This week a New York Times editorial by a former climate change skeptic confirmed climate change is real and humans are the chief culprits. Yes, global warming is a real threat, scientists are speaking out, and already many cultures are suffering the impacts of climate change. As the climate crisis escalates, necessity drives the growing international popularity of sustainable development. Costa Rica’s ecotourism industry is a sustainable development model that emerging economies can learn from.
Costa Rica is a world leader in sustainable development. Scientists and naturalists refer to Costa Rica as “the living Eden.” More than a quarter of Costa Rica is designated a national park, biological reserve, wildlife refuge, or some category of either public or private protected land. No other country in the world comes close to this statistic. They recognized that pursuing an unsustainable path of development was a form of suicide that would inevitably wreak havoc on both their ecosystem and people. They saw the infinite value of protecting their rich biodiversity.
The biological diversity in Costa Rica is unmatched by any other place in the world. There are between 500,000 and 1 million total species of flora and fauna, 2,000 species of orchids, 208 species of mammals, 850 species of birds, and endless species of moths and butterflies. All of this rich life exists in a space that occupies three ten-thousandths of the earth’s surface. 5% of all the plant and animal species on the planet live in Costa Rica. Many of the species here can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
In the 1980s, Costa Ricans began designating forests and wetlands as protected areas. There are parks in Costa Rica where visitors can tramp through rainforests which stand today as they did a million years ago because of their commitment to conservation and ecotourism.
Costa Rica is the birthplace of ecotourism. The industry’s high level of success serves as a model for other nations. Ecotourism, supported by resorts such as Crocodile Bay, emphasizes minimal impact on the environment and also generates funding to preserve and to protect the ecosystem. Ecotourism benefits local community development. The revenue generated through ecotourism is invested back into the community ensuring strong local economies.
The international demand for destinations that offer ecotourism grows every year creating a need for full service eco-friendly resorts. More and more people are seeking out vacations in natural environments and cultures. Ecotourism acts as a catalyst for environmental protection. The challenges are maximizing the benefits of tourism while minimizing the environmental, economic, political and social and cultural impacts of tourism. The success of tourism in the Osa Peninsula is due largely to its relative isolation which has limited the impact of transnational corporations. Also making this spot popular is that the average family has to shell out relatively little for their holiday here.
As the climate change pushes us over the edge pursuing sustainable development models are crucial if humanity is going to solve this crisis. Costa Rica provides a model for development to be studied and replicated.