Natural Sciences Professor Shares Insights From Ecuador Given the ubiquity of complex technology and greater access to creature comforts in economically rich nations, people in the United States and other wealthy countries are sometimes prone to the presumption that their lifestyles and societies surpass those of other regions of the world. But if one looks at life through a wider lens, the view can be revealing. The great Indian leader Mahatma Ghandi, when asked what he thought about Western civilization, reportedly said, “I think it would be a good idea.” MDC professor Larry Frolich’s work encourages us to recall that streams of wisdom flow in both directions. Frolich, a biologist in the Department of Natural Sciences at Wolfson Campus, has been working on a long-term project in Ibarra Verde, an Ecuadoran city nestled in a high valley in the Andes mountains. His work involves the use of big data, city planning tools and ecological research to improve the lives of residents. Precisely what constitutes improvement is central to his efforts. For guidance, Frolich looks to the notion of “El Buen Vivir,” or the “Good Life,” an idea that has been enshrined in the Ecuadoran constitution. He brings that broader view on quality of life to his anatomy and physiology courses. “El Buen Vivir,” stemming from indigenous Quichua Incan culture, puts emphasis on good relationships with family, community and landscape, and on being cognizant of what you really need. “In that sense, we in the United States can learn a lot about living a fulfilling life from the Ecuadorians,” Frolich said. The proof of concept is borne out by statistics. “A high GDP does not correlate with a higher satisfaction with life,” Frolich said. “There is a sweet spot in the middle range of GDP where quality of life is best, and many of the South American Andean nations are right in it.” The focus on family, community and landscape of Ecuadorians living in the Andean city of Ibarra Verde serves as a source of inspiration for classes taught by Dr. Larry Frolich, a natural sciences professor at Wolfson Campus.
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