Climate change is not just an environmental issue anymore.

The World Bank declared yesterday that unless countries implement immediate “climate-smart development,” over 100 million additional individuals may fall beneath the poverty line by 2030.

Furthermore, those already living in poverty are at risk for falling deeper in the hole.

[quote_box_center]Poor people and poor countries are vulnerable to a wide range of climate-related shocks — natural disasters that destroy assets and livelihoods; waterborne diseases and pests that become more prevalent during heat waves, floods, or droughts; crop failure from reduced rainfall; and spikes in food prices that follow extreme weather events. Such events can erase years of hard work and asset accumulation and leave people with irreversible human and physical losses.[/quote_box_center]

Contrary to previous reports, yesterday’s release titled Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty analyzes the economic impacts of climate change at the household, rather than national level of 92 countries across the globe — Costa Rica included.

Climate Change & Poverty in Costa Rica

The World Bank found that efforts to preserve ecosystems and biodiversity can also be beneficial to the socio-economic situation for humans. Using Costa Rica as an example, Shock Waves explains:

[quote_center]“The establishment of a protected area… has increased tourism-based incomes and accounted for two-thirds of the poverty reduction achieved in the area.”[/quote_center]

[quote_box_right]READ MORE: Tourism May Help Alleviate Poverty, experts say[/quote_box_right]

Furthermore, protected forests amplify the environment’s natural pollination services, benefiting nearby farms. Preserved watersheds also provide advantages to agriculturists and communities in the area.

All in all, healthy ecosystems play “an important role in protecting livelihoods against climate risks,” says Shock Waves. Put simply, this means that the healthier a community’s natural environment, the less chance that community will have of falling into poverty.

It’s no small coincidence, then that one indigenous group in Costa Rica has begun integrating recycling into their central culture.

A Fight for Preservation

The BriBri of the Talamanca mountain range have been called, “Costa Rica’s hidden people.” Known for cacao production and their maintained language, the BriBri number between 11,500 and 35,000 — the true population count skewed due to social influences on census results.

Last month, the Pulitzer Center reported: “While some communities, such as the one in Yorkín, feel their lifestyle is protected, others are starting to crack under a single, constant threat.” What is this threat? Despite two laws protecting both indigenous lands and the country’s forests in general, illegal deforestation continues to trespass onto the BriBri reserve.

Shock Waves and interviews suggest that this is both an economic and spiritual concern for the BriBri. In the words of one member:

[quote_center]It is very sad and hurtful for us to see them deforesting the forest because we consider the trees our brothers.[/quote_center]

In a different article posted by the Pulitzer Center, Roberto — an elder in the BriBri community of Yorking — remarks: “The forest and the jungle itself has changed. There’s less vegetation—it’s a little more warm.” With government officials already contacted to help protect their lands, the BriBri community decided to take their efforts a step further.

Climate change is not just an environmental issue anymore.In the early days, the BriBri received all they needed from the ground and the forests. Thus, when it came time to discard items, that trash was returned to the ground where it came from. Things would disintegrate and become reabsorbed into the ecosystem. “But Nowadays,” says Rolando Morales, “we have plastic bags and different kinds of groceries, so that’s why we’re trying to implement recycling.”

Times have changed, products have evolved, so their cultural practices must do the same. Continuing, Morales explains:

[quote_center]We have to make a difference in the world where we are living right now, so younger generations are the ones in charge [of teaching] older generations.[/quote_center]

By adding recycling bins throughout the community, embarking on river-cleaning tours and implementing other laws and educational tools, the BriBri community hopes to reduce their landfills and preserve their neighboring environment.

So Costa Rica’s safe, right?

[quote_box_right]Costa Rica Has a Dirty Little Secret. Do you know what it is?[/quote_box_right]If only climate change were that simple. Furthermore, recent urban flooding has revealed a major trash problem in the Central Valley. Guanacaste has already seen the effects of drought, while Limon struggled earlier this year with their own floods.

The sad fact of the matter is that while localized groups have taken it upon themselves to implement eco-friendly policies, such actions must be taken by all the people of the world in order to prevent the global climate-related shift towards poverty by 2030. While we should always start amidst ourselves, widespread activism will be necessary.

According to Stephane Hallegatte, World Bank senior economist who led the team that produced Shock Waves:

[quote_center]“The future is not set in stone. We have a window of opportunity to achieve our poverty objectives in the face of climate change, provided we make wise policy choices now.”[/quote_center]

Fast Facts

  • At the rate we’re going, modeling studies have shown that climate change may account for a 5% crop yield drop by 2030. This number jumps to 30% by 2080, causing major concern global hunger.
  • As long as climate change continues to rise without counter-action, food prices will do the same.
  • Those in the lower economic classes are statistically more likely to be exposed to extreme conditions of higher temperatures, floods and droughts.
  • Similarly, these groups are more likely to come in contact with malaria — a disease that is expected to increase its toll by 5% by 2030.