Hola from Costa Rica! Today, we took a guided walk in the cloud forests of Monteverde. It was so beautiful, and we got to see so many species of plants, birds, and bugs.
Two days ago, we heard a talk from Don Ricardo, a descendant from the Quakers who settled in Monteverde in the past century. I was very surprised to find out the the town of Monteverde was initially started by North American quakers. They left America after World War II because, as pacifists, they did not want to live in a country where they were forced to support the military. Given that Costa Rica does not have an army, they were naturally drawn to the country. After some time searching for land, they finally found a lush space up in the mountains that eventually became Monteverde. At first, the quakers were cutting down a lot of the forests to raise cattle and plant crops. They did not realize the impact they were having on the land until later when a professor discovered the golden toad in their land, and then convinced them to preserve the surrounding forests. Ever since then, they have been committed to sustainability, learning about their land and encouraging sustainable practices in the area. Nowadays, I know that Don Ricardo does a lot for the community through education about sustainability and the environment.
As Costa Rica shifts more towards ecotourism, places like Monteverde have become really important to the country’s economy. Many people visit from abroad to explore the cloud forests, go on coffee tours, and learn about sustainability in Costa Rica. You can see the influence of tourism throughout the town. At the hotel we stayed at, all the workers spoke English. Also, many of the shops took U.S. dollars in addition to Costa Rican colonés. These are just two examples of the visible foreign influence in the town. In addition to this, because ecotourism is now so popular, there are new opportunities for people in the quaker and outside communities to give tours of the rainforest and run educational programs. At Life Monteverde, similarly, there are tours available to learn about the farm’s sustainability initiatives and the engineering that goes into making an environmentally friendly farm.
Overall, I think that this shift towards ecotourism is really benefitting the Costa Rican community. It is not only encouraging sustainable practices in the area, but it is also creating more economic opportunities for the residents of the area. We learned at our Life Monteverde visit that a lot of farmers are now leaving the farming business (thus reducing the amount of deforestation), and entering the adventure sport business by offering zip lining and other activities. Ecotourism is encouraging people to be even more sustainable than before. Also, as tourists visit these sights, they learn more about the environment, and then bring that knowledge back home with them. I think that ecotourism is actually a very sustainable way to create a healthier environment around the globe.
I can’t wait for the adventures ahead!¡Pura Vida!