Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Posted by Sam Bowring

Welcome to the blog for the Mission 2017 Terrascope trip to South Africa.  This trip is the result of  a relationship between the Terrascope program and the Earth Stewardship Science and AEON programs of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in South Africa. Students and staff from MIT and NMMU will engage in discussion and debate that will hopefully lead to new ideas about how to deal with water issues in southern Africa and the world as well as a deeper appreciation of our different cultures and recent histories, especially the apartheid legacy of South Africa and the role of Nelson Mandela.

The blog will follow the experiences of MIT and NMMU students as they interact, educate one another, and delve into the issues of water issues in southern Africa and the world.  MIT students will arrive in Port Elizabeth South Africa, Saturday evening, March 22 and a week of cultural exchange, development of new friendships, and intense learning experiences will begin.    We hope you will enjoy following us as we deepen our understanding of issues related to access to water in the context of South Africa.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Now that we have returned from South Africa, one of the ways to extend our trip is to remember where we were, and what we were doing just a week ago! Here is a map of our final day.

It was a wonderful day with many views of our present, the ancient past, and, in our minds, the yet-to-be-written future.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Preparation for the Millenium debate - a mechanism for change

Engaging with people from different parts of the world has always been a very enchanting experience for me. My time with the Terrascope team was all the more fascinating, as the focal point of our association would envisage poverty alleviation. The mechanism in which this collaboration took route was what resonated with me most. To illustrate...

Last Thursday night at 9 pm we were told that 6 MIT students would be competing against 6 NMMU students the following day in a debate about whether the Millenium Villages were helping Africa or if they were instead just a means to import/export American goods. The MITs mobilized into action. I observed a brilliant convergence of coordination and cooperation. It was the manifestation of Terrascope - it was beautiful.

I sat there in awe, trying to take in the experience, but also trying to participate and learn the content of the discussion. It was not easy. Hours passed of what felt like minutes. There was so much going on. Malte at the front on his super fast tablet connected to a projector capturing relevant arguments and drawing up the pros and cons. Francesca, the orchestrator, on her feet, democratically selecting the next hand to bring forth their point. And then the UTFs. Oh man these people gave their all to help facilitate their freshmen counterparts… and as we were there too.. so we benefited. They would fill our glasses with water, regulate the temperature of the room and making pretty ornaments keeping us creative and captivated. Everyone worked together in unison. Like a super brain with each student a super charged firing neuron.

This continued until 1 am. I hear these discussions would go on for much longer, but we were on “vacation”.

The following afternoon we had our debate. Which was more of a blur to me. But I remember it being exciting and realizing that we were designing a common path, one where we could together assist in building a desirable future for Africa.

The outcome of our debate, as I remembered it, was that the Millenium Villages were a failure. That we needed more cooperation between the aid givers (or investors) and the community receiving the aid, that is, as coordinators of such a project you would need to be open to the community and be vigorously adaptable. A local perspective was paramount. I think that was the take home message for me.

If we as NMMU students can take what we observed from Terrascope, we can make a difference.
I look forward to designing our proposal for Missionvale together and hope that our collaboration continues to build as we go forward.