We are committed to empowering biocultural leaders.

Our Mission

Earth Train is dedicated to promoting biocultural renewal—that is the practice of creating sustainable communities and institutions in harmony with nature and enriched with biological and cultural diversity.

Earth Train accomplishes its 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

Our Vision

A world where human values, enterprise and habitat are in harmony with nature.

Recent News

OJEWP Comes to Centro Mamoní for a Workshop on Climate Change

Earth Train was honored to receive a group of young leaders from the Organization of Emberá and Wounaan Youth of Panamá—OJEWP—for a climate change workshop developed in collaboration with our Leadership and Guide Program. Twenty indigenous youth plus five community leaders came to Centro Mamoní for a weekend intensive on climate change, it's global and local significance, and how they can lead the way to changing behaviors through a rediscovery of their own cultures' traditional ways of managing and respecting natural resources.

As part of their workshop activities, participants interviewed a number of families in the rural Mamoní village of La Zahina. They then compiled their findings and presented to the rest of the group on such topics as the local economy, land and resource management, and the role of spirituality in daily life.

This workshop was funded in part by a grant from the Alstom Foundation, through Earth Train's Leadership and Guide Program. It also served as a gateway to the recruitment of more Leadership and Guide Fellows—outstanding young individuals who will be offered a spot in our program to receive training in community leadership through eco hospitality.

The MET Meet the Guna

The largest group of outsiders to ever visit the mainland Guna village of Cangandi made its way there this month. A group of 40+ made up of MET students, teachers, and Earth Train team-members hiked over rainforest and abandoned asphalt for a day of back-breaking work, connecting with Guna children through art, a breathtaking dip in the nearby river, and culminating in the start of Earth Train’s official relationship with the village and local Sahilas.

This visit was part of the Metropolitan School of Panama’s visit to Guna Yala as hosted and coordinated by Earth Train. The crew embarked on a 4-day adventure that exposed them to many facets of Guna Yala - some of which are rarely, if ever, experienced by tourists.

Guna Yala is undeniably beautiful, but signs of climate change marr the landscape and remind us of our impact on the environment. We stayed for three nights on Asserdup, a miniscule Guna island that is showing signs of erosion on the sea-facing side. The nearby Carti Islands get inundated with floods due to rising sea levels; many communities face a difficult decision of whether or not to move to the mainland. Students discussed climate issues and took part in cleaning the island on which we stayed.

In addition to environmental and biological messages, MET students witnessed some of the most outstanding aspects of Guna culture - the celebration of the Guna revolution in 1925, and a coming-of-age ceremony in full swing, among other things. On the Carti island we visited, murals of famous Guna leaders of the revolution plastered the walls along with paintings announcing “LONG LIVE KUNA YALA” and “90 YEARS OF FIGHTING.” Children performed dances, played indigenous flutes, and shook maracas. Local students dressed up as imperial police in a dramatic and outlandish reenactment of the cultural and physical oppression that the Guna endured, leading to their revolution. The crew even toured a local museum and learned how to make winni - beaded Guna bracelets.

On the mainland, students saw firsthand the difficulty of living in a remote location. Cangandi is at the top of a precipice with incredible vistas of the valley below, but what they have in beauty, they lack in resources - most notably potable water. The easiest access is to ride a boat through a canal left from American occupation and then hike for over an hour across an abandoned airport tarmac and through the rainforest. Suffice it to say that the village’s location doesn’t lend well to importation. Despite these speed-bumps in logistics, the hospitality could not have been more thorough. In anticipation of the students' arrival, the town prepared dozens of smoked fish and piles of boiled yucca. We enjoyed a bit of Guna singing and spent time with the students coloring, building chairs and preparing classrooms for the upcoming school year. Finally, the kids played in the river, jumping from banks into the deep water.

Some of the most important questions asked on the trip are too complex to answer in a single blog post: as a society, what can we learn from the Guna and vice versa? How do their lives and ours differ? How can the Guna improve their quality of life without sacrificing their indigenous roots? Students pondered this and more as Earth Train staff charged them with finding the answers over the course of their careers and lifetime.

A Different Kind of Carnaval

Carnaval: a wonderful excuse to take off work, walk or ride downtown, crack open a beer, dance and get sprayed in the chest by a firehose. If you’re a parent or enjoy peace a quiet, it may be the excuse you need to get out of dodge for a few days until the noise and parties blow over.

In any case, we’re sure you won’t be surprised to learn that some Earth Train staff and company enjoyed Carnaval from the gorgeous green perch of Centro Mamoní. It could have been either the gorgeous surroundings, exhilarating hikes or the personal concert from Panama’s incredibly talented Yomira John, but in any case, smiles plastered the faces of everyone there. Check out some of the highlights of our hike to La Madroñita in these photos.

MET Students Savor Nature at Centro Mamoní

Last week, 34 students from the Metropolitan School of Panama mounted the road from Las Margaritas through the rugged terrain of the Mamoní Valley, landing at Earth Train’s own Centro Mamoní.

As always, biocultural leadership and renewal were front and center in our itinerary. Our drive through the valley gave us an opportunity to survey the borders between barren pastures and primary forest and reminded us of the need for sustainable development and balance between our need for food and the global need for biodiversity. Our trip leaders mirrored this lesson on several hikes, where we saw the separations between primary and secondary forest, took notice of several endemic species, and reminded ourselves that it would be over a century before speciation in the secondary forest on one side of the ridge we hiked reached the same level of the primary forest on the other.

Equal to conservation on our priority list is fun. The students enjoyed a dip in the white water at Junglewood Falls, hikes to pristine mountain waterfalls and workshops that gave them leadership and team-building skills.

Students constructed star domes and boats with bamboo, gaining teamwork experience and a lesson in the properties of natural building materials. They participated in the ancient Embera and Wounaan art of body painting using ingredients from the rainforest and also learned about Centro Mamoní’s closed-loop agricultural system. Some even baked and ate all-natural pop-tarts with ingredients found in the rainforest.

This upcoming week, MET students will explore Guna Yala and learn loads more about biocultural renewal in Panama. Onward and upward, MET!

Restless Creatives Wraps Up

During the last week of January, a pack of restless creatives followed, accompanied, and sometimes led our Earth Train teammates through the Mamoní Valley along the continental divide for a two-day hiking and kayaking adventure before settling in for two unforgettable nights in Guna Yala. Our guests delighted in the natural splendor that the Mamoní Valley and Guna Yala provide.

To start, we enjoyed a dip at Junglewood Falls, working as a team to remove a fallen tree from the depths of our favorite jumping spots. Nathan trained the newcomers in Kayaking 101, while Lider hung hammocks for a brief jungle respite before the hike and ride up to Centro Mamoní.

Every night we reveled in the tunes from two of our more musical creatives – Juanito Pascual and Richie Barshay. Acoustic guitar strummed by Juanito’s long fingernails and genuine rainforest-made percussion instruments tapped and banged by Richie’s hands and mallets rang through the night at the Comedor.

Our transcontinental kayaking trip took us through Earth Train’s portions of the valley, descending to the Cangandi River to kayak and camping for a night on the river before continuing on to the Guna town of Cangandí. After a meal and introduction to the entire town in the Onmakked Nega, the team hit their hammocks (or tents) for some well-deserved sleep.

The next morning, we ventured from the mainland to the ocean on a boat and landed on the Guna island of Asserdup for some R&R – snorkeling, hammock-lying and beers on the beach.

As if a transcontinental kayaking trip wasn’t enough, the journey wrapped up at Panama City’s famous Biomuseo, where Lider led a tour with part of the museum’s architectural team (and Restless Creative participants!) Anand Devarajan and Patrick Dillon. Princeton University’s a capella team, Shere Khan A Capella, sang with Panama’s own Yomira John. Big shoutout and thanks to all the artists, and a video to come!

The trip saw exhilarated faces and new experiences for our guests and staffers. We absolutely can not wait for round two.

Crossroads 2015 - Building on Success for Biocultural Leadership

With the last ecos of the 2015 Panama Jazz Festival fading away, we step back to get a bigger perspective on another very successful visit from the Crossroads School for the Arts and Sciences from Los Angeles, CA. This was Crossroads' third time to Panama and the Mamoní Valley Preserve, and we even had the pleasure of receiving several students who had attended last year's trip.

This year's curriculum began with a stay at Earth Train's Centro Mamoní, then included a city program to complement the students' experiences at the Panama Jazz Festival. We leveraged our time in the city to analyze the enormous changes—both positive and negative—that Panama is experiencing, and we took the kids on an intellectual journey through the contrasts between what they had experienced in the Mamoní Valley Preserve and what they were seeing in Panama's rapidly expanding urban sphere.

Here, a photo recap of the students' adventures in Panama:

A Gray Christmas

Happy holidays from Earth Train! This holiday season we’re grateful for the opportunity to enjoy the escape, serenity and natural beauty that Centro Mamoní provides. We celebrated by building a tent on our newly constructed platform (Gracias, Rolando!), eating together, and lighting our tree in the main house.

We had a number of visitors, including one of our neighbor’s horses, blue morpho and owl butterflies, many emerald hummingbirds, a series of beautiful moths, a yellow-striped poison frog (Phyllobates lugubris), a red-breasted trogon, a green vine snake, and a Bothrops viper (known locally by its ominous moniker, X). Check out our gallery of images.

So again: happy holidays and New Year from our family to yours!

Earth Train Intern Cameron Harnish Writes About His River Trip to Cangandi, Guna Yala

Earth Train Intern Cameron Harnish participated in an exploratory journey from Earth Train's Centro Mamoní Campus over the continental divide and down the Cangandi river into the Guna town of Cangandi. This unique trip was organized by Earth Train Leadership and Guide Program Director, Kike Arias, to further a dialog with the Guna mainland community of Cangandi about how Earth Train can collaborate with community leaders in the development of economic and cultural opportunities.

Cameron wrote about his experiences in Cangandi and at Earth Train on his blog, Filling the Gap.

Earth Train in La Zahina to Help Facilitate a Town Meeting

This Sunday we went to the rural valley community of La Zahina to work with local political voice Vicente Miranda in the formation of a Committee to agitate for the paving and regular maintenance of the road from the Panamerican Highway to the community. The road—a 22 kilometer stretch through rural Panama and a relic from the military rule of Manuel Noriega—is sorely neglected, and its poor conditions is a major hindrance to the prospects of economic development in the valley, leaving residents of La Zahina and other valley communities with few options other than subsistence farming.

Earth Train has been working with valley communities, and La Zahina in particular, to promote community and political organization, with hopes that increased structure will create not only stronger relationships between community members, but also increased chances of joining the political process down in the bustling urban sphere.

With the formation of this committee, democratically elected community representatives will be able to hold regular meetings with representatives in the regional capital, Chepo, and will be able to track progress on their requests for a paved road to their community.

Earth Train staff Gerardo Ochoa has been leading this initiative, with funds generously donated by the Alstom Corporation for community engagement.

Earth Train Celebrates the Official Grand Opening of Panama's Frank Gehry-Designed Biomuseo with Museum Staff and Special Guests

Earth Train founder and Executive Director Nathan Gray was invited to attend the opening ceremony.

Photo Credit: Biomuseo

Panama's Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo celebrated its official opening ceremony, with past and current Panamanian presidents in attendance along with a number of other special guests. Earth Train's Nathan Gray was invited to attend this exciting event in representation of the special programming partnership that Earth Train has with the Biomuseo.

Frank Gehry principal partner, Anand Devarajan, delivered the official commencement speech in the museum's grand Atrium. Then, the museum displayed a special video created by Earth Train in collaboration with UN Messenger of Peace, Dr. Jane Goodall, in which Dr. Goodall expresses her gratitude to Frank Gehry and the BioMuseum directors for embracing and celebrating biocultural diversity in Panama and in the world at large. Check out the video here: