We are committed to empowering biocultural leaders.

Our Mission and Vision

Earth Train envisions a world where human values, enterprise and habitat are in harmony with nature. Our mission is to promote biocultural renewal—that is the practice of creating sustainable communities and institutions in harmony with nature and enriched with biological and cultural diversity.

We work toward our mission through:

  • Peer-to-peer teaching
  • Peer-to-peer networking
  • Cross-cultural and cross-generational coaching and mentoring
  • Experiential learning
  • Creating learning organizations
  • Cultivating biocultural business

Recent News

Happy Children's Day!

Here in Panama, Dia Del Niño(a) is celebrated with gifts, food and a community gathering. Rainforest Capital, Earth Train’s closest partner, celebrated it with the students in El Valle. Our crew provided the piñata, food and gifts, but the children brought the spirit!

Emerging Enviromental Leaders Are in the City for Part Two of Our Urban+Environment Summer Program

Photo of EEL Group at BioMuseo

The EEL students stand beneath an enormous fig tree at Panama's Biomuseo

Foto: Elliot Blumberg

Salutations from Casco Viejo! To update all the parents and loved ones, our intrepid EELs conquered their adventures in the Mamoní Valley and Linton Island, and are now back in the city ready for their last day in Panama. We’ll be heading out to the Miraflores locks on the Panama Canal today, so watch out for tonight’s update and the ensuing album jam-packed with EEL adventures.

Rainforest Blackout

What do you do when your power goes out - light some candles, hunker down, maybe use a cell phone to call the power company?

Here, our process is a bit more involved. As you may or may not know, Centro Mamoní runs almost exclusively on hydroelectric power. Our lights, power tools, washing machine, refrigeration, internet connection, and every other doodad and gadget sucks up electricity courtesy of the watershed of the upper Río Mamoní. So when our power goes out and the lights shut off, we don our headlamps and head up the creek to check, repair, and (sometimes) repeat.

The end of the dry season often brings days without enough wattage to run our refrigerator or our washing machine (a problem that has since been addressed by repairing an old low-wattage deep freezer). So you would think that more rain means more security on the power front. Wrong.

Rainstorms bring down trees, exasperate erosion and muddy the creek water. The pipe feeding our hydroelectric plant can burst, clog and is susceptible to breaks. When the hydroelectric plant isn’t recharging our battery array, it’s a matter of just a few hours before our activity drains the batteries and leaves us in the dark. So when our power went out Friday night, we kicked ourselves for not paying attention, shoved on our boots, strapped on our headlamps and trudged up-creek to see the problem.

Despite Kael’s intricate system of nozzles, indicators and valves, we couldn’t find the source of the issue, so the blackout continued. We spent Friday night huddled around candles and the Comedor’s fire pit. The team ascended the creek again on Saturday morning and eventually found the source of the problem: an enormous felled branch split the pipe, sending a cascade of would-be hydroelectricity down the mountain and muddying the creek.

After hours using our machetes and a battery-powered circular saw, we were finally able to see and remove the broken lengths of pipe. We cut through 10 meters of vine and branches, mostly while standing on a bridge of precarious vines, but finally we were able to punch through the wall of growth to pass an auxiliary pipe through. Kael brought what little scraps of PVC and pipe unions we had while Abhijai, Pablo, Nelson, Rachel and I set to work with the hacksaw cutting on both sides of the broken section. After hours of cutting, we successfully bypassed the tree!

ProTip: Read the directions on PVC cement. It will tell you: 1.) Don’t put a ring of cement around the outside of a union, as this will unnecessarily melt the plastic and weaken the joint, and 2.) Don’t allow water to pass through the pipe until after the cement has had time to set - somewhere in the vicinity of 24 hours.

Saturday night - lights go dark again. We didn’t follow the above ProTip and lost power a second time as a result. Grab your boots, headlamps and machetes. Back to the rainforest! Unable to reinforce the joints and build a sufficient scaffolding around the newly fixed (and subsequently burst) pipe, we surrendered to the elements and called it quits. The crew spent another night huddled around candles and the fire pit.

Sunday morning - Kael to the rescue! At 6 AM, our intrepid manager of operations made a solo trip up the creek, re-cemented the PVC and rigged up some branches to support the pipe. Our hero! We’re back to the world of internet, lights and functioning power tools. We’ll just have to deal with muddy showers for a few days.

Work Ramps Up

We’re elated to report that Centro Mamoní is once again full of enthusiastic and fresh interns, volunteers and staff. The air is abuzz with the sounds of power tools, manual labor and energetic voices. The aroma of freshly cut wood mixes with Kael’s jungle-baked bread to create a satisfying atmosphere.

Abhijai Mathur, a returning volunteer, is working with Earth Train’s staff to complete the newest structural addition to Centro Mamoní. Thanks to his, Leandro’s, Kike's and Gabriel’s hard work, the laundromat and storage portions are near completion, with mounting plans to add staff quarters.

The garden is producing at full capacity, providing us with fresh vegetables for salads, sauces and Mark’s infamous ají chombo picante. Volunteer Nelson Reed and staffer Mark will break ground on our much-anticipated combined rice paddy and aquaculture farm later this month.

Mel Evans, an architecture student at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, has taken the reins on Centro Mamoní’s architectural and structural direction - go Mel!

Rachel Worthington and Pablo Tocallini, our newly welcomed co-directors of food production and community development, have launched “Corazones Contentos,” an Earth Train-led coalition to bring sustainable food and protein sources to all schools in the Mamoní Valley, starting with San José.

Luís Bravo, the team’s historian from Mexico, is finishing up a final draft about the recent history of the Mamoní Valley and its residents.

Earth Train launches "Corazones Contentos" Program in the Mamoní Valley

Today we officially launched our Corazones Contentos Program in the Mamoní Valley. The program addresses the urgent need for food security in the Valley's rural communities, and was kicked off with a food drive to fill the gap between now and harvest time.

A special thanks goes out to James Mattiace and all the folks at ISP, as well as Victor Simone and our friends at the MET for pushing to make this food drive a huge success. We raised almost 800 pounds of food, as well as over $300 as an unexpected jumpstart to cover program expenses like transport, seeds, basic tools and other such things.

Next week we'll be calling a meeting among families in the community to assess what they see as the needs at hand and to initiate the process of assembling a committee among community members. Stay tuned for updates and service opportunities as we confirm the details and timeframe of the program!

ISP Service Learning at the Mamoní Valley Preserve

This weekend we had the pleasure of hosting the International School of Panama's Talent Development Program Service Learning task force—a group of eight industrious and motivated students from ISP's elementary school and high school.

Photo of Grey

"What I learned today was that sometimes people from the city take a lot of things for granted, and that we need to help others that don't have as much as we do." – 10-year-old Grey Murray during our reflection circle at night.

Foto: Kael Shipman

The 4 elementary school boys wanted to provide a way for kids living in rural, off-grid environments to have access to light at night that would help them work on their homework, read, or get around the community without problems. They came up with a solar-powered night-light that they called Sun Jars, and amazingly, after engineering a prototype, the kids launched a crowdfunding campaign that raised over $3,000 to fund the project!

The girls on the trip—representing the ISP high school—had two goals. The first was to improve recreational facilities in La Zahina through a set of easy-to-assemble soccer goals made of pvc piping, and the donation of old sports balls that they gathered from friends and family. The goals went up lightening fast, and we had a great time playing ball afterwards.

Their second goal was to create a relationship with the community of La Zahina that would help them and their classmates work with community members to deliver solutions and aid over the long term where it's really needed. The girls interviewed several families in town to ask how they thought the school could best help them solve some of their more serious problems, like access to good health care and supplies, and improving the quality of their education. They plan to use this information to design more directed service campaigns in the near future.

The kids were a pleasure to host, and demonstrated the level of maturity, thoughtfulness and drive that we strive to foster here at Earth Train. They're welcome back any time, and we'll be eagerly awaiting the next installment of ISP's Service Learning initiatives!