Getting to the heart of natural resource management: Joshua Carrera on SIT Brazil

Congratulations to SIT Study Abroad alum Joshua Carrera, who was recently featured on the cover of The Nature Conservancy magazine. Joshua studied abroad on the Brazil: Amazon Resource Management and Human Ecology program in the spring of 2011, bolstering an impressive record of accomplishments, particularly in the field of environmental science. Joshua describes his experience studying abroad in Brazil and how the program fit into his studies and long-term interests.

Why did you choose to study abroad on the SIT Brazil Amazon program?

I chose the program to complement my studies of the major ecosystems and natural areas in South America. I was previously in the Ecuadorian Andes conducting field research and wanted to return home with a scientific and cultural understanding of both places. An added bonus was the opportunity to learn Portuguese.

What were some of the program’s highlights and unique features?

The program took us to the heart of natural resource management issues in the Amazon, offering us different perspectives on complex issues. For example, we spoke to the Aluminum Company of America about their work and the implications of extracting aluminum on a large scale in the Amazon and then met with traditional communities and saw how they were affected by the extraction. As a result, I learned how complex these issues were and that there was always another side to the story.

What topic did you explore for your Independent Study Project (ISP)?

I looked at the financial viability of one of The Nature Conservancy’s proposed alternatives to cattle ranching. I spoke to farmers in the southern state of Para and gathered economic information on their cacao and mahogany agroforestry systems. The idea is to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) by creating incentives that make trees worth more standing than cut down. Instead of cutting trees down for pastures, a farmer would have an incentive to keep the forest intact to generate an income from the carbon stored in his trees.

How did studying abroad in Brazil fit into your studies at UVM, other experiences you’ve had, and your long-term goals?

During my ISP, I conducted an economic analysis and became fascinated with the field. As a result, I am now taking a course on ecological economics and another on environmental economics at UVM. I hope to live in Brazil for a few years sometime after graduation and visit my homestay family in Belem!

Did your experience with SIT in Brazil change or influence the way you look at the world?

My experience with SIT in Brazil was part of a life-changing experience studying abroad. In Brazil, I was not in my comfort zone, as opposed to the other Spanish-speaking countries I had visited, and this caused me to reflect a lot, particularly on my identity as an American. The experiential learning component of the program was also important; I learned that experiential learning is my preferred way of learning and that I want to continue the process beyond school.

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