Today scientists, Jonathan E M Baillie and Ellen R Butcher, supported by 8000 additional scientists, released Priceless or Worthless: The world’s most threatened species, listing the 100 must critically endangered species on the planet. While none of Costa Rica’s endangered species made the critically endangered list, it raised interesting points and concerns about saving endangered species and how we value life on planet earth. There are 373 endangered species in Costa Rica, and this country’s pro-environmental stance has been critical in ensuring that species that may have gone from endangered to critically endangered have not. Despite the alarming reports released daily on climate change and the ramifications, it is hard to fathom why more aggressive action is not being taken on a global scale. It defeats logic and the principles of the happiness index. What is holding us back from moving forward and what do we need to do as a global community to solve these critical problems? The report questions our value systems. It states “Our materialistic world, however, tends to restrict its attention to what is useful to human kind, has an immediate monetary value and considers the rest as obstacles.”
If politics are driven by moral values and economics, what does current policy tell us about what we value? We have moved towards a system of functional values where life is tied to a human centered monetary value. In other words, instead of seeing ourselves as part of life on earth, we see non-human life as here to serve humans and more specifically economics. If a species does not have a direct monetary value for human purposes then it is does not matter.
Currently, there is no international law in place to protect endangered species and there is also a huge lack of funding. Right now most species protection programs, like the sea turtles in Costa Rica, rely on the generosity of volunteers and good will of private sector businesses to operate. In order for species protection to ramp up to be more effective in curtailing this crisis requires massive dollars from both governments and the private sector.
In order to avoid going over the cliff to the point of no return, according to the report, we will need to make some fundamental changes. Among the necessary changes are stabilizing population growth, reducing waste including CO2 emissions and consumption, implementing economic and legal structures that promote environmentally sustainable growth and ensure good governance of the ecosystem, buy less, and buy sustainably sourced food and materials.
Sustainable businesses and ecotourism, supported by resorts such as Crocodile Bay, are critical parts of the solution to the environmental crisis. Costa Rica provides a model for the world to follow, and it is model that will continue to evolve over time as new challenges arise. This small country provides an important glimpse into what sustainable development looks like, which is critical to saving the habitats of now threatened species.
A sustainable system values life not money. Money is a tool, not an end goal to hoard, in a sustainable economy. Even now we see how the world’s poor are in a second class, an invisible class. If we determine a life’s value based on monetary value and economic standing- what does that say about the direction of humanity? I’m sure it is not the world I hope to leave my daughter for that is the Brave New World Huxley warned us about.