Saturday, 3 September 2016

Climate Change and Thailand's amazing schoolgirl scientists

One Swallow doesn’t make a Summer (just as well as the swallows are bio-extinct according to the latest UK Biodiversity report, and the UK Summer officially ended this week), but Khun Sasiwinan Boonruang’s article “Linking to the World” was fascinating in detailing the Bahn Kiri Lom school in Prachuap province at the Border Patrol office on the Thai-Myanmar frontier.

The story of this Princess Sirindhorn ICT school was fascinating in the AIT internet support for 105 schoolchildren computers powered by the nearby waterfall. And solar lamps available to borrow in the evening for studying at home (or playing Pokemon) and then recharged in the morning.

It would be wrong of me not to also namecheck the Surin Village School Charity, funded by $30,000 worth of donations by the people of Ramsgate in East Kent, as also perfect for partnerships to build schools in and beyond Isaan.

While the prestigious 2016 World Water Prize in Sweden in being awarded to three secondary schoolgirls from Surat Thani is also awe-inspiring. Khuns Sureepath, Thidarat and Kanjira in inventing a Bromeliad device for 25THB (c.30 pence) that improved soil moisture by 17.65% and rubber tree yield by 57% is amazing Thailand STEM at its best.

The rubber industry may be in long-term decline with the ease of use and ubiquity of say Manchester’s graphene innovations (the latest permutation just this week allows graphene DNA to be used in bone transplants) but the Bromeliad – presumably in the shape of a Thai orchid, and Kent is the only one of 33 UK counties to have its own orchids - must be relevant for plantations and orchards beyond the Thailand’s South.

Especially with the crisis in the Isaan rubber industry and plantations, and use of chemicals reducing the flexibility of the product for tyremakers such as Michelin and Bridgestone – a key problem to resolve as part of the success of the Thai autoparts industry and future growth. The UK active this week on chemicals in cosmetic products by banning microbeads in shower gel and skin creams and hopefully Thailand plc will help on that issue too.

Thailand has a rich tradition of women scientists and entrepreneur eg Khun Atitaya Siripinyanond of Mahidol Chemistry dept or the numerous Loreal0Unesco scientists, and no doubt TRF or TDRI or universities such as Kasetsart or dynamic tech companies such as Panasonic will be plying the three amazing girls with grants and scholarships and future jobs.

In my MP role, here in the UK’s South East, to build better relations between UK and Thailand I hope that such exemplary STEM work would feature in the UK’s Chevening scholarships recently increased by 300%.

And I hope the girls would consider being Britain’s guests, and consider colleges such as Hadlow Agricultural College or Imperial College here in Kent and London. Or of course the new mega-laboratory, Europe’s largest, The Crick DNA Institute opened this week next to the HS1 hispeed railway station at St Pancras.

Britain’s farms and supermarkets though, not just swallows, are under attack from a lack of hedgerows and trees causing the collapse of bees and birds, and most UK farmers over the age of 65 and hotter Climate Change summers and colder Climate Change winters, with over 3,000 extra elderly deaths in Kent.

The Bedgebury National Pine centre for trees:

and Kew Gardens Seed Bank project to conserve 25% of the world’s plants by 2020 are key Climate Change actions in UK and Kent:

and the Farming industry one of the UK’s top 10 industries valued at $6BN could benefit from the expertise of Thailand’s three schoolgirl scientists.

And it was interesting to see that all 3 girls were kitted out in Thai silk and traditional dresses as PM Khun Prayut calls for greater support and promotion of the traditional Thai industries and culture. A wise call that Britain’s tailors and tweedmakers and retailers should have heeded in previous years.

Britain may have left behind the bowler hat as normal day wear – although the Peaky Blinders TV show and Dunkirk movie is causing a resurgence of the flat cap. England’s traditional costume though is now the Great British Football Shirt for match day or just down the pub.

And part of the Fast Fashion trend that the UK high street faces in competition from dynamic designers anywhere whether the cream of the Jatujak crop or Celtic fringe of designers from Eire to Wales to Brittany to Scotland.

One Swallow may not make a Summer, but Thailand’s amazing science schoolgirls might consider that at least an English Summer is still warmer than a Swedish Winter.

Tim Garbutt is Director of Sincerity Advertising and PR launching in Bangkok and ASEAN, and director of Surin Village Charity school, the first school built in Isaan. He failed his Chemistry GCSE.

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