How Green is Costa Rica? Cannabis and conservation in the land of ‘Pura Vida’

My goodness I have learned a lot on this trip.  It has been amazing to learn how Costa Rica is becoming a pioneer in using renewable and clean energy to power their country. Using primarily hydroelectricity and wind power they have been able to  power their electricity for 300 days this year on renewable energy alone.  By 2020 they aim to be the first carbon-neutral country in the world. In addition to investing in and using renewable energy there are also programs that encourage Farmers to plant trees instead of cut them down and these farmers are than compensated for growing trees .  This not only offsets the carbon footprint but also creates ecosystems and habitats for Native wildlife . However when it comes to human Wildlife Conflict, for example Jaguars and pumas eating cattle, the government does not have a Compensation Program in place and this causes  problems  for people in rural areas who depend on their livestock to earn a living .  This was a problem I also studied in Kenya and Tanzania where rural farmers and herders are not being compensated for  livestock and crops lost to wildlife and therefore retaliatory killings of predators is a common and unfortunate outcome. For this reason better compensation programs need to be put in place to mitigate human-wildlife conflict. Speaking of human-wildlife conflict, in speaking with one of the locals in Monteverde it was explained to me that there is a small group of eco-conscious individuals who are trying to do away with the annual Christmas festival fireworks, because they argue that it is traumatic for the animals and they flee the surrounding forests taking weeks to return. She admitted that the festival brings the town together and brings much joy to the children, and while the parade is noisy with all of the drums, it’s really just the fireworks display that they would like to see desist in the future. And she makes a good point, many of the animals in the area ate nocturnal and very sensitive to sound and I’ll get those firework booms scare the shit out of them, but again the local wildlife isn’t often taken into consideration when planning the annual fiesta de navidad.

20181205_124556I noticed that recycling is encouraged and made easy with recycling facilities located throughout towns. And while I did see (but not use) some straws, I also noticed that some, not all, were indeed compostable and biodegradable. Also.  Biodegradable is toilet paper! For this reason, and because it clogs their sensitive sewage systems, toilet paper is not throw in the toilet, but instead in the trash. Which I admit is a really hard habit for folks from the USA to break, but when you think about it it’s a lot easier to process waste when there’s not a bunch of soggy toilet paper in there. I also did still see litter along the side of the road and on the sidewalks but was pleased to see that the wildlife Reserves, parks and hiking trails were mostly free of litter but I did still pick up whatever I saw. And one thing that I noticed is that everywhere in the world people throw their beer cans along the side of the road. Grrr.

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Coke bottles and beer cans

As for cannabis, on my first Uber ride from the airport I asked the driver what the deal with weed was in Costa Rica and he explained that while it is illegal, there is a sort of accepted tolerance for it amongst authorities and there is certainly a market, albeit a black market for it. According to several people I asked,  police won’t arrest you for it they’ll just tell you to put it out. Howe ver its important to keep in mind that how police treat Ticans (locals) is probably different than how they treat tourists, so on the popular coastal town, its best to use caution when procurring pot. I was told the weed would be shit down there and I saw 2 different stashes, and while one was about what you’d expect from non-legal weed, (brownish, with seeds) the other nugs looked like they came straight from a Colorado dispensary, I was impressed! And let me tell you, both got me high. I do so love being a weed tourist wherever I go.

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