By Erika Brünker Zumbado - International Relations degree student
Have you ever heard someone saying that “Costa Rica is a green country”? Regardless of one’s nationality, most people have heard of Costa Rica and how they are taking actions in favor of Costa Rica is a green country”? our planet, becoming a sustainable country; and the international community has recognized and applauded us for doing so. But, are we really a beacon of hope for the future and the planet? Entering the second decade of the millennium, the world has started to take actions to revert the harm they have done to our planet, and Costa Rica has been a part of it. Thanks to its geographical position, Costa Rica has a great amount of diversity in flora and fauna, and plenty of natural resources to use. These resources and our biodiversity have been used to get the attention of the international community, selling our country as one who gets most of its energy from renewable sources and its tourism is eco-friendly.
Eco-tourism has been a pillar for Costa Rica’s economy, being one of the first countries to explore the link between travelling, nature, and wildlife. At an international level, Costa Rica has been recognized as one of the best, if not the best, eco-friendly destination. Another action the Central American country has taken for the sake of the planet is the prohibition of hunting, making Costa Rica’s wildlife untouchable. Also, for over four years now, Costa Rica has produced more than 98% of its energy from renewable sources, creating a country with clean energy (Presidencia de la República, 2018). The main two sources are water and wind, and Costa Rica’s goal is to be 100% clean by 2021. The country is known to be a regional leader regarding the implementation of politics that favor the use of renewable energy sources, placing it as the best Latin American country in the WWF’s Index of Energy Sustainability (BBC Mundo, 2015).
Sadly, not everything is positive; and even though it’s hard to believe, Costa Rica has recently taken actions that harm the planet instead of helping it. The first action was the possible re-implementation of trawling, which is a practice where fishers use a large net to catch the largest amount of fishes possible, and said practice was prohibited in 2013 due to the consequences it had for the planet and the marine life. Trawling has been known to accidentally capture other marine animals, plenty of them being rare species or endangered animals, for example different types of turtles and sharks (MarViva, n.d.). Another negative aspect the country has failed to improve are the pineapple crops, which contaminate water with agrochemicals, cut out entire forests to plant the crops and invade wetlands. Even though several entities and activists have spoken about the problems these pineapple crops cause, real actions have not been taken, and the subject is still constantly under discussion (Universidad de Costa Rica, 2018).
After analyzing both the positive and the negative aspects of Costa Rica regarding environmental sustainability, we can conclude that Costa Rica is indeed a beacon of hope for the future and the planet, but that doesn’t mean there is not plenty to change and improve. Taking into account the international community fails to know and understand the ways Costa Rica is harming the environment, this does not affect our tourism and economy. Also, Costa Ricans tend to forget the harmful activities happening inside their territory, making it harder to hold the country accountable for its actions and demand a change to really become a green and sustainable country. At the end, Costa Rica has been a leader for decades regarding the environment and how to take care of it, but a real change needs to happen for the country to meet its reputation.