Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana State professors discuss sustainability, teaching in Thailand conference

September 13, 2011

Several Indiana State University professors spoke to their peers from around the world about sustainability projects during a summer conference in Thailand.

ISU professors John Conant, Stephen Aldrich and Will Barratt gave presentations at the International Conference on Sciences and Social Sciences for Sustainable Development at Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University in Thailand in July. Conant and Aldrich gave the keynote presentation, "The Social and Ecological Conflicts Inherent in Sustainable Local Economic Development Projects in a Global Economy." Barratt presented "Education Leadership Beyond 2020 A.D."

In their presentation, Conant and Aldrich said that people from a variety of backgrounds are needed "for the planning, implementation, and analysis of sustainability projects and the public policy that supports the creation of sustainable projects," they wrote in the slideshow of their presentation.

"Our concept of sustainability is that projects have to be not only environmentally sustainable in the sense that they don't use up or reduce environmental quality over time," Conant said after the conference, "but they also have to be politically sustainable and economically viable, and socially and culturally sustainable as well."

Conant and Aldrich cited several examples of ongoing projects throughout the world and how they relate to sustainability. The projects ranged from agriculture and property rights in the Amazon River basin to buffalo in Yellowstone National Park.

In his speech, Barratt discussed "what kinds of skills and knowledge students will need 10 years from now, how we teach you, new technology and different kinds of teaching," he said.

"There was a lot of ‘hallway conversation'" after the presentation, Barratt added. "When the audience surrounds you, you know it's good. We were swamped."

The speeches at the conference focused on educational leadership and the future of education, Barratt said.

The Indiana State professors did not just speak at the conference. Conant learned from one of the speakers who was part of Thailand's government about the king's approach to sufficiency economies, and how the government understand the environmental and social sustainability of those projects, Conant said.

It was about "their attempt to create economic development in the countryside that's not only going to be sustainable in environmental and social ways, but it's going to protect the people from external crises, financial crisis" and other negative situations, Conant added.

Since Thailand is predominantly Buddhist, and the king underwent Buddhist training as a young man, Conant noted, the country's economic principles have their roots in Buddhism.

Conant and Aldrich did not travel to Thailand only for the conference. Prior to the event, they traveled the country for three weeks as part of the Environmental and Culturally Sustainable Local Economic Development initiative, or ECSLED. Faculty members from ISU, including Aldrich and Conant, teamed with faculty members from other ECSLED institutions Liaoning and Liaoning Normal universities in China to visit sustainability projects and ECSLED partner universities in Thailand.

Though the country is attempting to insulate rural areas from the negative effects of globalization, Thailand's urban areas are competitive with other countries, Conant said.

"It's not that they're trying to fight globalization like a few societies are," Conant said. "They're trying to create an alternate path for their currently lower skilled workers, and protect them from some of the worst aspects of globalization that they can't control."

Photo: (Submitted Photo)
John Conant, left, and Stephen Aldrich in Thailand.

Photo: (Submitted Photo)
A sign at the conference.

Contact: John Conant, chair, department of economics, Indiana State University, 812-237-2160 or

Writers: Mallory Metheny, media relations assistant, 812-237-3773; Bethany Donat, media relations assistant, 812-237-3773; Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or

Story Highlights

Professors John Conant, Stephen Aldrich and Will Barratt gave presentations at the International Conference on Sciences and Social Sciences for Sustainable Development at Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University in Thailand in July.

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