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Oil in the Amazon

Is Sustainable Development Possible?


David E. Gammon
Department of Biology
Elon University


In this case study, students participate in a game in which they assume the roles of various stakeholders in a proposed oil and gas project in southeastern Peru at a meeting that takes place in 1998 in Cusco, Peru. Ultimately one of the players, the Inter-American Development Bank, determines the outcome of the game by deciding whether it will fund the project, and what restrictions, if any, to place on development. Prior to the start of the game, students receive unique objectives, secrets, and readings; these role-playing sheets are included in the teaching notes, along with an explanation of which elements of the case scenario are historically accurate and which are fictional. During the game, students learn the importance of tradeoffs, compromise, power and information disparities, understanding diverse viewpoints, and keeping the big picture in mind. The activity was designed for an interdisciplinary capstone course for undergraduates from a variety of majors, but it could work in high school through graduate school and in a variety of disciplines, e.g., environmental studies, geology, business, policy studies, anthropology, and interdisciplinary studies.


  • Appreciate the difficulty of satisfying all stakeholders completely when solving problems at the interface of economics, environment, and society. Consequently, students should also appreciate the importance of tradeoffs, compromise, understanding diverse viewpoints, and taking into account the big picture.
  • Recognize the role power disparities often play during real world negotiations between stakeholders.
  • Understand how information can empower stakeholders, especially when communicated clearly and persuasively to other stakeholders. Simultaneously, students should realize transparency of communication does not always serve the interests of a stakeholder.


Sustainable development; conservation; deforestation; fossil fuel; indigenous rights; bank; stakeholder; Amazon; Peru; gas project; Fujimori; Camisea

Topical Areas

Ethics, Policy issues, Science and the media, Social issues, Social justice issues

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division, Graduate, Professional (degree program), General public & informal education, Continuing education



Type / Methods

Public Hearing, Role-Play



Subject Headings

Anthropology  |   Business / Management Science  |   Ecology  |   Economics  |   Environmental Engineering  |   Environmental Science  |   Epidemiology  |   Forestry  |   Geography  |   Geology  |   Interdisciplinary Sciences  |   Journalism  |   Natural Resource Management  |   Public Health  |   Science (General)  |   Wildlife Management  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.