When we think about green, lush, tropical spaces, Costa Rica often comes to mind. From its wide, pristine sandy beaches, to the picturesque fincas in the foothills of volcanos, the country is often synonymous with paradise. As our world grows and changes, it’s becoming clearer and clearer the need to protect these eden-like spaces.
Over-tourism and rapid development threaten not only the economic stability of a place, but its physical environment as well. In the last two decades alone, sustainability and fossil-fuel neutrality have dominated the global conversation on environmental conservation, often centering around saving tropical jungles and protecting their natural beauty from foreign invaders.
But what the global conversation on environmental protection often doesn’t include, especially in Costa Rica’s case, is just how much environmental degradation takes place from within. We see this in a couple examples, firstly through our own eyes witnessing Nosara’s rapid development. One of the biggest threats to the health of our community is wastewater management, or lack thereof. Our Water Quality Monitoring Program was borne out of a need to frequently test the river-mouth of the Nosara River and at several locations at Playa Guiones, as swimming in these waters was making people noticeably sick.
Over 25% of Costa Rica’s land is protected under wildlife refuge, reserve or national park. Ecotourism, a major driver or the economy, financially sustains a huge portion of the population and contributes to a sense of environmental pride amongst its citizens. Just in 2019, the United Nations named Costa Rica as ‘Champions of the Earth’, a distinguished award recognizing global policy leadership in environmental protection.
Costa Rica's National Decarbonizing Plan, aims to achieve zero net emissions by 2050, meaning that the country will not produce more emissions than it could offset through maintaining and expanding its forests (2050 Pathways Platform). Further, the country of 5 million people is only responsible for .02% of global emissions (compared to the US that contributes 28 percent of carbon emissions, with a per capita emissions rate 2.2 times greater than that of China, which houses about 20% of the world's population).
It would be fair to say that Costa Rica, often called the ‘living Eden’, has worked hard to earn its title as a global leader in environmental protection.
Why do we still see cases like Nosara, where despite its certified Eden status, there are still some very real problems with environmental protection? One answer is that implementation of these country-wide policies often have uneven uptake, and regional governments have little incentive to meet sustainability goals. Another reason, and this is clear in Nosara’s case, is that rapid development of an area of land without sufficient infrastructure (think sewage pipes, updated septic systems, etc.) leads to pollution on a scale that requires individual participation to mitigate this degradation.
So what can we do as individuals to help the situation? Our first recommendation is becoming aware of your local volunteer opportunities and consider donating a few hours of your time a month to these efforts. Another thing you can do is offset your own pollution in your home; take stock of your septic system, your garbage and composting system and find ways to improve your set up, little by little.
Preserving our beautiful, healthy and ecologically diverse environment takes all of us. Whether you live in Costa Rica or abroad, it’s important to do your research, do your part and think about leaving this Earth better than we found it.
Burkholder, B. (2020, May 28). Costa Rica launches decarbonization plan. 2050 Pathways Platform. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://2050pathways.org/costa-rica-launches-decarbonisation-plan/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CDecarbonization%20is%20a%20commitment%20of,net%20zero%20emissions%20by%202050
Costa Rica: The 'living eden' designing a template for a cleaner, carbon-free world. UNEP. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/costa-rica-living-eden-designing-template-cleaner-carbon-free-world
Parker, J. (2017, June 13). Meet the heroes of Costa Rica leading the way for sustainable tourism. Culture Trip. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://theculturetrip.com/central-america/costa-rica/articles/meet-the-heroes-of-costa-rica-leading-the-way-for-sustainable-tourism/
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/NationalDecarbonizationPlan.pdf