Conserve like the Costa Ricans –Carbon Neutral by 2021

Costa Ricans know how to conserve.  Over half the country is covered by tropical forests, and these forests protect some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world.  Costa Rica was the first country in the Americas to ban recreational hunting, and it ranks 5th in the world (1st in the Americas) in terms of the 2012 Environmental Performance Index.  Several countries around the world have consulted Costa Rica on how to successfully rescue forest ecosystems.

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How do they do it?  Conservation initiatives and incentive programs aside, a large part of their success is due to how they value and prioritize nature in their daily lives.  Costa Rica has no army –it was abolished permanently in 1949.  The government isn’t spending on armed forces, it spends instead on conservation and social services.  The Costa Rican government pays farmers to conserve forests on their land and manage ecosystem services sustainably.  The government has also partnered with foundations and co-operatives of families who have committed their lands to be designated as Nature Reserves, such as the world famous Monteverde Park (a zip-lining hot-spot).  These families have even spoken out and protested the construction of paved roads leading into the reserve area, because the tourist traffic would undermine conservation efforts.  Conservation is given priority over profitability, which is an extremely encouraging value system.

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The extensive Costa Rican rainforests also help to curb climate change.  They work as carbon banks, breathing in and storing carbon dioxide in trees and soils that would otherwise be left in our atmosphere to warm the planet.  Costa Rica plans to use these great carbon banks to help them become carbon neutral by 2021.  This would make them the first country in the world to become carbon neutral.  Their plan involves budgeting laws and incentives for biofuels, hybrid vehicles, and transitioning to clean energy, on top of their already aggressive forest conservation and revitalization projects.

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Ironically, their burgeoning ecotourism industry, while based on ‘natural’ and ‘low-impact’ travel, will be the main obstacle to overcome to reach carbon neutrality.  The jet fuel emissions from planes carrying tourists to and from the country must be taken into consideration in assessing carbon neutrality (also, ‘offsets’ can be problematic, and clean energy alternatives should be striven for if possible).  If the rest of the world follows suit, however, then a green global economy will be far more attainable.  The Costa Ricans can teach us a great deal about what should be prioritized in building a just and sustainable society.

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One Comment on “Conserve like the Costa Ricans –Carbon Neutral by 2021”

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