Building a Greener Belt & Road

This piece is part of a series of posts looking to highlight the Global, Interdisciplinary and Entrepreneurial character of F&ES. It’s hard to keep track of all the initiatives students are involved in, and we hope to provide a spotlight for them. For prospective students who wish to know more, and current students who wish to have their work featured in this series, please email fesinfo@yale.edu.

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When it comes to the potential ramifications of international development and trade, F&ES students Tina Huang M.E.M. ’19 (China), Kate Logan M.E.M. ’20 (United States) and Nicholas Lo M.E.Sc ’19 (Hong Kong) share the goal of creating awareness among their peers, by making sure they spread dialogue in the U.S. about the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a Chinese international development strategy that involves major infrastructure and energy investments with the goal to increase and promote economic connectivity between China and the world.

This common interest led the group to organize a symposium around the topic: «Greening the Belt and Road Initiative» will take place in Burke Auditorium next Friday, January 25th, and the group is looking forward to having an audience of people interested in global infrastructure, energy development, environmental justice, and other direct implications of the BRI.

While other universities in the U.S. have already hosted symposiums about the BRI, the angle given by F&ES students is rarely discussed. “We want go beyond the typical China Watcher” –shared Kate– “We really want to focus in the environmental and social governance side of these projects. Moving beyond the stereotypical «China Threat» narrative to explore both challenges and opportunities, like increasing energy access and alternative development financing models to different populations around the world”.

It’s not uncommon for F&ES students to find people with common interests in the school, and start projects with them; but it is unusual to have a conference leader that is only on her first semester – how did you find each other?

  • Kate: “Nick and Tina had been doing research on the social and environmental impacts of the BRI in Myanmar by the time I started my first semester here, after working in Beijing for five years. I met Tina at one of the events for the incoming class, the Student Interest Group (SIG) Fair, were Tina was representing the Asia SIG”.
  • Tina: “Even though I hadn’t met Kate personally, I knew about Kate’s previous work as one of the co-founders of the Environment China podcast”.

So, since you started planning for this symposium – How has it improved your experience of F&ES and broader Yale, and how is it contributing to your professional development?

  • Kate: “We have the opportunity to work with likely-minded people who are also passionate about this subject. Utilizing the symposium to connect with those people and generate a conversation about a topic we all care about. We have been collaborating with the Africa, Asia and Latin America SIGs, as well as the Fresh and Salty SIG, and Professor Angel Hsu’s «China’s Energy and Sustainability Challenge»”.

What are some of the main values that inspire the organizers of «Greening the Belt and Road Initiative» Symposium?

  • Tina: “We want to stress the importance of critical discussion and learning beyond academia, which is why we are inviting speakers that have actual on-the-ground experience. Our panels will be comprised of both academics and practitioners, putting a special emphasis on presenting the issue from diverse perspectives”.
  • Kate: “We are really aiming for the symposium to be representative of diversity, being mindful of gender and the different effects BRI is having around the world. We recently confirmed a female keynote speaker, and are organizing breakout discussions on regional effects of the BRI across Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America”.

Finally, is the symposium open to prospective students? How can people get in touch with you?

  • Tina: “The symposium is one of the many events organized by the Belt and Road Working Group, started by students at F&ES. The members of the working group are open to collaboration opportunities with students and professionals in F&ES, Yale and beyond. For questions and comments, you can connect with us through: china-symposium-fes@yale.edu”.

 

Tina Huang is a second year M.E.M. student. At F&ES, she focuses on Urban Sustainability issues in China and researches the rise of dockless bike sharing.

Kate Logan is a first year M.E.M. student. Before coming to F&ES, she worked for 5 years in China for two different environmental NGOs, focusing on supply chain environmental management – particularly how pollution issues in China have started migrating towards other countries in the world, like Vietnam where some of her previous work took place.

Nicholas Lo is a second year M.E.Sc student. His research focuses on socio-environmental impacts of Chinese-financed infrastructure development in Southeast Asia; especially Thailand and Myanmar, where he has worked in natural resource governance, land use/tenure, water resources and indigenous rights.