Wanjun Guo longs to help solve a critical environmental problem that faces his hometown province in China. His initial efforts at addressing desertification issues through work as a forestry technician proved unsatisfactory both from a scientific and personal perspective. After an enlightening four-year experience, Wanjun turned to Antioch University New England to learn more about resource management and how he might apply community-based techniques to improve his efforts in China.

What did you do before coming to AUNE?
I was born in a rural community in Qinghai Province, China, that is suffering from severe climate change or desertification. After obtaining my BS in Forest Engineering, I returned to my hometown and worked as a forestry technician at the County Forestry Bureau. My job was to design afforestation plans that accounted for physical factors, such as altitude, slope aspect, and soil type in an effort to seed the arid soil. I noticed that the result of our tree planting activities was poor even though we rigidly followed the reforestation technical standard. Our efforts were also stymied by opposition from local communities that felt the work would negatively affect animal grazing.

Why did you decide to go back to school for a graduate degree?
From 2002 to 2006, I had an opportunity to work for the Qinghai Forest Resource Management Project supported by the government of Australia. This experience exposed me to advanced international land degradation control concepts and practices, which made me realize that coping with desertification is not merely a technical issue. It is necessary to understand and address desertification from a complex system perspective. So I decided to study resource management systemically. I was very lucky to have been awarded the Ford Foundation International Fellowship in 2007, which enabled me to enroll in the Resource Management and Conservation (RMC) program at Antioch in the fall of 2008.

What have you gained from being a student in the program so far?
I think that the most valuable benefit of being a student in the RMC program is the insight I’ve gained into what’s wrong with our conventional approach in desertification control and how can we improve it. In China, combating desertification is designed and conducted by government agencies in a top-down manner. As a key agency responsible for addressing desertification, the Forestry Department manages the problem primarily with vegetation recovery in the most degraded areas. I believe their mistake is that they don’t appreciate or encourage the involvement of the local community process. I support a community-based natural resource management program as an alternative model and would seek public participation to address the situation. To be honest, I do not have a solution to desertification issues in my hometown yet. However, the RMC program at Antioch is helping me develop the analytic and critical thinking skills to figure out a solution for the future.

Would you recommend the RMC program? If so, why?
I strongly recommend this program to those who really wants to make a difference in conservation issues that they care about.