Lesson 4: It’s a small world, after all

Panda in a zoo

Pandas and People book cover

Read more in Pandas and People:

Chapter 17 -  Human-Nature Interactions over Distances

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


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). 

Those seemingly simple transactions of furry creatures and good will in fact open a door of interactions, reactions, spillover effects and more. Pandas mean jobs – from the keepers and veterinarians to those who grow and deliver their mountains of bamboo, to the people who broker and manage the loans and market their appearances. Pandas move merchandise that is manufactured, delivered and sold. Guests travel nationally and internationally to visit these imported celebrities. Money changes hands over and over all over the world.

So imagine what it means when a major earthquake hits “remote” Wolong, as it did in 2008. The shake felt ‘round the world.

That’s just one example of telecoupling, which refers to socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances. The award-winning telecoupling framework is more comprehensive than traditional approaches that usually address environmental or socioeconomic issues separately, or focus on what’s happening within an area. 

The telecoupling framework is being applied to issues all over the world – from trading of goods and products such as food and energy to water transfer to species invasion. This new way of better understanding the world – and thus being able to make better policy decisions – essentially was born in Wolong.

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