Environmental Service Learning

During selected semesters, we offer LAS 250, Environmental Policy and History: The Case of the South American Rain Forest. This six credit History/Environmental Studies course combines two elements: classroom study of Brazilian history and environmental issues with a short period of travel and community service. In Brazil, LAS 250 is based in Santarem, an Amazon city located on the edge of the rain forest. The course is taught by historian Daniel Greenberg and Environmental Studies scholar Robert Chapman. LAS 250 examines how Brazilians have viewed the Amazon region as their “open frontier” and as a source of future growth. But we also study how careless exploitation has led to destruction of large parts of the forest canopy, the poisoning of its rivers, and the destruction of native peoples’ habitats. Then we’ll journey to the Brazilian Rain Forest to spend 8-9 days of travel, study and work.  We’ll explore the Amazon’s vast biological diversity and examine its storehouse of natural products that can be harvested without environmental damage. We’ll  take a cruise on the Amazon and Tapajos rivers and explore the potential for sustainable economic development. Then we’ll team-up with Brazilians to construct schoolrooms for river people who have migrated to the city in search of a better life.

The prerequisites for LAS 250 are the same as for HIS 243: a desire to “make a difference,” learn about different cultures, make new friends, and a willingness to do hard physical work in a poor country.

Our visit will acquaint us with the importance of this area and its ecosystem. We will learn firsthand of the Rain Forest’s severe problems of rural poverty and economic underdevelopment. The project involves collaboration with Brazilians who share a strong commitment to improving the lot of their nation’s poor.

For more information on LAS 250, consult the spring semester class schedule under “Latin American Studies” or contact LAS Program advisor, Dr. Dan Greenberg.