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Blog depicts people, places on seven continents

January 11, 2008

Blog depicts people, places on seven continents

From the tip of the world in Antarctica to the top of the highest peak in Africa, PLU students are immersing themselves in the world and gaining valuable insight this J-Term. Nearly 400 students are studying away on all seven continents this month. Thanks to the Sojourner blog, those left behind in rain-soaked Tacoma can live vicariously through the experiences of their fellow Lutes. Eight of the 27 groups are filing regular dispatches online, and each represents a different continent.

This year, the students have been asked to record their thoughts and impressions about how people in their host country engage issues of justice, health sustainability and peace. The bloggers are discussing how they see these values being addressed, and how that compares to how the same values are addressed in the United States.

Student Sarah Knutson is studying peace journalism in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, under communication professor Cliff Rowe. She described the city as “the epitome of wealth.”

“Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Times Square have nothing on Dubai,” she wrote in a Jan. 9th post. “The architecture, the shopping, the city’s structure itself; every aspect demonstrates money, power, and high, high class.”

Within this wealthy society, Knutson doesn’t see value placed on environmental stewardship or sustainability. The city built three man-made structures off its coastline and has large numbers of skyscrapers are under construction. Most distressingly, she reports the government is encouraging new tourism projects to generate revenue since the oil that currently generates 30 percent of the country’s income will likely run out in a few decades.

“With all this under my nose, and dozens of active cranes visible from my hotel room window, I don’t see Dubai engaged in anything vaguely resembling sustainability,” she writes.

While wandering through downtown São Paolo, Brazil, student Kari Liebert also considered how Brazilians valued sustainability when she came across a sculpture. Shaped like a triangle, it was made from various recycled items and had lights powered by a solar panel.

“I was amazed at the fact that the population uses so many plastics, and the amount of recycling bins are far and few between,” she wrote. “However they are available and way easier to find than in the Houston airport.”

In order to make a difference – and avoid having recyclable garbage lining the street, like in São Paulo – each American needs to commit to living a greener life, Liebert wrote. She suggests each person start slowly by purchasing a few organic or sustainable items at each visit to the grocery store.

Liebert added that the São Paulo do people use a more sustainable form of transportation: the metro, or subway as it’s more commonly termed in the United States. The Northwest is slowly following suit, with Portland, Ore., embracing its extensive light rail system. Seattle is beginning to take mass transit seriously and understand that driving does impact the world’s health, she wrote.

The eight groups featured in the blog are:

  • Journeying from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Antarctica to study natural history and conservation issues with English professor Charles Bergman.
  • Investigating the impact of globalization on two major world cities, Sao Paolo, Brazil, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, with assistant philosophy professor Brendan Hogan
  • Studying the concepts of peace journalism in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with communication professor Cliff Rowe
  • Enhancing their French language skills and indulging in the rhythm and energy of the French Creole culture in Martinique, with French professor Roberta Brown
  • Analyzing how the arts can be used to promote religious and political beliefs in Neah Bay, Washington, with anthropology professor David Huelsbeck
  • Exploring the history and culture of New Zealand while backpacking through the country’s dramatic scenery with associate physical education professor Bradford Moore
  • Applying social psychological principles to paranormal occurrences in one of Great Britian’s most haunted cities, Edinburgh, Scotland, with assistant sociology professor Dan Renfrow
  • Discovering the history and culture of Tanzania by trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro, journeying into the Ngorongoro Crater and experiencing the island of Zanzibar with English professor David Seal and multimedia services director Kirk Isakson

Blog posts and photographs can be viewed by country and by individual bloggers. Visitors can also post comments on blog entries.

To learn more about the study away opportunities at PLU, visit the Wang Center for International Programs’ Web site, or contact the center at ext. 7577 or

University Communications staff writer Megan Haley compiled this report. Comments, questions, ideas? Please contact her at ext. 8691 or at Photo of Dubai water taxis provided by communication professor Cliff Rowe.