President Underwood of the University of Guam was courteous enough to meet with our group. The ability to find a member of the Trojan family (President Underwood graduated from the School of Education) in the middle of the Pacific definitely says a lot. We spoke about the specific environmental challenges in Micronesia, and Guam’s role as a leader for the other islands. Many of the environmental leaders in Micronesia were actually educated at UoG, which speaks bounds about the importance of a university in the middle of one of the most biologically diverse areas of the world. UoG works mainly as a research institute, with a graduate program in Environmental Studies, and a marine laboratory on campus. The work that is done there is then used in conservation and management efforts by other entities.
The students of UoG are encouraged to think about the importance of biodiversity, especially in the light of the impending military build-up of Guam, which is expected to increase the population of Guam by an additional 80,000 people, 80 percent of whom will be temporary workers. Guam has already reached a population of 200,000, putting a strain on their limited freshwater resources.
With a large amount of sunshine every year, Guam has prime potential to utilize solar energy, yet President Underwood remains frustrated at the opinions of outsiders and corporations, who believe in “passing on knowledge” to the island residents. Rather than employing the strategies of mainland successes or completely buying into the technology of a corporation, President Underwood stressed the importance of an island-specific strategy towards sustainability — a concept we have become familiar with after many days at the Wrigley Center on Catalina Island. President Underwood definitely left us with a lot to think about in terms of sustainability, and whether any strategy constitutes as “right” or “wrong.”