As mentioned before, I was fortunate enough to travel to Panama to do a sustainability internship. It is not a typical elective specifically for UNH's SDM program, but I am petitioning it to pass it as one of my electives because I believe it has been the leading factor for my interest in sustainability.
While I was there, the internship taught me much about myself and the importance of community to solve sustainable practices. Meaning that, the hierarchal methods of our current society create a way of life that is constantly competing against one another, instead of using our individual knowledge and strengths to better each other, such as would a societal web of knowledge. For example, students in the agriculture depended on the biology program, the culinary program depended on the agriculture program, hospitality program depended on the media program, health and wellness depended on outdoor recreation and management program, distillery depended on the biology program, etc. In some shape or form, each program needed help from one another. This created a shared knowledge basis and allowed for communal problems to be solved much faster and easier. This applies to the SDM because we talked of the importance of collaboration and interdisciplinary research revolving around environmental, social, and economic issues.
At Kalu Yala, there are many different programs that you can be a part of. Each program has a designated research goal or project to complete. I was in the sustainable biology program. While science is not usually within my comfort zone, I was really interested in the Biofuel project that the program was focusing on. I learned information on fossil fuels; that it is formed from algae dating back to thousands of years before, then newly compressed and heated to generate power because its chlorophyll is high in nitrogen. I also learned how to make large scale biodiesel out of the byproduct from our local and sustainable distillery, which further supported our transportation into and out of the jungle. We used the byproduct of fermented sugar cane which had been turned into rum, focalized solar heat into separating the lye (which is a common solid catalyst) from the liquid byproduct, and created ethanol which emits less carbon dioxide than petroleum. The liquid byproduct of this process (glycerine) was then turned into a resin-coating for wooden furniture, as it’s natural fatty oil base is resilient to water. It was great to be apart of a completely closed loop system.