Wednesday, 2 April 2008« What You Can do for Water Infrastructure | Main | Strong Transportation Infrastructure Equals a Strong Economy »
Last month, one of my roommates introduced me to a story that they thought I might enjoy, because it profiled - what else - but infrastructure! Initially, I put the book aside, however I finally opened it up and was quickly drawn into the world of one American who has single handedly built schools in the most remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The book, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, profiles the remarkable work of Mr. Mortenson, who has endured a multitude of obstacles and life-threatening situations in order to build 55 schools and counting in a place in the world where the most basic pieces of infrastructure are nonexistent.
Mr. Mortenson’s quest began after his failed 1992 attempt to climb K2 in the Karakoram Range of northern Pakistan. On his way back down the mountain, he stumbled upon an improvised village, which took him in and nursed him back to health. While in the village he discovered that the locals were forced to sit outside with no school building or teacher and scratch their lessons into the dirt with sticks. By time he left the village his mission was clear, and he has spent the past 16 years dedicating his life toward building safe and secure schools, bridges, and water filtration systems in the region.
To me, the book shined a light on two very crucial things. First, that one of the most significant and cost effective ways to combat Islamic extremism in the region is not through bombs, but books. The other lesson learned is that the infrastructure crisis is a struggle which must be fought at home and abroad. The 2005 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure graded American school facilities at a “D”, which in the house that I grew up in, is completely unacceptable. It is estimated that somewhere between $127 billion to $268 billion dollars would be needed in order to bring them into what is considered good condition, numbers which are hard to even fathom! However, in relation to so many other countries around the world, these buildings, even in their very poor condition, which we send our children to, are a cut above for the simple fact that the actual structures exist.
Luckily, men like Greg Mortenson and his foundation, the Central Asia Institute , do not need to work alone. Crumbling schools and bridges is not an issue that America faces alone, but something that can be witnessed in even the most remote regions of the globe. Any one person or group can sign up for Engineers Without Borders and pitch in to allay some of the pain caused by this international infrastructure crisis! Maybe you could even form the first group with a project in Pakistan!
By Caroline M.