Jean Elaine BURNS STUCK
Fellow Since 2000
Guardianes de los Volcanes
This profile was prepared when Jean Elaine Burns Stuck was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2000.
The New Idea
In the face of ongoing environmental threats to the Sierra Nevada region, Elaine has created a new tool for engaging local people in regional planning and sustainable land use. When citizens sit down to negotiate with government officials, they are often at a disadvantage. They may have no shortage of interest, zeal, and firsthand knowledge of environmental problems, but they do lack technical data and comprehensive analytic information to give authority to their position. If they could approach the public forum as experts armed with their own scientific data, they can change the power dynamics of negotiations between the people and the state.What makes Elaine's work different is the computer imaging and analysis program, a "Geographical Information System," that she helped create. This computer program combines environmental indicator data--tree survival rates, nitrogen levels of rivers, the influence of recycling -- collected by local people with computer-processed maps, aerial photos and satellite images. Using the program, Elaine and residents select the most appropriate development plans and produce detailed technical proposals. This system has allowed Elaine's group to produce one regional and six municipal natural resource atlases, which provide extensive information about water basins, aquifers, soils, and forests, as well as profiles of community projects and proposals to achieve sustainable management.