Are we world citizens?

Barbados Nation
October 4, 2000

“HAS the Golden Age arrived in science and technology when we can say we’re citizens of the world”? This was the provocative question raised by Guyanese-born Professor Frank Dale Morgan, who is associate director of the Earth Resources Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“Caribbean people need to raise a big red flag to the world about their science and technology research, to let people know you’re powerful, that our region is more than just a field laboratory for the outside world.”

Morgan expressed these views in his public lecture at UWI Cave Hill on Thursday night, which critically explored the relationships and perceptions between countries in the region, the three campuses, and the universities, industry and governments.

He praised the “quality of your education as second to none” but said that we “need to stop weighing down the young people [with too much learning by rote] and get them excited about science and technology”.

In examining his topic Caribbean Science, From The Outside Looking In and The Inside Looking Out, the professor said that students in commonwealth countries, in his experience were overwhelmed with absorbing ever more “input but not being creative about output”.

He urged the Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaican campuses of the University of the West Indies to be more proactive in “equal partnerships” with MIT and other top universities outside of the region to further education and research in the sciences.

Morgan, who did his first two degrees at the St. Augustine, Trinidad UWI, also expressed concern that “there are signs of de-regionalisation among the campuses”.

He noted that “the three big islands” exhibited much the same arrogance towards “lesser developed islands” (LDIs) that the developed countries displayed towards the region as a whole.

“Foreign students do a lot of work to help LDIs during the summer, I don’t see the UWI people doing the same.”

He called for the establishment of “a global web site of Caribbean Science and Technology. . . . Don’t say things are already changing and do nothing. Don’t get pulled along, make a boat with a rudder, be proactive”.

Morgan challenged the audience saying that globalisation was happening at a rapid rate.

“The world has changed. There are no boundaries. People are grabbing, buying technologies. Anyone with a good e-business idea can get funding tomorrow.”

He advised UWI students, lecturers and researchers “Don’t put that wall up around you, globalise for sustainable development. Think globally, regionally, not locally. It is not a good thing but some UWI people pride themselves on their isolation.”

Saying that there was “too much fragmentation” amongst the islands, he called for “all the small conferences on science and technology to be combined into a really big one every two or three years.”

Most of Morgan’s projects outside of the United States are conducted in the Caribbean, including the underground mapping of Harrison’s Cave for existing cave display areas and still unutilised caves which can be opened in the future.

A female student from Harrison College who was in the audience, and who wishes to study astro physics, said “Young people feel that you have to go abroad to fully take part in science and technology.”

But she agreed that this was important to our development “since our people are our best resource.”

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