Course Title and Listings (6 semester credits combined)
ENST 427: Society, Economy and Environment of the Mekong Delta (3 credits)
This course is cross-listed as:
NRSM 427: Society, Economy and Environment of the Mekong Delta
GPHY 427: Society, Economy and Environment of the Mekong Delta
ENST 437: Climate Change Effects and Adaptation in the Mekong Delta (3 credits)
This course is cross-listed as:
NRSM 437: Climate Change Effects and Adaptation in the Mekong Delta
GPHY 437: Climate Change Effects and Adaptation in the Mekong Delta
Professor Nicky Phear, Climate Change Studies. Several professors from Can Tho University will also provide major contributions to the program, as indicated in the itinerary.
Course Description and Learning Objectives
This course integrates two, three-credit courses: Society, Economy and Environment in the Mekong Delta and Climate Change Effects and Adaptation in the Mekong Delta. Together, these courses make the six-credit Vietnam study abroad program. The goal of the program is to use the Mekong Delta case to explore the potential social, economic and environmental impacts of climate change in a tropical, developing country context. Adaptation strategies and mitigation opportunities will be emphasized, and comparisons will be made with the North American context.
Vietnam is an amazing country with welcoming people, a fascinating history and culture, warm tropical climate, and diverse, but threatened, ecosystems and their associated flora and fauna. The program will be based out of the city of Can Tho in the Mekong Delta, but include time in Ho Chi Minh City and two weeks in the field visiting small and large scale agriculture and aquaculture farming communities, wetlands, forests, Can Tho University agricultural and mangrove management field experiment stations, and cultural sites (e.g. temples and a traditional village). Field activities will include investigative learning through conversing with local people and performing field research in Tram Chim National Park and mangrove forests in Ca Mau Province. The program also includes a home stay with families in Can Tho.
ENST 427 Society, Economy and Environment of the Mekong Delta focuses on the history, culture, economy and environment of Vietnam, with particular emphasis on the Mekong Delta region. This is achieved through lectures from local professors at Can Tho University, active participation in field trips, the home stay, course readings, and synthesis through questions sets and discussions provided by University of Montana instructor. The goal of this half of the Vietnam study abroad program is to provide an understanding of the unique environments and the socio-economy of the Mekong Delta region to facilitate learning about the effects of climate change on these complex natural and anthropogenic systems.
Expected student learning outcomes include:
Understanding the historical climate and distribution and ecological diversity of natural ecosystems in the Mekong Delta;
Developing an understanding of the ecology and ecosystem services provided by large floodplain rivers, like the Mekong River, and mangrove ecosystems in the Mekong Delta;
Developing an understanding of the historical and contemporary political and socio-economic contexts in which the Mekong River and Delta in Vietnam have been managed.
Understanding the current land uses, including land management practices in the Mekong Delta;
Understanding the condition and causes of the current state of health of natural ecosystems in the Mekong Delta;
Developing an appreciation of the socio-economic condition and common livelihood activities of people living in the Delta, including agriculture and aquaculture development and management practices;
Understanding the growing importance of tourism for local livelihoods and the economy of the Mekong Delta;
Developing an understanding of the perceptions and attitudes that local people have about their environment, including climate change impacts, and possible adaptation strategies;
Understanding the historical and contemporary anthropogenic impacts on the Mekong Delta and how the Mekong River and the Delta’s ecosystems affect peoples’ lives; and,
Recognizing complexities in Mekong Delta management due to the river catchment spanning Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and China.
ENST 437 Climate Change Effects and Adaptation in the Mekong Delta focuses on the threats posed by climate change in Vietnam, with particular emphasis on the Mekong Delta region. This is achieved through lectures from Can Tho University professors, active participation in field trips, the homestay, course readings, and synthesis through questions sets and discussions provided by University of Montana instructor. The goal of this half of the Vietnam study abroad program is to provide an understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on the ecosystems and people of the Mekong Delta, and explore opportunities for people to adapt to and mitigate these impacts.
Expected student learning outcomes include:
Becoming familiar with future climate scenarios for Vietnam, particularly the Mekong Delta region;
Understanding the scale and severity of potential ecological and socio-economic impacts of climate change in the Mekong Delta;
Understanding the Vietnamese government position on climate change. What climate change-related policies are in place and how is the government addressing the problem?;
Understanding the level of knowledge, interest and concern that the people of Vietnam have about climate change and their ideas about potential mitigation and adaptation strategies;
Developing an understanding of the technical feasibility and economic efficiency of potential adaptation and mitigation strategies to protect ecological health, livelihoods and infrastructure in Vietnam; and,
Developing an appreciation of the similarities and differences in climate change impacts, government policies, and potential adaptation and mitigation opportunities between Vietnam and North America.
There are no prerequisites, but eligible students must be accepted by the University of Montana and be in good academic standing at their home institution.
Compulsory pre-departure meetings
Students are required to attend two compulsory two-hour pre-trip meetings, one in November and another in December, for an introduction to the program and to discuss preparations for the trip.
Required and Recommended Readings (available via Moodle by December 8)
Required pre-departure course readings (download onto your computer to take with you) Required Texts:
Vietnam: Rising Dragon. (2011) by B. Hayton. (New Haven & London: Yale University Press); ISBN: 9780300152036 (paper).
Vietnam: A Natural History. (2006) E.J. Sterling, M.M Hurley, and Le Duc Minh. (New Haven & London: Yale University Press); ISBN: 9780300126938 (paper).
Read or Watch before arriving in Vietnam:
Vietnam Study Abroad Manual.
State Department Background Notes on Vietnam.
Lonely Planet Vietnam Travel Guide (not the Hanoi and Halong Bay travel guide). Provides an introduction to the history and culture of the country, along with travel tips.
Waibel, M. (2008). Implications and challenges of climate change for Vietnam. Pacific News. Nr. 29, January/February. 2 pages.
CARE International in Vietnam: Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation: A Practitioner’s Handbook (skim)
Watch this: A very good short half-hour lecture about the ethics of climate change by Peter Singer, 2010: http://blip.tv/slowtv/the-ethics-of-climate-change-peter-singer-tim-soutphommasane-p1-3843905. And a 3 minute video, The faces of climate change: Vietnam.
Economist. (2010). Adapting to climate change: Facing the consequences. Nov. 25. Print Edition.
Calculate your carbon footprint for this trip, and compare your yearly carbon footprint to that of the average Vietnamese. Here is one potential site for calculating your carbon footprint: http://www.clearskyclimatesolutions.com/calculator.html, which comes from the Missoula-based organization, ClearSky Climate Solutions.
Readings for Dec 27 to Dec 31, 2014:
“Introduction to Vietnam” in Vietnam: A Natural History. (2006) E.J. Sterling, M.M Hurley, and Le Duc Minh. (New Haven & London: Yale University Press), 1-21.
“Humans and the Environment” in Vietnam: A Natural History. (2006) E.J. Sterling, M.M Hurley, and Le Duc Minh. (New Haven & London: Yale University Press), 23-43.
Be, N.V. Lecture 2: Mangrove Management in the Mekong Delta. PowerPoint presentation given to UM Vietnam Wintersession class, January, 2011.
Be, N.V. Lecture 3: Mangrove and Shrimp Farming Systems. PowerPoint presentation given to UM Vietnam Wintersession class, January, 2011.
Be, N.V. Lecture 4: Shrimp farming in Coastal Zone in the Mekong Delta. PowerPoint presentation given to UM Vietnam Wintersession class, January, 2011.
Readings for Jan 1 – 8, 2015 in Can Tho
“Biogeography of Vietnam” in Vietnam: A Natural History. (2006) E.J. Sterling, M.M Hurley, and Le Duc Minh. (New Haven & London: Yale University Press), 45-69.
“Southern Vietnam: Ascendancy of the Mekong” in Vietnam: A Natural History. (2006) E.J. Sterling, M.M Hurley, and Le Duc Minh. (New Haven & London: Yale University Press), 261-313.
Bich, L.D. An Introduction to The Rural Culture of Southern Vietnam.
Bich, L.D. Communication and Culture Forming.
Mong, A. (2007). A farmer’s son tried to save the Mekong Delta. World Blog.
Ninh, L.K. Climate Change in the Mekong River Delta. PowerPoint presentation given to UM Vietnam Wintersession class, January, 2011.
Ni, D.V.. The Mekong Delta of Vietnam: Development and Environment. PowerPoint presentation given to UM Vietnam Wintersession class, January, 2011.
Sanh, N. V. Sustainable Development and Issues of Climate Change to the Mekong Delta. PowerPoint presentation given by Dr. Chiem to UM Vietnam Wintersession class, January, 2011.
Readings for Jan 9 - 12, 2015: Field Trip to Soc Trang, Bac Lieu, Ca Mau, U Minh Thuong
Field Trip Background Information on Soc Trang, Bac Lieu, Ca Mau, Va Kien Giang.
“Threats to Vietnam’s Biodiversity” in Vietnam: A Natural History. (2006) E.J. Sterling, M.M Hurley, and Le Duc Minh. (New Haven & London: Yale University Press), 315-347.
Adger, W.N. (1999). ‘Social vulnerability to climate change and extremes in coastal Vietnam’, World Development, 27(2): 249-269.
Kelly, P.M. and Adger, W.N. (2000). ‘Theory and practice in assessing vulnerability to climate change and facilitating adaptation’, Climatic Change, 47(4): 325-352. An application to coastal Vietnam.
Safford, R.J. et al. (1988) “Melaleuca Wetlands and Sustainable Development in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam.” In The Wetlands Handbook, E. Maltby and T Barker, eds.
Readings for Jan 13 - 17, 2015: Can Tho, Field Trip to An Giang Province & Tram Chim
“Conservation: The Future of Vietnam’s Living World” in Vietnam: A Natural History. (2006) E.J. Sterling, M.M Hurley, and Le Duc Minh. (New Haven & London: Yale University Press), 349-377.
Van Ni, et al. (2007). Integrated water and fire management strategy for Tram Chim National Park, Vietnam. Mekong Wetlands Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use Programme.
Nga, T.T., Tram Chim Water Management lecture. PowerPoint presentation given to UM Vietnam Wintersession class, January, 2011.
Nga, T.T. Wetland Lecture Intro. PowerPoint presentation given to UM Vietnam Wintersession class, January, 2011.
Do, T.N. and Bennett, J. (2009). ‘Estimating wetland biodiversity values: a choice modeling application in Vietnam’s Mekong River Delta’, Environment and Development Economics, 14(2): 163-186.
Erwin, K.L. (2009). ‘Wetlands and global climate change: the role of wetland restoration in a changing world’, Wetlands Ecology and Management, 17(1): 71-84. The Mekong Delta features in this paper.
Additional Recommended Readings:
Speech by H.E. Mr. Cao Duc Phat, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Head of Viet Nam’s Delegation at the Joint High-Level Segment of the United Nations Climate Change, 10 December 2010. 2 pages.
The Copenhagen Diagnosis. (2009). Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science. I. Allison, N.L. Bindoff, R.A. Bindschadler, P.M. Cox, N. de Noblet, M.H. England, J.E. Francis, N. Gruber, A.M. Haywood, D.J. Karoly, G. Kaser, C. Le Quéré, T.M. Lenton, M.E. Mann, B.I. McNeil, A.J. Pitman, S. Rahmstorf, E. Rignot, H.J. Schellnhuber, S.H. Schneider, S.C. Sherwood, R.C.J. Somerville, K. Steffen, E.J. Steig, M. Visbeck, A.J. Weaver. The University of New South Wales. 64 pages.
Parry, M.L., Canziani, O.F., Palutikof, J.P., van der Linden, P.J and Hansen, C.E. (eds) (2007), Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Read a) Chapter 6: Coastal Systems and Low Lying Areas (pp. 317-345) and b) Chapter 10: Asia (pp. 471-497).
SEAT Program at Can Tho University.
White, I. (2002). Water management in the Mekong: Changes, conflicts & opportunities. International Hydrological Programme. UNESCO, Paris. pp. 5-24.
Dasgupta, S., Laplante, B., Meisner, C., Wheeler, D. and Yan, J. (2009). The impact of sea level rise on developing countries: a comparative analysis, Climatic Change, 93(3-4): 379-388. Especially the section on East Asia, where Vietnam gets special treatment.
Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. (2008). National target program to respond to climate change. 111 pages.
Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. (2003). Viet Nam Initial National Communication: Under the United Nations framework Convention on Climate Change. 135 pages.
Race to the Bottom: Burma and Vietnam head in opposite directions on human rights. http://www.hrw.org/print/news/2012/11/07/race-bottom-burma-and-vietnam-head-opposite-directions-human-rights.
The Conservation of Key Wetland Sites in the Mekong Delta. BirdLife International report.
European Union provides over 6 million USD to tackle climate change in the Mekong Delta. http://www.mrcmekong.org/news-and-events/news/the-european-union-provides-over-6-million-usd-to-tackle-climate-change-in-the-mekong/.
Wetlands Management in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta: An Overview of the Pressures and Responses. By Magnus Torell and Albert M. Salamanca.
David Wheeler. Quantifying Vulnerability to Climate Change: Implications for Adaptations Assistance. Center for Global Development Working Paper 240, January 2011.
Readings: Course readings can be accessed via the links provided above and will be available electronically through Moodle by December 8, 2014. Please download these readings onto your computer and print any for which you would like hardcopies. Please contact Nicky with any questions or difficulties downloading or printing the readings. Make sure you do the required pre-departure readings before arriving in Ho Chi Minh City.
Each student should read the book Vietnam: Rising Dragon, by Bill Hayton (2011) prior to arriving in Vietnam. Students will write a critical response paper to the Hayton text as one of the first course assignments (due Dec. 31), and we will have the opportunity to discuss the book together upon arrival in Vietnam. Please bring with you to Vietnam, the other required text, Vietnam: A Natural History. Other recommended titles include:
When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, by Le Ly Hayslip (1990)
The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam, by Bao Ninh (1996)
Understanding Vietnam, by Neil L. Jamieson (1995)
Vietnam: A History, by Stanley Karnow (1997)
The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien (2009)
Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, by Karl Marlantes (2011)
Required post-trip activities
Students and the University of Montana instructors will meet early in Spring semester for a two-hour de-brief and final synthesis of the program.
While we are in Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City we will have access to hotel wireless internet connection and internet cafes. This level of access should be sufficient for keeping in touch with friends and family via email, as well as submitting your written work to Prof. Phear via email. You are strongly encouraged to bring along a laptop computer if you do have access to one, as we will do this class as a paperless course. Please always keep your laptop with you in your carry-on luggage while travelling, and be sure to bring a power adapter.
The following table outlines the assessment for the program. There are six assessment items (including four response essays). Because of the complementary nature of the two courses that together make up the Vietnam study abroad program, these assessment items cover both ENST 491 Society, Economy and Environment of the Mekong Delta and ENST 491 Climate Change Effects and Adaptation in the Mekong Delta
% course grade
Critical Review of Vietnam: Rising Dragon with focus on history, economy & political structure of Vietnam
Impact of climate change on Vietnam’s coastal and low-lying areas
Livelihoods and Climate Change. Choose one of the following three topics:
Blog post: one required, due on a rotating schedule during the course, TBA
Variable due dates
Journal including speaker responses
Each response essay will require students to answer a series of questions drawing from lecture notes, readings, and field experiences. There is a 700-800 word limit for each essay. References including personal communications (e.g. from professors and local people) and information available from field trips are encouraged, as well as the readings on reserve. These should be cited within the paper in the author-date style and listed in a references section at the end of the essay. References are in addition to the 700-800 word limit. Papers should be emailed to the instructor by the due dates listed below.
1) Critical Review of Vietnam: Rising Dragon with focus on history, economy & political structure of Vietnam. Discuss important historic influences, current domestic and international issues concerning Vietnam, political and economic structure, and important cultural customs and practices drawing on information in Vietnam: Rising Dragon.
2) Climate change impacts on Vietnam’s coastal and low-lying areas. Detail current sensitivity and vulnerability, future trends in terms of impacts and vulnerabilities, and adaptation and mitigation options.
3) Livelihoods and climate change. Choose one of the following three topics:
Agriculture and aquaculture livelihoods. Choose one agriculture or aquaculture livelihood in the Mekong Delta: describe the land use practice and the predominant environmental and economic sustainability issues; discuss also the potential impact of climate change and one potential adaptation strategy.
Tourism in Vietnam. Discuss the importance of tourism for local livelihoods and the economy of the Mekong Delta; describe at least one important tourism site and the potential climate change impact on this site.
Mangrove ecology and fishing communities. Describe the ecology and ecosystem services of the mangroves ecosystems, discuss current conditions resulting from anthropogenic change to the Delta, compare farming systems that do and do not integrate mangrove management, and explain one implications of climate change.
4)Responding to climate change. Drawing on course learning: What are the key impacts and vulnerabilities facing Vietnam? What is your sense for local understanding and perception of climate change impacts? What options does the country have for mitigating and adapting to climate change? What role and responsibility does the USA have and the world at large?
Students will each write one, 500-600 word weblog entry on a particular topic of interest that you expect will emerge from our experiences and course learning. By Friday, December 13, you will need to send Dan a list of two to three possible topics you may want to cover. These blog posts will be edited and posted on a blog site. Check out student blog posts from the past three classes at http://umvietnamstudy.wordpress.com/ to get ideas for topics. More detailed instructions and guidelines for blog writing will be provided separately.
Journal and Speaker Responses
Students are expected to keep a personal journal with daily entries chronicling experiences and observations and interactions with guest speakers. Guidelines for writing journal entries will be provided separately. You also will need to write a brief ‘speaker response’following each formal presentation expressing 1) briefly summarizing what was new and interesting to you about the presentation, 2) what (if any) was the speaker’s perspective on climate change or sustainable development, and 3) what insights you gained and any questions you still have on the topic presented. Do not fall behind on your journal entries and speaker responses! They are due by email to Nicky by 5:00 pm Sunday January 18th.
Active participation in all scheduled program–related activities is required, including group meetings, discussions, field excursions, as well as lectures and any other scheduled activities. Your participation grade will be based on both your academic and experiential participation. I expect active engagement in class discussions, with course speakers and academic activities. I also expect you to participate in the necessary practical aspects of the course, including respect for local customs and culture, safety consciousness, following directions, and timeliness. Please be conscious of being open to new perspectives and aware of judgments we carry from the USA.
Attendance and lateness policy
During the field studies, no student is to leave the group without the consent of a University of Montana instructor, and punctual attendance at all field and on-campus meetings is required. Unless an absence is approved by one of the instructors, students will lose 10% of their final grade for each day or part-day they fail to participate. Any unexcused absences or continued late arrivalto program activities may, at the discretion of University of Montana instructors, be grounds for dismissal from the program.
Permission must be obtained in advance to turn in any assignment late. A standard policy of subtracting 10% per day late (or part of day late) is fair to everyone (students, instructors, and administration).
Some things to consider when preparing for the trip: Climate
This trip is taking place during Vietnamese dry season (some locals refer to this period as “winter”); the most comfortable time of year for outdoor activities in the Mekong Delta. The average daily minimum and maximum temperatures in Can Tho in January are 22ºC (72ºF) and 28ºC (82ºF), respectively. The average daily humidity in January is 71% and average monthly precipitation is about two inches (compared to 89% and 19 inches in August!). Nevertheless, accept that you are probably going to be hot and sticky whenever you are moving around outside. Drink plenty of water. These conditions also make it important to bathe regularly and not to let dirty clothes accumulate in piles. Keep ahead of your laundry pile by washing clothes regularly and hang dirty clothes to air out if you are not washing them right away, or use the laundry services at the Guesthouse.
Medication and immunization
Visit your doctor, the Curry Health Center, or the Missoula County Health Clinic to find out what vaccinations you may require before travelling to Vietnam, and medication to prevent contracting malaria (such as Malarone) and for treating an upset stomach (such as Azithromycin). You should seriously consider being immunized against typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningitis, Japanese encephalitis, tetanus and polio.
In general, Vietnam has a conservative dress code. Dress code laws do not appear to be strictly enforced in Vietnam, but regulations governing Vietnam’s historic sites and tourist attractions state that, “Entry is forbidden to tourists wearing sleeveless shirts or shorts”. At universities and cultural sites and other tourist attractions, plan to wear long pants or longer skirts or dresses. Long or short-sleeve shirts are acceptable. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are not acceptable. Dirty clothes are not acceptable.
When getting around Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho in your free time, shorts will generally be acceptable, but consider where you plan to go and dress appropriately. Clothing that exposes the belly button and shoulders are not appropriate anywhere.
For our field trips, long pants are recommended for men and women, but shorts will be acceptable in many cases (check with the Can Tho University professors leading field trips). Long or short-sleeved shirts will be acceptable. Your clothes will get dirty in the field and this will be acceptable in rural areas
In Can Tho, all students will enjoy a homestay experience for a few days with a local family. Although we will be busy with other learning activities during your home stay, this experience will help you to appreciate life and culture in Vietnam, and hopefully discover some things about yourself. You will find your hosts to be friendly and open with you, but remember that to make the most of your experience you will need to reciprocate and spend time with your family. You will be expected to behave as a self-supporting adult member of the household. Be aware of and sensitive to how your presence can contribute positively and negatively to the family. More information about the homestay will be provided at a pre-departure meeting and in Vietnam.
at least one liter of water (Avoid drinking tap water. We will be buying bottled water);
field notebook, pencils/pens and a map of the Mekong Delta to get you oriented (you can obtain from bookstores in Can Tho);
hat, sunglasses and sunscreen;
insect repellant (consider wearing light-colored, light-weight long sleeve shirts and long pants if you are particularly concerned about insect bites);
rain gear and a dry shirt;
snacks to eat in between meals provided if you think you will need them;
any medication or medical supplies you might require; toilet paper and hand wipes;
binoculars and camera (optional).
All academic work must meet standards of academic honesty (as described in the Student Handbook). Each student is responsible for informing themselves about those standards before performing any academic work. Academic dishonesty is not just copying the work of others, but also includes such behaviors as tolerating the academic dishonesty of others or giving false reasons for failure to take a test.
Your signature on any exam or name printed on any assignment indicates your acceptance of the following policy: “I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this exam or assignment.” Please give due credit to other people’s ideas by referencing or quoting the source.
Any student with a disability who needs an accommodation or other assistance in this course must contact the instructor at least four weeks before the program begins. After that time, we cannot guarantee that such needs can be accommodated. Some activities involve moderate exercise, such as hiking and swimming and participation is voluntary for all students. If you are a vegetarian, please let the instructor know and we will do our best to accommodate you in meals and let your family know for home-stays. Note: it is not always possible to have a vegetarian option in some situations, such as when we are being hosted by a rural family. The course instructor will try to let you know when this may be the case. It will be helpful for you to carry some snacks or other foods you can eat in these circumstances.
All students must be familiar with the general conduct regulations described in the Student Handbook. Below are other program-specific conduct regulations to which students must adhere. Failure to obey these policies may result in dismissal from the program, at the discretion of the Program Director.
Student Conduct in Accommodation: Our program depends on goodwill between us and accommodation owners and managers, including homestay families. If we have any issues with unpleasant or noisy conduct in the accommodations, it creates problems when we attempt to book for the students in the NEXT program. Thus, for the sake of the students that follow you, improper conduct in the accommodations that disturb other guests or the staff or cause damage are not acceptable and can be grounds for dismissal from the program.
Conduct in the Field: Students must follow the instructions of staff exactly and promptly when in the field. This is a serious safety issue when we are doing outdoor activities in particular. Failure to follow instructions that incur actual or likely physical harm to self or others, or result in time wasted by the staff or other students may, at the discretion of the Program Director, be grounds for dismissal from the program.