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Perhaps the most revelatory lesson from pandas and people is that the lessons hold even without pandas.

The truths learned from 20 years in Wolong resonate in other parts of the world, even if the particulars are different. Consider Nepal: Benign pandas inspire adoration, while Nepal’s tigers have their own fans, but with an element of fear.  Pandas, after all, eat only bamboo. Tigers, on occasion, attack people.

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Words that describe the Wolong Nature Reserve:  Remote. Rural. Rustic.

Global.

Yep. Global works. Understanding how the flora and fauna in Wolong coexists with the people who live there offers a model with how that web of connection spans the globe.

In today’s world of hyper connectivity, “remote” isn’t so much anymore. Let’s talk about the pandas themselves: Between 2004 and 2010 alone, 63 Wolong pandas have been loaned to zoos in China and throughout the globe (you can see them in Washington, DC, and San Diego, CA). 

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Elegant policy carefully informed by good interdisciplinary science sounds like a dream ending, right?

Think again.

Wolong has taught us even successful policy really is just a lovely introduction to a new chapter of a coupled human and natural system. The real test comes in sticking with that situation to carefully monitor and continuing the research. It needs to be just the beginning of holistic relationship. 

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Understanding coupled human and natural systems is key to sustainability – and holds the promise of recovery – from natural disasters like earthquakes to the ecological affronts of mismanagement and exploitation.

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Feb. 4, 2013

Hot-button issues such as climate change, wildlife conservation and restoring decimated rainforests are renowned scientific playgrounds.

The biological/ecological scientists for years have been in the front row – agronomists, biologists, hydrologist, climatologists, ecologists have weighed in with heavy equipment and heavy data from GPS and satellite imaging.

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