Environmental destruction in the tropics is a terrible, disheartening thing to witness—and there’s plenty of it going on in Panama. Panama and its friends woke up to the problem toward the end of the 20th century and took several encouraging steps, including the creation of new protected areas, the introduction of environmental protection laws, and the establishment of environmental nonprofits.
On my most recent tours of the country, however, I have been dismayed to see greed and the march of “progress” starting to undo some of what was accomplished. New roads, real-estate developments, mining operations, and the usual ranches and farms are pushing ever farther into pristine countryside.
Government and nonprofit environmental watchdog agencies are often either toothless or end up accused of rubber-stamping destructive projects. However, while it’s still far too common to see citizens trash their own country, there are also people out there cleaning up the mess—or at least refusing to add to it. It may have limited resources and often lacks the power to create real, lasting change, but there is now a fledgling environmental movement in Panama, a claim that would have been hard to make 20 years ago.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition