If you’re interested to read a broad overview of an environmental topic, there’s a very good chance you’ll find an article about it on Wikipedia. If you want in-depth information about the topic as it pertains to a specific country, however, you’ll probably only be able to find information about a small number of developed countries. It is in this kind of situation that student editors are well positioned to make a difference by filling in gaps in coverage. Wikipedia has a series of articles in the format “Environmental issues in [country].” The series is still far from complete, but it is substantially better than it was before student editors in Tiffany Linton Page’s Advanced Studies in Development Studies course got to work creating and expanding many countries’ articles.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a small coastal country that is largely desert. Urban development, agriculture and wildlife habitat all compete for the country’s limited land base. The combination of increasing population, rising sea levels and increased aridity all put pressure on this limited resource. While these environmental problems exist in many parts of the world, the mainstay of the economy of the UAE, fossil fuel production, is a major factor behind many of these problems. You can now read about these issues and how they interrelate in the article on environmental issues in the United Arab Emirates, which was created by a student in this class.
Students in the class created new articles on environmental issues in Kuwait, Yemen, Israel, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Mongolia and Georgia. Others expanded existing articles on environmental issues in Pakistan, Uruguay, Haiti, and Colombia. Climate change, population growth and water pollution are problems in most of these countries. Deforestation, desertification, and mangrove loss pose major problems in only a subset of them. Thanks to the work by these student editors, the picture is far more complete.
Other students in the class focused their work on subnational geographical entities or on single problems; some created environmental impact of development in the Sundarbans and mangrove deforestation in Myanmar, while others expanded entries on deforestation in Cambodia, electronic waste in China, and the geography of Uzbekistan. Two other new articles were created by the class: climate change and indigenous persons and Emissions Trading Scheme in South Korea. Other existing articles expanded by the class include deep ecology, green development, Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas, payment for ecosystem services, the Paris Agreement, sustainable procurement, underdevelopment, criticisms of globalization, and poaching. Through their contributions to Wikipedia, these students expanded the body of knowledge readily available on important topics that have been, for the most part, poorly represented.
To learn more about how to get involved, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit teach.wikiedu.org.
Image: Flooding after 1991 cyclone.jpg, by Val Gempis, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.