Northwood University

The Northwood University Study Abroad Blog


Sustainability and Destruction In South East Asia

South East Asia has been truly amazing! The past couple of weeks I have experienced different cultures, religions, people, food, business styles and so much more. This trip to SE Asia has taught me more than any text book ever could. Northwood has really homed in on sustainability and stressed the importance of continuously making decisions sustainable for business and the environment. My experiences and observations during the trip have left me in awe as I first handedly witnessed many times acts of both sustainability and destruction. Probably the most fascinating acts of sustainability were being carried out by the everyday person in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. All day, I would see people with very little being the ones who are utilizing every resource they have more efficiently than any business I have seen. For example, I saw people in Thailand using broken buckets as dust pans. It seems like an overly simple example, but if a bucket was to have broke in the United States it would have more than likely been thrown away thus, adding to the oversized wastes dumps that pollute the earth. Not only did the Thai people save money, but they also prevented less waste in the process. TKT, a company we visited in Thailand showed us their manufacturing plant and how they managed it. I was amazed how well it was managed and how they as well were focusing on sustainability to reduce their overhead costs. When one of their line workers was unable to work for that day or whatever amount of time, then another worker would replace that worker for the time needed. Nothing new right? Well, when there is a new worker on a line in which they are unfamiliar with then the worker will be less efficient by wasting time, raw resources, and capital. I know this because I have worker production for a company, and I have made mistakes thus, costing the company money. What this company did that fascinated me was how they offset that liability of having a new worker on a line. The managers used preventive methods to accomplish the goal of reducing their overhead costs, which needed to be lowered, because of the economic times. The managers simply just monitored that individual employee to solve the problem. By spending a little more time looking over the employee to ensure that he or she knows what they are doing and that all is well is a great example of sustainability. Through attentive management, less raw resources were wasted, more was being produced, and fewer resources were disposed of at the dump sites. This preventive management style has created a win win for the company, consumers, and the environment.
Unfortunately, I believe that there were more examples of destructions and waste than of sustainability. In Bangkok, we traveled through the downtown area on a river. The water was so incredible polluted that it changed the color of the walls on the canals, and the odor was awful. I could not understand how come the people could and would want to live like this. They were destroying one of their major water supplies and poisoning all the resources in the river like the fish that they eat. The lack environmental responsibility was clearly seen and smelt. The more that they would pollute it, the more it would cost to clean the water. I came to realize the reasons behind the destruction that was being inflicted on the people and the environment once we traveled to Vietnam. Vietnam is a communist’s country that just ten years ago, the people had nothing. The government provided them with everything. They all had to wear the same clothes, go to the same government stores to buy bicycle tires or food, and there was no currency. When the government ran out of food or bicycle tires they would starve or walk for many miles to get where the government wanted them to be. Now the Vietnamese government has allowed the people to start opening shops and being able to own things. From my observations, I would say that Vietnam could be hurting a lot within the next following years, because the cities are growing way to fast. The telephone wires and electricity wires are so poorly constructed. They are in knots, incredible tangled up, and in some places people can actually hit their heads on them. If a car were to hit an electricity post in Ho Chi Minh City, the whole city with a population somewhere near 8 million would lose all power for weeks or possibly longer. The government is only operating in the short run to attempt to keep up with growth. As we know from history, a lot of problems will occur in the long run. The consensus that I have reached is that the people are the ones who generally maintain a path toward sustainability, because they are the ones who suffer the consequences or experience the myriad benefits of maintain their environment. The government is not subject to such things, because it has no feelings, feels no pain, and does not care for the people who give it everything. In support of my previous statement, the Vietnamese king at the year 1070 built the first University in Vietnam called the Temple of Literature. He did not build the University for the people; rather he built it just for his son. His son cared nothing for attending the University. All he wanted to do was to drink, party, and gamble. After that, the king finally decided to open up the University to the brightness people that were to compete against each other only to serve for the king.