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Colección: La Educación
Número: (115) II
Año: 1993

10. Sam H. HAM. Environmental Interpretation: A Practical Guide for People with Big Ideas and Small Budgets. Interpretación ambiental. Una guía práctica para gente con grandes ideas y presupuestos pequeños. Golden, USA: North American Press, 1992. Published in English, 437 p., and Spanish, 456 p., tables, figures, notes, appendices, bibliography.

That a text of this nature has been seriously lacking for many years is obvious to those of us who have been involved in natural resource management in Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr. Ham tackles a complex theme, particularly given the natural and social diversity of this large geographical region, in a totally professional and culturally sensitive manner. The author introduces the concepts of formal and informal environmental interpretation in the first two chapters. He discusses the importance of defining a theme, audience type and composition, as well as the value of written and oral presentations. He then quickly launches into the practical issues and methods of this discipline in the succeeding 9 chapters, addressing such topics as conducted activities, visual-aid preparation and use, self-guided media concepts and techniques, writing for brochures, taped messages, signs and talks, and exhibit preparation. The issue of cost, a reality in much of the region, is also tackled head-on by the author throughout the text by providing examples of how practitioners can save money while not compromising on the effectiveness or quality of the message. Another benefit of this text is that it is equally suited for teachers in a formal classroom setting or field naturalists and outdoor educators.

Dr. Ham provides more than 30 case studies of how professionals have addressed real-life issues in the field—what has worked and what has failed. More than 20 of the case studies are taken from Latin America and the Caribbean, but all can be applied throughout the region. Furthermore, the text has been published in both English and Spanish and, in an attempt to modify regional differences in Spanish usage, has been edited by specialists from both Central and South America. The appendices include a “glossary” of key interpretation terminology; “models” of exhibits which serve as an aid to those field people who must construct their own interpretive structures and facilities; “lettering aids”; and finally a listing of key environmental interpretation/education organizations in the hemisphere.

The author has wide-ranging experience throughout the region, having consulted in more than a dozen countries for a number of international development organizations. And while the text has only been available since mid 1992, already it has been widely adopted and has received high praise for its utility. The author addressed both the academic and applied sides of this important discipline. In a world where the preservation of biodiversity requires the understanding and active support of villagers and community leaders, of students and teachers, this text will become a “yellow-pages” for its owners. The margins will be filled with notations, adaptations, and ideas. Dr. Ham must contemplate a second edition to stay at the cutting edge of this quickly evolving field. This book will contribute to a greater understanding of the natural world. For this, Dr. Ham deserves much credit.

Martin Groebel