by Tony Lavely
Apparently, we are all still digesting the news from our 40th reunion in New
Haven, for very few new items have come to my attention … and the summer has
been fairly quiet. Rather than "manufacture" some notes, I will devote most
of this column to an email (forward to me by Frank Basler) from Madeleine
Meek, the recipient of the Class of '64 Summer Fellowship for Juniors from
the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Madelein sent her
emails from Madagascar and their full text can be found elsewhere on this site.
"So, why am I here in Madagascar? For my senior essay I am comparing Ranomafana National Park and Andohahela National Park, parks which both began as integrated conservation-development projects in the past decade. I am specifically studying the success/failure of one aspect of the development side: healthcare initiatives. This became my passion because I was disappointed with the failures on the part of Ranomafana National Park to keep their promises in this realm, though all the while reports and articles praising the park imply that these initiatives are happening! My research is thus to determine whether or not healthcare promises are being kept in the periphery of Andohahela. … The conservation-development dilemma is essentially how to reconcile conservation of natural resources with improvement of livelihoods in terms of health and economic factors. Then, there is that crazy expression 'sustainable development.' Conservation, however, is a tricky topic in Madagascar, as it is one of the poorest countries in the world and 80% of its people are agriculturalists. Making this even more of a dilemma is the concern that began in the late 1970s and early 1980s with biological diversity. In Madagascar this is an essential part of the debate, as approximately 80% of flora and fauna species are endemic. … The best-planned and well-intentioned projects always change the minute you step foot in a 'developing' country. Circumstance is a creative force, while challenging and at times frustrating. … I am continually amazed and comforted by the amount of people one can touch along the way. Even if those moments are forgotten a couple days later, the simple chitchat or sharing of smiles can mean so much. What you leave with them, what you take of them, so many nights I go to bed with a smile on my face because of all the people I have encountered throughout the day, all showing me a different facet of life. I am very much content here in a new land, though I miss friends and family immensely and wish that they could share in this incredibly enlightening and plain-old fun experience. … Tsara, ny fiainana! ('Life is beautiful'), much love, Madeleine"
I think we can be very proud of what we do as a Class to support these fellowships. Have a nice holiday season, and please write, email, or call with news for the next issue.