In reality, the little guy and Mother Nature are never completely abandoned. I learned that Juan Díaz did have a history of protesting against expanding development, which has somewhat improved compensation from the government after severe floods, as well as local organizations’ efforts such as the Panama Audubon Society’s program “Aulas Verdes” (“Green Classrooms”). This trains teachers in Juan Díaz to educate their students of the importance of wetlands ecosystems. And maybe my little research project was a step in the right direction too; the public officials of Juan Díaz I met were glad that there was someone getting the word out about this environmental injustice in the wetlands.
So, big project over, no more worrying about the Bay? Well, the battle amongst economics, politics, and environment definitely did not end after I left...so I have been checking up on recent developments (hopefully only figurative) around the wetlands. Back in January, Panama’s Supreme Court declared the reinstatement of the Ramsar site’s protection status permanent under the “No Environmental Regression Principle.” Local environmental organizations could only celebrate for so long, though. In May, for his last month in office, President Martinelli tried passing a number of laws that included one to establish the Upper Bay wetlands as protected habitat under Panamanian law--except 750 hectares of the wetlands were excluded from this proposal. Again, conservationists and lawyers rallied and persistently fought against letting developers have their way, and success did come with an injunction from the Supreme Court against the National Assembly having a meeting to pass this law. So, addressing the complicated question of how to balance human progress and environmental sustainability around the Upper Bay of Panama remains a battle, but at least there is a side committed to following international decrees. Nevertheless, the ecosystem will continue to be vulnerable to other ongoing anthropogenic threats, such as industrial and agricultural runoff from elsewhere along the coast, if their environmental implications are allowed to spread unmonitored.