Last November, travel plans were disrupted in Panama as protests erupted. Citizens were unhappy with the government’s renewal of a contract with First Quantum, a Canadian mining firm extracting copper from an environmentally-sensitive area on the Caribbean Coast. Concerns included the economic impact, indigenous land rights, and the environment.

The Panamanian Supreme Court ended the turmoil on November 28th, by ruling the contract unconstitutional. While some see it as a loss for Panama’s economy and jobs, it raises the question about whether Panama should adopt sustainable industries, such as ecotourism, instead of relying on foreign capital.

Costa Rica, Panama’s neighbor, serves as a successful example of an ecotourism-based economy, demonstrating the sustainability of investing in nature. Both countries share similar ecosystems and an abundance of biodiversity due to their shared position on the Isthmus of Panama land bridge. Panama also boasts world-class diving sites such as Bocas de Toro, Coiba, and the Pearl Islands.

The potential exists for Panama to develop its ecotourism sector, but the key lies in community support. As shown by Costa Rica, the support and involvement of citizens leads to successful sustainable projects. Last year’s Panamanian protests imply that citizens are ready to embrace ecotourism and a greener future.

It is crucial to learn from experiences in other countries about ensuring that ecotourism does not harm the ecosystems it aims to protect and to have a well-planned infrastructure in place. A stable government is also essential for a successful ecotourism-driven economy. The fact that Panama was able to respond to grassroots efforts and stop an environmental catastrophe is a testament to hope in the region.

Ultimately, Panama has the chance to inspire a revolution, but only if it focuses on sustainability and community involvement.

Key Takeaways From Article
1. Stay updated on current events: Before visiting Panama, it’s important to stay informed about any protests or political unrest that may be happening. This will help you plan your trip accordingly and avoid any potential disruptions to your travel plans.

2. Consider ecotourism: Panama has the potential to develop its ecotourism sector, similar to its neighbor Costa Rica. By supporting sustainable industries such as ecotourism, you can contribute to the conservation of the country’s natural resources and biodiversity.

3. Visit national parks and protected areas: Panama boasts a diverse range of ecosystems and biodiverse habitats, from rainforests to marine areas. Exploring these protected areas will not only allow you to appreciate the country’s natural beauty but also support conservation efforts through park fees and sustainable tourism practices.

4. Support community-based initiatives: Like Costa Rica, community support is vital for the success of sustainability projects. Look for community-based ecotourism projects in Panama where you can directly see the benefits of conservation in the daily lives of the locals. This can include hiring local guides, staying in community-owned accommodations, and purchasing locally made products.

5. Be mindful of environmental impacts: As a responsible traveler, it’s important to be aware of your impact on the environment. Traveling off-season, using eco-friendly transportation options (such as public transportation or cycling), and practicing Leave No Trace principles can help minimize your ecological footprint while exploring Panama.

6. Support stable and transparent governance: Panama’s successful protests and use of grassroots energy to protect the environment are signs of a healthy democracy. By supporting NGOs and organizations that promote transparency and good governance, you can contribute to the overall development and sustainability of the country.


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