Luis Alberto Camargo

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2005


This profile was prepared when Luis Alberto Camargo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2005.
The New Idea
Luis Alberto Camargo recognizes that young people—the next generation of consumers and decision-makers—cannot be scolded or legislated into caring about the environment. To truly spur them to action, they must feel personally linked to nature. Through OpEPA (Organization for the Environmental Education and Protection), Luis is making a lasting connection to nature accessible to all of Colombia’s urban youth.
Not all interactions with nature are created equal. Month-long treks in the wilderness are more likely to stimulate lasting connections with nature than week-long trips; day-long hikes in the forest are more powerful than classroom sessions. Of course, the more rewarding the experience, the more costly. OpEPA cannot provide intensive wilderness experiences to every young Colombian, so it offers a broad range of programs targeted at different interest levels. Hands-on classroom activities will reach all of Colombia’s youth while month-long wilderness treks are reserved for those who emerge as the most promising future environmental leaders.
Nature itself provides the pith of these experiences, but two key elements transform an ordinary forest into a training ground for Colombia’s future environmental defenders. The backbone of Luis Alberto’s work is a teaching methodology that breaks down the barriers that modern urban life erects between people and their environment. His programs encourage youth to consider what traits they share with elements of the natural world and teach them to question their relationship to nature and to the peers with whom they share the experience. The second key factor comes from Luis Alberto’s practical side. Through a savvy business strategy and cross-subsidies, Luis Alberto plans to spread his program—and therefore an environmental ethic—to all Colombians, rich and poor alike.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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