For a nation that prides itself on the beauty of its environment and the diversity of its ecological heritage, Costa Rica has been remarkably slow in joining the “green” movement, which for several decades has been taking root around the world. Although this small country has set aside some 27% of its landmass in national parks and protected reserves, containing about 5% of the entire world’s biodiversity, the populace is still somewhat blasé when it comes to basic environmental practices. Actions such as reusing and recycling, limiting use of plastics, employing sustainable agricultural practices, restricting the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, waste management, cleaning rivers and preserving uncontaminated watersheds occupy a low rung on the ladder of priorities in the country. In spite of the justifiable pride Ticos have about their beautiful natural surroundings, amazing flora and fauna and spectacular scenery from white sand beaches to stunning volcanoes, Costa Rican politics has not been focused on these issues.

Until the last decade Costa Rica basically had a two-party political system, with the traditional parties, Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN or National Liberation Party) and Partido de Unidad Socialcristiana (PUS or Social Christian Unity Party), vying for majority status. But during the 2002 election cycle, a former PLN congressman and government minister founded a new political party, the Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC or Citizens’ Action Party) and surprised the country by gaining 26% of the vote, a remarkable showing for a third party in Costa Rica. Since then a number of small political groups have succeeded in getting their candidates elected to the Assemblea Legislativa (Legislative Assembly).

Part of Costa Rica’s rich fauna

None of these factions, however, has ever taken a strong stand on environmental issues so that the public discourse around such topics has been limited in spite of their importance to the life and future of the nation. But this is beginning to change with the emergence of the Partido Verde Ecologista (PVE or Green Ecological Party), founded in 2003 by Don Rodrigo Arias Gutiérrez, a retired teacher and an energetic young reporter named Carlos Arrieta Jiménez. Although politically active only in the province of Cartago where Arrieta has campaigned unsuccessfully for a seat in the Assemblea Legislativa, PVE has invigorated the green movement in Costa Rica by taking part in direct actions, protest marches and by getting their message out in radio and television interviews. They hope to field a strong candidate in the 2014 elections.

Now their efforts have been rewarded by acceptance into the Federación de Partidos Verdes de las Americas (FPVA or Federation of Green Parties of the Americas), an international organization dedicated to unifying and strengthening the environmental movement in North, Central and South America. Even as I write this column, Don Rodrigo and other representatives of PVE are on their way to Ciudad Natal, Brazil, for the party’s official induction into the Federation at the group’s annual meeting.

The significance of this recognition by the Federation should not be underestimated. Within the membership of FPVA are leaders of green parties from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, the United States and Venezuela, comprising a broad coalition of organizations which provides support to one another by sharing resources, knowledge and experience. Their common goal is to encourage cooperation among ecological political parties, non-government organizations and community groups that support their mission. FPVA maintains an “urgent information and action network” to respond promptly to issues that can have a transnational or international impact. They also provide service and support to emerging green parties such as Costa Rica’s PVE, assistance which may facilitate PVE’s development into a significant voice in Costa Rica’s political arena.

Pesticide use threatens the environment

For retirees and expats from developed countries where curbside recycling is the norm, environmental rules are enforced to keep rivers and beaches clean and where sanitation practices are efficient to assure public health, the more lax conditions in Costa Rica may be cause for concern. All the more reason for those of us who have relocated to this tropical oasis to support the work of PVE, both financially as well as by participating in their activities and political actions. By visiting their Facebook page and clicking “Like,” you will help get the word out about this nascent political movement. By making a contribution to their work, you can help elect a person who will speak out for Nature in the national government.

The PVE party platform rests on principles of economic and social justice, freedom for individuals in religion, creed, work, education, political and electoral processes, as well as protection of animal habitat and living conditions, respect for indigenous communities and the formation of a society that works in harmony with Nature. These are tenets that can be and should be embraced by all. So let’s get behind PVE and support this important effort. After all, what does Pura Vida really mean if the magnificence of Costa Rica is to be lost through neglect and misuse of the many blessings Nature has bestowed upon her?

by Kat Sunlove for TheCostaRicaNews.com