Paradise & Peril: The Sustainability Stakes in Panama

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Northwestern University
In the Panamanian jungle, one community is using black soldier flies to eliminate food waste of all kinds. See how meat, dairy, and even bones are rapidly decomposed by specialized larvae. Kira Fahmy reports for Medill.
Tara McLaughlin, president of Kalu Yala Institute

Tara McLaughlin, president of Kalu Yala Institute, speaks about her background doing volunteer work abroad and current efforts of Kalu Yala to increase integration with San Miguel. (Abigail Foerstner/Medill)

Northwestern University
Real estate entrepreneur Jimmy Stice hopes to build small, sustainable houses in Kalu Yala, the jungle retreat, eco-town, and host to an institute for college interns he founded in the Panamanian rainforest. Medill's Leah Dunlevy reports.

Biology student Selah Phillips collects algae at the Pacora River. She hopes the oil she has extracted from the algae can be processed into sustainable biodiesel. (Maddie Burakoff/Medill)

Northwestern University
Maddie Burakoff of Medill reports that at eco-institute Kalu Yala, researchers seek out environmental solutions in the midst of one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, but grapple with sustaining their own progress.
Northwestern University
Medill's Nefertari Bilal reports: The rise of tourism in Guna Yala promises profit, but locals face challenges posed by both globalization that tourism brings and the threat of the industry's collapse, posed by climate change. 
Zoe St. John farm tour

Kalu Yala agriculture director Zoe St. John discusses the food they are growing to feed the community. (Colin Boyle/Medill)

Northwestern University
Kalu Yala is host to small scale agroforestry in the Panamanian jungle — rows of alternating crops integrated with the natural environment, an image of the symbiosis that can exist between humans and the environment. Grace Wade reports for Medill.
Northwestern University
Abelardo “Tito” Nuñez Davies first came to Pelican Island 15 years ago. It was much larger then. The small hut he and his mother share started out in the middle of this tiny oasis of sand. Now, the ocean laps at their doorstep. 
Northwestern University
The indigenous Guna people of Panama prepare to leave the islands they call home due to rising sea levels, while entrepreneur Jimmy Stice builds a sustainable town in the jungle of Panama. Elizabeth Guthrie of Medill reports.
Cartí Sugtupu island

The bustling island of Cartí Sugtupu serves as a hub for the Gunas living in the Comarca. Cartí Sugtupu includes a solar-powered school, as well as a hostel and supermarket, among its amenities. (Abigail Foerstner/Medill)

Northwestern University
As Panama's indigenous Guna islands begin sinking into the surrounding waters, local entrepreneurs with successful eco-friendly businesses could prove the revolutionary power of small-scale innovation, Medill's Molly Glick reports.
local transportation is via boat

Traveling on boats is the main mode of transportation between islands of Guna Yala, and most are operated by local Guna people. (Luodan Rojas/Medill)

Northwestern University
Separated by miles of ocean and a 2-hour drive, or a 50-mile hike, through the jungle, Guna Yala and Kalu Yala are two of Panama’s most sustainable communities, but they also are starkly different. Medill's Luodan Rojas reports.

The starting point of the hiking trip was at Kalu Yala - a sustainable community in the
Panamanian jungle. (Grace Wade/Medill)

Northwestern University
Fifty miles over four days. Seven hikers left Kalu Yala, a sustainable eco-town in the Panamanian jungle, to trek to the Caribbean Sea and quickly discovered an untested trail and faced other challenges head-on. Medill's Nadine Daher ​reports.

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