How surprising it may seem, Costa Rica is now one of the pioneer countries with regard to environmental protection. Combining measures of preservation and ecotourism, the small country of Central America reinforces its new economy in full growth. The explanation of a success.
The term “Costa Rica” appears for the first time in 1539, a sweet name given by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Fernandez de Cordoba, to illustrate the richness of flora and fauna that had impressed him so much during his stay. This denomination still stands and corresponds to the importance that the country gives to the preservation of the environment. After the abolition of the army in 1948, Costa Rica focuses on the distribution of its budget: health, education and, above all, the environment. This small country, located in the heart of Central America between Nicaragua and Panama, has now tripled its GDP and also doubled the size of its forests in just 25 years.
Costa Rica is a tiny country that represents only 0.03% of the world’s land area and yet proudly enjoys its place in the list of the 20 countries that have the most biodiversity, with more than 4% of The same on a world scale. In total, Costa Rica strictly protects more than 26% of its land territory and more than 9% of its maritime territory, in protected ecological zones. 13.75% of these areas are strictly protected from all natural resource extraction. This demonstrates the country’s growing enthusiasm for environmental protection. The country tries to maintain its status as a pioneer in this area, preserving its forest, which represents more than 50% of its territory. All this environmental wealth is due to its geographical position, its two coasts and its mountainous landscape, which provide essential microclimates for the existence of its unique ecosystem, which houses more than 500,000 species of which 300,000 are insects.
However, everything that shines is not gold, since history hides dark moments about the environmental situation in Costa Rica. During the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, massive deforestation eclipsed the country’s “green virtue.” Deforested territory rose from 36 per cent in 1960 to 58 per cent in 1977, and from 68 per cent in 1984 to 89 per cent in 2000. The cause of deforestation was the demand for a growing population, the development of Livestock and economic decisions focused on the export of agricultural and food products. During that time, the ecological conscience of citizenship was almost non-existent. But in 1966, Costa Rica created a payment program for environmental services that constituted a 360-degree change, which marks the beginning of a fruitful future for environmental issues. The preservation of the environment symbolizes the economic key to the country and in fact, has taken advantage of this natural wealth to make it an unbeatable tourist attraction. Ecotourism represents 5% of GDP and in 2011, the number of visits reached 2.2 million foreign tourists, which shows that tourism is undoubtedly the engine of national progress.
Under the protection of a “guardian angel of the planet”.
As proof of environmental fervor, Randall Arauz, Costa Rican protector of the oceans, has been nominated “Guardian Angel of the Planet” by the Founding Congress of the Green Games during the Global Conference on Sustainable Development held in Paris. This Costa Rican biologist is now part of the 100 Guardian Angels around the world whose aim is to inspire children to seek solutions to the most common environmental problems. Moreover, on June 12, 2013, the Costa Rican lycee “Liceo de Flores” officially inaugurated its “Rainwater Harvest” program. It is a pipeline system and a 10,000-liter pond that would allow the high school to save 8 million liters of water per year. This represents one of many examples of ongoing programs so that the population is more aware of the importance of the environment.
There is still a long way to go in order to reach the objective that the Costa Rican government proposed in 1995: to establish adequate measures to ensure the protection of 90% of its biodiversity. However, the future is promising for this country which, for the national drinking water program alone, invests 105.36 million euros. In addition, in 1991, Costa Rica affirmed with conviction its attachment to the preservation of natural resources and eco-responsible tourism. The country also voiced its desire to become the first “carbon neutral” nation in 2021, a target that other countries like Norway and the Maldives have also set out to meet.
Costa Rica benefits from its status as a protector of the environment to attract foreign investment and international recognition, and thus strengthen its economic power. It aims to maintain this status and also collaborate in the fight against global warming. To combat this much-debated issue lately, it would be necessary for the other countries of the world to follow the ecological model of Costa Rica, a small country in size, but very large and competent in the knowledge of the environment.