In the spring of 2008, nine Environmental Thought and Practice students, led by U. Va. faculty Vivian Thomson (Assistant Professor, Environmental Sciences and Politics and Director, Environmental Thought and Practice B. A. program) and Janet Herman (Professor, Environmental Sciences), traveled to Panamá to understand the possibilities for, and constraints on, sustainable development in a real-world setting.
The group traveled in dugout canoes up the Chagres River to the indigenous village of the Emberá Drua, who are among the poorest of the poor in Panamá. They came to appreciate firsthand the Panama Canal’s economic, historic, and environmental impacts. They learned to think about environmental sustainability in broader ways and met with representatives of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the Gorgas Institute, the National Institute for Agriculture, the National Environmental Authority, and with the regional director of the World Bank. Upon their return to U. Va., each ETP student wrote a research paper on some aspect of sustainable development in Panamá.