in 47 years: On his first tour of duty, he was a 19-year-old U.S.
Marine, and for the March 2016 trip, Hoffmann returned as an
"Vietnam is in
the bull's eye when it comes to climate
change," said Hoffmann, professor of entomology and executive
director of the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture,
who explained that a rising sea level – for a country with 2,000 miles
of coastline – presents a major environmental and food security
challenge, especially in the Mekong River Delta region where 22 percent
of the population lives and about half of the country's food is
seeing the changes and to paraphrase a scientist there, Hoffmann said,
"There are no climate change deniers in Vietnam."
Chuck Geisler, professor of development sociology, went on the
exploratory trip in March to Vietnam to assess the country's future in
the face of climate change.
seas, millions of people in the Mekong Delta region will likely be
forced to move. Geisler has interest in studying the social impacts of
large-scale human migration inland from coastal zones.
waters, storm accentuation and on-shore salinity problems will drive
this migration," he said. "But the Vietnamese have survived extreme
adversity in the past and may be a leader in coping with sea
encroachments and other climate changes in the future."
A woman sells fruits and vegetables at
the floating farmer’s market near the city of Can Tho in the Mekong
Delta region. Credit: Mike Hoffmann/Provided
region's farmers, climate change has enormous implications, as Vietnam
is an important player in the global food system. It is the
second-largest producer of coffee, a crop grown in the highlands and
that is affected by higher temperatures and rainfall pattern changes.
Rice is their second-largest export commodity. They also export tea,
pineapple, citrus fruit and sugar.
Thúy Tranviet, senior lecturer in Asian studies, will be offering an
undergraduate course, "Climate Change Awareness and Service Learning in
the Mekong Delta, Vietnam," as part of the effort to internationalize
Cornell's curriculum. The course includes a language training component
and lectures on climate change in the fall with a two-week trip to
Vietnam in January 2017, followed by a spring 2017 seminar to summarize
"Students and many others need to experience the impacts of climate
change directly. This is exactly what we hope to achieve during the
January visit," said Hoffmann.
In the coastal region north of Ho Chi
Minh City, rice fields are quite typical. Credit: Mike Hoffmann/Provided
To encourage partnership, Hoffmann,
Tranviet and Geisler hope to see more collaboration between Cornell
research programs and Vietnamese universities, nongovernmental
organizations and the government
caring … forgiving'
As a Vietnam
War veteran, Hoffmann reflected on seeing Vietnam for the first time in
"The first two
days were really tough," he said. "The people were so friendly, caring
and most surprising, forgiving – the war was brutal – and on this trip,
we got to know what they were really like."
Geisler traveled with a small group organized by writer Susan Dixon,
Ph.D. '87. The group met a 91-year-old survivor of the My Lai massacre.
"Shewas so welcoming, we met for about 40 minutes. I was just stunned.
That visit was very special," said Hoffmann.
reflected on the environmental catastrophe of the Vietnam War. Even
today unexploded ordinance and the lingering effects of the toxic
defoliant Agent Orange remain serious problems. And now Vietnam faces
one of its greatest challenges ever – rapidly warming climate and
extreme weather events that wreak havoc on agriculture.
returning from the trip, Geisler said, "I was astonished at the combined
pragmatism and goodwill of the Vietnamese people, that is by their
ability to pick up the pieces and move on. Somebody used the phrase
'living with shock' ... I expected Vietnamese to be in shock – a
permanent state of shock, but the country really is happy."
Said Geisler: "If there is a country on the planet that could teach us
lessons about how to cope with and expand the definition of adaptation
to climate change, it's Vietnam. They're going to do it, they're going
to survive it."
(Source: phys.org, by Blaine Friedlander)