Dr. Prew has been to Ecuador on four separate occasions to learn more about the experiences of a South American nation dealing with economic and environmental struggles. Economic and environmental issues are intertwined as nations like Ecuador, Venezuela and Nigeria struggle with the "resource curse" of oil extraction. While a nation of immense natural beauty and a variety of climates, Ecuador also struggles with the choice between economic gain and environmental destruction from oil extraction.
On the different visits, students from Worcester State College and Minnesota State University – Mankato have experienced the responses of local communities to the issues that they face. The Sarayaku (http://www.sarayaku.com/) confront globalization and the threats to their community directly through changes in their government, education and economy. They have integrated solar panels and internet into their community, as well as built fish farms to deal with the decline in fish populations. As a society, they actively are attempting to create their future in a way that revitalizes their culture and strengthens their autonomy.
I have traveled to Ecuador both as part of a university-sponsored study abroad tour and with Global Exchange (http://www.globalexchange.org/). On the study abroad tour, students learn in the field and interact with the local populations. These tours involve more than merely learning the language and tasting "exotic" food. In just two short weeks, students’ lives and perspectives are changed. Living with an indigenous group struggling to make a change in a globalizing world is a powerful experience that forces the student to look at the world differently. Both experiences cover very similar ground. We were able to visit areas of Ecuador where environmental destruction was obvious. After a visit to Coca, my clothes smelled of oil for three days. We visit the capital city of Quito, taking in a little of the history and culture of Ecuador. We also have visited other groups that face environmental destruction directly. Some battle mining companies while others confront the herbicide spraying of "Plan Columbia" (http://www.accionecologica.org/). Our Global Exchange tour was able to visit a number of cooperatives, including a chocolate factory in the mountains of Ecuador and a coffee cooperative (http://www.kallari.com). The tours are not all business, as we do get a chance to relax and enjoy nature hikes, canoe rides and local foods.
If you want more information about visiting Ecuador, feel free to contact Dr. Prew at firstname.lastname@example.org or join a Global Exchange tour http://www.globalexchange.org/. Global Exchange offers tours to many nations around the world dealing with many pressing issues.