When I heard that Costa Rica was leading the Latin American pack in sustainability, I was not at all surprised. After researching Costa Rican politicians, I noticed a trend in their platforms; their initiatives put both economic and environmental sustainability first. Even still, when I heard that Costa Rica was #2 overall in sustainability in the world, only behind Switzerland, I was so much more intrigued by the country. My first response was, “Why have I only heard this now, only three or so days before I’m headed to the country?” Costa Rica never comes up much in conversation, perhaps, because people cluster all the Central American countries together. Yet, Costa Ricans seem to be doing something right (Not just right but better than everyone else!) After discovering this fact, I researched the country and its initiatives to see just what makes the country so successful in this area.
First of all, it was important for me to realize that true sustainability does not stem from just one area. It is present in countries who are strong in a variety of interrelated areas: the environment, the economy, and the society/culture. Costa Rica is aware of this and has acted to meet needs in all three of these areas. Firstly, the country produces nearly 93% of its electricity from renewable resources such as hydroelectric power sources and wind power. Most other countries overuse wasteful resources such as coal and other fossil fuels. In addition to this, Costa Rica has taken initiatives which require the conservation of a certain amount of national territory; over the past few years, the country has preserved around 30% of its national territory (Good for the economy in ways discussed next). Then, Costa Rica leveraged the benefits of retaining these healthy ecosystems in their economy sector. Healthy ecosystems contributed to economic sustainability by increasing both tourism interest and recreational park revenues (Hiking, Ziplining, etc.).
Most importantly, the government shifted their focus to organic agriculture because of these environmentally concerned initiatives! In terms of the three sustainability areas I mentioned, this is where Costa Rica has really chosen to define its culture. Organic agriculture is a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. What does this mean? Basically, it fights against the use of pesticides and against the creation of genetically modified organisms. Costa Rica has also defined its culture with the powerful coffee industry, which has held much cultural and political importance during the 1800s, being the crop that brought a newfound wealth to the nation’s elite group!
As we can see, Costa Rica achieves sustainability in a plethora of ways, and I look forward to understanding the logistics of these processes when I make it to Costa Rica. ¡Nos vemos!