Heylan Tsumagari: Globalization, Sustainability and Health

HeylanHeylan Tsumagari
Globalization, Sustainability and Health
Home College: Brooklyn
Faculty Mentor: Prof. Patricia Antoniello, Anthropology, Brooklyn

How did you develop your area of concentration?

I entered CUNY BA enlightened by cultural anthropology and seeking an education that promoted social equality; what I initially proposed was Globalization and Cultural Preservation. After venturing down some other sociocultural anthropology avenues, I was exposed to medical anthropology, where I truly started to comprehend the imperative nature of health in relation to equality. Here is where I wondered, “What can I study that would advocate for the fortification of individual agency through health?” What I’ve eventually come up with is Globalization, Sustainability, and Health. With a basis in medical anthropology, this concentration creates for the understanding of inequality on a global level by acknowledging the intersectionality not only on a provincial level but on the international one, the global push and pulls between developed and developing countries. Not only does it address global inequality and health disparities but it harbors the ability to search for the continuity and self-sufficiency in producing and strengthening individual agency.

Underlined with the goal to promote socio, economic and political equality through strengthening individual agency, my CUNY BA concentration is providing me with an education that outlines, diagnoses, and reflects on the reasons why inequality even exists. Not only is it informative on the structures of inequality but it also provides provocation for the creation for a new structure, a structure of equality.

Tell us about your courses.

Courses such as ‘The Politics of Reproduction’ and the ‘Anthropology of Health and Disease’ aid in understanding the axis of power that inherently controls one’s health and ultimately one’s agency. Courses such as ‘Development and Globalization’ and ‘Urban and Transnational Anthropology’ provide for greater comprehension of the social, economic, and political paths that globalization has taken and the consequences it has produced, such as extreme urbanization or environmental issues like pollution or resource exploitation.

A trip to India with Brooklyn College’s Professor Antoniello combines these two areas of concentration, focusing on changes in health and well-being of peoples in rural communities in the context of globalism. Academic efforts towards this notion of sustainability will be pioneered on two fronts: developing the tools for understanding systems of environmental sustainability and discussing the ways in which countries are approaching the idea of sustainable progress and development; the former will be sought after through the course ‘Urban Sustainability Program’ and the latter through a course entitled ‘Geography of Sustainable Development in Developing Countries’. My goal is to greater understand the linkage of these three over-arching topics, globalization, sustainability, and health, and to learn to execute ways in which that linkage can promote projects for equality through individual agency strengthening.

How are you pursuing your goals outside the classroom?

On matters of work outside of the classroom, I recently inquired about Brooklyn College’s greenhouse and came to find out about the aquaponic research that is being done there. So, for the past month, and for the rest of 2013 and into 2014, I’ve been and will continue to work with this small group of professors and students on figuring out the most successful way to execute aquaponic systems. Our experiments seek to find out if plants will grow better in total floatation beds or in meteorite beds filled with shale and water; which plant bases will be stronger? Will the meteorite bed create for more stable roots? Questions like these are of concern. We also are able to conduct our own research. Another student and I will be experimenting with the growth of medicinal plants, such as hyssop, tormentil, and motherwort. As it will be our first time growing these, we intend on comparing their growth rates in soil to their growth in the aquaponics system. This side-study correlates with my CUNY BA studies with regards to my understanding of sustainability. On the one hand, aquaponics, a soil-less and self-nourishing system, supports my efforts for environmental and ecological sustainability while on the other hand, growing medicinal plants aids in the idea of sustaining agency. I think that by individuals’ greater understanding of the usage of medicinal plants, individuals will know more and be generally more aware of the health of their own body, which will in turn cultivate the fortitude of their own agency. It is in this light that I also intend on conducting an independent study in ethnobotany with a focus in ethnomedicine.

Last summer I had the opportunity of working on a small organic farm near my hometown in Hillsdale, New York and participating in my hamlets community garden, Barrytown Community Garden. What I learned from these experiences were not only the skills to grow vegetables properly but also the insight of truly seeing the dichotomous complexity and simplicity of the beauty of nature and interconnectivity of growing your own food. With this energy I returned to Brooklyn.

I had just moved into a new building that this time had an unused, untouched for fifteen years backyard, and with permission, I cleaned it up and started a garden this past spring. With very little to no funds, I wasn’t able to build any raised beds or bring in topsoil, so I just worked with the tainted soil I had. In that light, the garden was an utmost success, producing beans, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, kale, scallions, and sunflowers! It was an exciting time for me and the building as a whole as I shared the small harvests with as many neighbors as I could. The downside to this garden was, as I previously mentioned, was the unhealthy soil and also the very minimal sunlight; sun only being able to nourish the garden for a maximum four hours a day. As this experience was a growing one, one to learn from, I humbly learned that the backyard isn’t the most suitable place for the building’s garden and this is why, with help from my roommates and participation from my neighbors, this coming spring we plan on building a roof top garden; one with raised beds, rainwater catching devices, and a composting system. With optimal sunlight, love and care, hopefully the plants can thrive to their utmost capacity and the yields will be larger for everyone to share. I am in utter anticipation of this garden, it’s exciting and exhilarating, and I keep finding myself mentally mapping out the layout of the grow beds because I am so absolutely thrilled.

What are your plans after receiving your degree?

Having been fortunate to have had the opportunities to travel a bit growing up, I’ve come to realize the imperativeness of global exposure and its necessity to trying to understand humanity. As an advocate for experiential knowledge, directly after my undergraduate studies I intend on taking a gap year to travel; to see a bit more the world that I live in and share with and be enlightened by countries from Mongolia to Mozambique, all the way to Papua New Guinea. After this gap year is when I intend on returning back to university to pursue two separate master’s degrees.

First, I will return to New York, to CUNY, and study for a master’s in medical anthropology with a concentration in the health inequalities that our country still subjects to the Native North Americans. Hopefully I will be able to work with the existing efforts of agriculture revitalization that is occurring on reservations but also advocate for individual agency through traditional medicine and the growth of the plants. After this first master’s I will continue my studies and pursue another one at the United Nations University in Tokyo, Japan to study ‘Sustainability, Development, and Peace’. This is a global university with a program that seeks to address issues surrounding human rights, sustainability, peace-building, and climate change. Bringing along with me my unique anthropological knowledge and perspectives as well as my global exposure, my hopes are then to work with the United Nations in striving for equality by promoting global access to healthcare.