People, Pigs, and Tigers in Shangri-La (2013-8)

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Feb 10, 2014
James Lassoie, Cornell University

A transdisciplinary, socio-environmental systems approach, which accounts for far more complexity than represented in a simple Venn diagram model of interdisciplinarity, is necessary if today’s super wicked environmental problems are to be successfully addressed. This case examines ‘real-world’ human–wildlife conflicts in Bhutan to explore the multifaceted interactions characterizing tightly linked socio-environmental systems and determinants of sustainability. It can be used to introduce a wide spectrum of conservation issues from different stakeholder perspectives, allowing students to grasp the difficulties of protecting both biodiversity and rural livelihoods over long periods of time. Bhutan offers an ideal opportunity to examine these issues and perspectives owing to its unique socio-cultural setting, recent transition to democracy, national commitment to conservation and sustainable development, and ecological standing worldwide as a biodiversity hotspot for charismatic wildlife. It is also typically unfamiliar to most students, and the nation’s distinctive and exotic characteristics quickly capture their curiosity and interest. Despite Bhutan’s uniqueness, this case addresses socio-environmental issues that are relevant elsewhere, including the United States. In analyzing this case, students examine qualitative and quantitative data based on research by the author, his graduate students, and others over the past decade. The case is applicable to a variety of courses, scalable for students at various educational levels, and appropriate for various Teaching Methods. It has been used extensively at Cornell University since 2007, and is supported by an Internet-based, multi-media learning system (

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