My Visit to Costa Rica by Shirley Dolan

Shirley Dolan
Shirley Dolan

Well it seems our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has decided to spend his Christmas holidays in Costa Rica. He’ll descend on this small country of 5.5 million souls with his family and his entourage of aides, nannies, and security personnel. It’s a small country – Ontario by comparison has a population of 14.5 million with a total geographic area of 1,076,395 square kilometres. Costa Rica is 51,100 square kilometres.

Coincidentally, I just returned from an eight-day vacation in Costa Rica. It was my fourth visit to this country. I keep going back, because, damn, its cold up here in Canada and a few days of warmth and sunshine get me through the Canadian winter. But there is more than the warm sunny days that keep me going back. This is a country which seems to separate the climate change crisis, leaving it with the politicians, while ordinary people go about respecting the environment.

Like most countries in the world, Costa Rican politicians has gotten caught up in the climate change hysteria. Many like to conflate saving the environment with mitigating climate change. “Costa Rica’s new president, 38-year-old former journalist Carlos Alvarado, recently announced a plan to make his country the first carbon-neutral nation in the world by 2021, the 200th anniversary of its independence.” This is a reversal of the previous president whose target date was 2085, which is probably a more realistic date. The surprise in all of this is that “Costa Rica does not have a ban because it does not have a law restricting the use of fossil fuels, nor does it plan to.”

While the politicians pontificate about achieving their carbon neutral goals, there are significant indications that the people care more about protecting the environment (a tangible objective) than any notion of meeting a vague carbon reduction goal. In 1994, the Costa Rican constitution was amended so that a healthy environment was a guaranteed right for all citizens. The move to protect and restore the environment appears to be a much more common-sense approach than here in Ontario. For example:

  • Agreements to reforest private property seems to be voluntary and driven by mutual agreement.
  • Private organizations such as the Monteverde Conservation League (MCL), an independent, non-profit association that is dedicated to the conservation, preservation and rehabilitation of tropical ecosystems and their biodiversity, partners with other private organizations for funding to support their programs. Their primary goal is to protect a colourful bird called the quetzal, and in so doing, they also provide safe habitat for other animals.
  • There is some solar panels and wind turbines in Costa Rica but most of the electricity come from hydro. Solar and wind appear to be used in remote areas and all three operate in harmony, i.e. hydro is not shut off to respect solar or wind. Electricity in Costa Rica is very reliable. Costa Rica has wisely invested in hydro power. Lake Arenal was tripled in size with the construction of the Arenal dam in 1979. This hydroelectric project is hugely important to Costa Rica, initially generating 70% of the country’s electricity, now closer to 17%, and was also a driving force behind Costa Rica’s green energy policy.

Hopefully Mr. Trudeau will come back to Canada with a better understanding of the difference between protecting the environment and climate change policies. Protecting the environment should be our primary goal. Its achievable and something everyone can easily get their head around. The notion that world governments or local ones can tax us sufficiently to change the climate is an ill-defined idea and scaring the children by telling them they are going to die in eight years unless their parents “pay up” is nothing short of extortion.

Oh, and Christmas is a very big deal in Costa Rica. There were Christmas trees everywhere, beautifully decorated, in upscale hotels, in villages, and on the front porch of the humblest abodes.

Feliz Navidad!