The area surrounding Chiang Mai is home to a number of hill tribes, including the famous Karen Long Neck tribe, known for their use of metal rings to extend their necks.

Of course, our final week will root us deeply in a Karen village. In addition, our private trek will take students through the Thai jungle where we will spend the night with a local tribe.

In both these instances, students will have a chance to see how the tribe members live, eat and work in harmony with nature. As we think about conservation, it is important to understand the traditions and motivations of the people who live so closely with, and rely so heavily on, the environment in their daily lives.


An essential element of any conservation curriculum is understanding the relationship between native peoples and conservation efforts. Native peoples have an understanding of the harm that is being done to the environment and what needs to be saved. Because they are dependent on the land for survival, long-term conservation efforts cannot succeed without their buy-in and support.

The tribal villages represent ground zero in the effort to save the rainforests in Thailand. Ongoing efforts are underway to discourage illegal logging and assist the tribes in developing sustainable and environmentally neutral livelihoods.

We want our students to have a chance to talk with members of these tribes and to see first-hand the changes that are occurring in their environment.By understanding where these people are coming from, we can come up with conservation efforts that they could support.

Sometimes seeing black-and-white issues from another perspective can draw out the gray areas and show why things have progressed the way they have. This is the first step to making positive changes in the future, whether for the environment or in any other sector.