Saving Costa Rica
Costa Rica is an Eco-tourists paradise. The country holds some of the most beautiful rainforests and rivers in the entire world. The lush habitat of Costa Rica also supports some of the most expansive and diverse flora and fauna in the world. The area of Costa Rica contains over 1000 species of trees, 8000 species of flowering plants, 200 species of mammal, including the beautiful but elusive jaguar, and over 800 bird species, nearly one-tenth of the world’s total species of birds (Burnie 25).
Tourism is Costa Ricas number one industry. Last year, tourism brought in over 600 million dollars, which represents about 30% of Costa Ricas foreign earnings (Re-evaluating 21). Seventy-six percent of all tourists visit Costa Ricas National parks, and the number of tourists visiting annually is increasing each year (Burnie 25). Though revenues from tourism are increasing, many problems plague Costa Ricas environment, and inevitably the economy.
Costa Rica is currently rivaling Brazil for the highest deforestation rate (Frommer 24). Seventy-five years ago, three fourths of Costa Rica was covered by forest. Today, only twenty percent of the nation retains its original forest cover (Dreshner 23). Along with habitat destruction comes extinction. According to the World Reasources Institutes report, Costa Rica is home to thirteen endangered birds, nine endangered mammals, and two endangered reptiles. All of these animals are harmed by habitat loss, or the increase of foreign species that follow dramatic changes in the countryside (Rachoweiki 26). Deforestation also causes erosion, which turns clear waters brown with the addition of mud and silt. Costa Rica has some of the most beautiful rivers in the world. In fact, the Rio Pacuare is called by three rafting magazines, The fifth most beautiful river in the world (Buckner 2). Without its clear waters, the Rio Pacuare will not be able hold that status.
Every year, the Pacuare brings over 450,000 tourists to its waters (Buckner 4). Almost all tourists experience the river by kayaking or rafting, and because the average rafting or kayaking trip costs 150 dollars, the Rio Pacuare is a huge environmental and economical asset to Costa Rica (Rachoweiki 158). Currently the Rio Pacuare is under pressure. A hydroelectric dam is to be built on the Pacuare. In 1994 a plan was laid out to have the dam done by the end of the century. Officially the dam is still to be built, but environmental opposition has slowed the process (Buckner 3). Not only will the dam hurt the country economically; it will hurt it environmentally by denying certain animals access to the water and making living in the water inhospitable for many species of aquatic life.
Another problem facing Costa Rica is the pollution concern. Costa Rica was once a nation with only one major city, San Jose. All pollution came from San Jose, and the rest of the nation was left unpolluted. Today, more and more industrial cities are forming, creating pollution all over the nation (Re-evaluating 21). Pollution has already had devastating effects on Costa Ricas environment. Costa Ricas most visited park, Monteverde, has probably felt the effects of pollution the most. Prior to 1989, Golden Toads hopped in abundance in the boundaries of Monteverde. Monteverde was the only place in the world where Golden Toads could be seen. Because Monteverde was the only location where the toads could be found and because they hopped around in such abundance, the Golden Toad became the mascot of Monteverde. But then in 1989, no Golden Toads were seen. No Golden Toads have ever been seen since 1989 (Davis, Solomen, Berg 828). Scientists can only believe that the toads went extinct due to increased air pollution that killed the frogs as gas exchange occurred through their moist skin (Rachoweiki 234).
Though pollution occurs throughout all of Costa Rica much of the pollution occurs on the coast, where large hotel chains are beginning to spring up. These hotel chains not only put pollution and trash into the water, but they also harm endangered sea turtle populations. The hotels have streetlights, entrance lights, and room lights, many of which must be left on all night long for the hotel chain to function (re-evaluating 21). When baby sea turtles hatch from eggs on the beach, they instinctively go toward light. (The baby turtles think that the light is the moon) Because they do not go to the water, they usually die of starvation, or they are eaten by predators (Rachoweiki 528).
Without the flora and fauna Costa Rica is famous for, and without the beautiful rainforests and rivers that make Costa Rica one of the most beautiful nations in the world, tourists will not seek Costa Rica as their destination any longer. If the above problems continue, there is no way to keep Costa Rica as an Ecotourists destination.Without tourism Costa Rica will lose 30% of its foreign earnings. Losing that 30% would be detrimental to the economy. The environment must be saved in order to ensure a prosperous economy.
Maintaining a stable population within Costa Rica is the only way to ensure the environments well being into the future. All of the mentioned problems could be solved if population was stabilized. This approach means freezing deforestation rates because zero additional persons require zero additional resources. That approach provides time for the trees to grow back and the area to be rehabituated. Having zero people added to the population cancels the need for new power and the need for hydroelectric dams. Then, too, the pollution rate stays the same providing the environment with time to recuperate and deal with the steady pollution output.
Costa Rica currently has a 2% annual population increase (Rachoweiki 13). With this rate, Costa Rica will double its population every 45 years. A massive growth demands many resources that must be taken from the earth. It is apparent that the population needs to be solved, but how to go about controlling it is the real question. Many nations around the world have already realized that they have a population growth problem. Very few nations have done anything to control it. Two nations that have begun to stabilize their population are China and Singapore.
China has had a one child maximum law to control the population. Though this approach is very effective, coercive measures such as this one would not work in a democratic nation such as Costa Rica. Singapore started a less coercive law, which in the last 25 years has nearly stabilized the population (Paxon 3). The law gives tax bonuses to couples who have fewer children. Singapores public housing was also built to only support one or two children. These two factors greatly influenced the people in Singapore to have fewer children, which in turn stabilized the population.
This approach could work perfectly in Costa Rica. The U.S. practices macro lending in Costa Rica. The macro-lending could be diverted into giving money to those couples that have fewer children. This way it could boost the economy, while ensuring environment preservation in the future.
Many officials claim that Costa Ricas preservation efforts are enough to ensure a beautiful nation. But with a doubling time of 45 years allows no way for the environment to compete with human growth. Conservation efforts are needed to protect the current situation, but population growth stabilization is the only way to ensure that man and environment can co-exist forever.
Buckner, Alice. Saving the Pacuare. Costa Rica: Rios Tropicales, 1995.
Burnie, David. Ecotourists to Paradise. New Scientist Mar. 1997:22-28.
Davis, William., Eldra Solomon., and Linda Berg. The World of Biology. Philidelphia, PA: Saunders
College Publishing, 1990.
Drescher, Henrik. Death of a Small Country. The ProgressiveAug. 1994: 23-25.
Frommer, Arthur. Writing Reasonable Rules for Ecotourism. Travel Advisor Feb. 1994: 25.
Paxon, David. World Population Balance. Minneapolis, MN: World Population Balance, 1998.
Rachowiecki, Rob. Costa Rica. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet Press, 1997.
Re-evaluating the Ratings Game. Environment Apr. 1996: 21.