El Ecoturismo Influye en la Pura Vida

Es verdad que hay impactos que determinan la manera de vida en Costa Rica. Present day Costa Rica is the way that it is due to events of the past; Monteverde has been shaped by Quakers, and today there still exists evidence of foreign influence. Since arriving to Costa Rica from Alabama in 1951, Quakers and their descendants have set their footprint in Monteverde. Since there are pros and cons to almost everything, this footprint has positively and negatively affected Costa Rica. Due to needing land on which to live, pastures on which the Monteverde Cheese Plant would be built and houses in which to sleep, Quakers quickly began a process of deforestation. A vast decline of the amount of forested area within Costa Rica ensued, and the percentage of forest cover dropped from 75% in 1940 to merely 21% in 1987—a loss of 54%. Without a doubt, deforestation is harmful to the environment and results in a loss of a home, or even death, for a lot of wildlife. Speaking of death of wild creatures, Quakers would kill animals such as jaguars that tended to destroy their dairy herds. These actions carried out by Quakers may have been helpful at least initially, but it was not ideal for the biodiversity of Costa Rica. Upon realizing the damage to the environment that they were causing, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was founded in 1972. Two years later, the Quaker community generously incorporated some of their land into the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, and the Monteverde Conservation League was founded in 1985. By 1997, an active attempt to reverse the negative effects of prior Quaker actions resulted in an increase in forest cover. As recent as 2010 it was calculated that there was 52.38% forest cover within Costa Rica. It should also be mentioned that the man called Monteverde’s Best Known Conservationist is Wolf Guindon, a founder of the Quaker community of Monteverde. Due to latter efforts by Quakers to work with local Ticos who seem to have an inherent passion for their environment, preservation of nature like the Cloud Forest of Monteverde can transpire.

Since the arrival of the Quakers, there has been additional foreign influence in Costa Rica. The country is sometimes called “Gringolandia” because of the large quantity of North Americans and Europeans that travel to see the beauty that Costa Rica offers and learn about sustainability efforts. Tourism is a large segment of the Costa Rican economy, meaning that tourists are considered to be more than welcome. Furthermore, ecotourism in Monteverde has brought a lot of foreign investment to the area. For instance, a Mexican company bought the Monteverde Cheese Plant and a Chinese company constructed a large hotel in the area. As Costa Rica has shifted toward ecotourism, there has been an increased focus on edifying tourists, as well as Tico youth, about the importance of sustainability. As more tourists enter the country to see the terrain and wildlife, companies are looking to design more education programs geared toward tourists, students and anyone with a desire to learn about protecting the Earth. Ecotourism has also affected the work of the Quakers and local farms like Life Monteverde. For the Quakers, ecotourism has added the extra responsibility of sharing their history, including past failures and successes, to tourists. By educating about the ways in which the Quaker community failed to protect nature, there is gained knowledge about what not to do in terms of sustainability. On the other hand, educating about past successes and present sustainability efforts provides food for thought and may give birth to new ideas from tourists regarding nature conservation. Thus, some of the Quakers have written books and give lectures about their history. At Life Monteverde, ecotourism has affected the lives of farmers. Specifically, Guillermo Vargas has been managing educational programs for nine years with the purpose of sharing his knowledge about sustainable agriculture on the Life Monteverde farm. He has 30 years of experience with environmental education and reforestation in Monteverde and is enthusiastic to share what he has learned throughout the years. Due to the influence of ecotourism, programs at Life Monteverde now include an interactive tour of the property regarding sustainable agriculture, informational sessions, volunteering, homestays and internships.

Personally, I perceive Costa Rica’s shift toward ecotourism is positive overall. The rise of educational programs for tourists about sustainability and nature conservation spreads awareness, builds interest, and provokes action regarding the importance of taking care of the Earth.

Hasta pronto,

Taylor Siegfried

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