Tico Times: Letters to the Editor (Jan. 18, 2019)

January 18, 2019

The Tico Times is proud to be an independent, English-language news source in Costa Rica. Our readers regularly submit editorials and responses to our articles; we appreciate your opinions and feedback.

Below is a selection of editorials we have received recently.

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Straws to save the environment 

By Esteban Vargas, Universidad de Costa Rica

Dear Tico Times:

I would like to express my excitement after having read Yamlek Mojicas’s article “Sorbos: Edible straws coming to Costa Rica” (TT, Nov. 1).

Every day, millions of tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean, threatening marine life, polluting beaches and affecting people’s health. Sea turtles are especially susceptible to eating plastic and also to being entangled in it. One of the most concerning aspects of plastic pollution is that plastic can take centuries to degrade naturally, and even when it does it just breaks down into smaller bits called microplastics. These tiny bits of plastic spread easily due to the movement of the waves and are ingested even by small fish. This means that even simple items like bottles and straws can have a drastic impact on the environment.

Since plastic pollution is such an important issue, it is necessary to find innovative solutions. Most environmentally friendly restaurants simply encourage clients to stop using straws. Others go an extra mile and offer bamboo or paper straws. Of course, their effort to make people aware of the importance of taking care of the environment is commendable and also much appreciated, but it is just not groundbreaking. Sorbos’ way to approach this issue, however, is very ingenious. While the idea of producing straws made of biodegradable materials is nothing new, the concept of edible straws strikes me as brilliant. They not only serve as a good alternative to plastic straws, but also enhance your mealtime experience. The most remarkable feature of Sorbos straws is that they do not contaminate the flavor of the drink. Personally, that was one of my misgivings about edible straws before I read the article.

Some people may think that Sorbos’ product is rather expensive (7,500 colones for the smallest package of straws). However, it is important to point out that edible straws are a delicious snack in their own right. Not to mention that many conscientious consumers  are willing to pay a higher price in order to do their part in protecting the environment.

I believe that more businesses should follow the example of Sorbos not just because it is the right thing to do but also because it could benefit them in the long run. Companies that adopt “green” practices tend to viewed more favorably by the public, which can be very useful to attract more customers and to recruit employees. Some people may feel more motivated to work for a company that is committed towards bettering society. This is especially true for younger generations.

Unfortunately, not all companies are willing to become eco-friendly. Adopting green practices requires time, effort, and in some cases, a considerable money investment. The fact that some green products have higher costs may drive away potential customer, particularly people with fewer resources or those who are simply not interested in the environment. However, this can be offset by building a loyal consumer base that shares the same environmental ideals.

Overall, I think that Mojica’s article is great because it raises awareness about the negative impact of single-use plastic products and offers an eco-friendly alternative. Hopefully Sorbos will be a big success that inspires other businesses to help the environment, and hopefully the Tico Times will continue informing people about new and interesting green products.

Esteban Vargas

Universidad de Costa Rica

 

Electric train should be Costa Rica’s priority

By Esteban Barahona, Universidad de Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, there has been a disorganized development of public roads and public transportation. The fast growth in the number of personal vehicles accentuates this issue. In the case of the train, it has been underutilized until recently. A possible solution is to develop electric train routes, including underground sections. Adapting and expanding the current train to an electric train should be a priority of the government.

This plan sounds like a good idea, but some critics may argue that this type of project can be expensive. However, an electrical train will become profitable after the initial cost was invested. Also, we have to consider that it can be built using an alternative such as a concession for public infrastructure projects. In this alternative, a private enterprise can adapt and expand the current train to become electric. The train is built on public property owned by the government, but the first years of profits go to the private developer.

Due to a disorganized and fast urban development, Costa Rica now has a series of bottlenecks in its public roads. A subway (also known as metro or underground) can improve this inefficient and slow transportation. The underground sections of this new electric train may be focused on the bottlenecks, freeing slow roads that are sometimes compared to parking space. Since this will be the first underground train in Costa Rica, it does not have to be a high-speed one. These trains, known as bullet-trains, were developed first in Japan and they can be faster than 200 km per hour. But we can start with electric trains that are much more accessible and feasible.

Besides the perception that a train has to be expensive, some opponents may also mention the current economical environment in the country. This slow economy includes a continuous unemployment rate, the fiscal crisis and a slow economical growth. However, the efficiency that can be gained from decongesting the public roads and making some travels faster may boost the national economy. Citizens will be able to consider jobs that are not close to home because it will take less time to travel. This can lead to a more flexible job market and may even help pay the initial cost of a modern electrical train.

Another challenge of this new project is its overwhelming size, which includes adapting and expanding infrastructure in all the country. However, there is an example of another public project that has been successful and is almost complete: Circunvalación. Even though this project took decades and is still not complete, it has been effective in building public roads by building them by sections. Yes, a national electric train is an immense project, but there are ways to build this effectively.

Historically, Costa Rica has a great environmental record. As mentioned in the article, almost 100% of the electricity produced comes from renewable sources. These will help the environment and improve the health of the population, because the train will be electric and the electricity will come from clean sources. It can be a motivation to continue in an ever greener path.

The project of a national electric train with underground sections may seem challenging, but it is a feasible plan. There are many alternative ways to build this, such as concessions and building it by sections. Finally, it will help with the ecological path that Costa Rica has chosen.

 

Restoration and conservation must be based on thorough understanding

By Karla Solís Herrera, Universidad de Costa Rica

Dear Tico Times:

Forest restoration holds much promise in helping to conserve Costa Rica biodiversity. According to your Oct. 21, 2018; article “The future of tropical forest restoration is community led,” the issue of restoring tropical forests should be not only in charge of the government.

This suggestion sounds very interesting and it could be beneficial to the country. I agree with the director of three biological stations in Costa Rica run by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), Rebecca Cole, who mentioned that private institutions and landowners can also help to save the forests; however, she did not specify how private companies are going to finance ecological projects in our country. Ecologists must provide deep information that permits citizens to know how the community-led with the help of private industry and government could work together in the future of forest restoration.

I do not pretend to disqualify the information of the article on the contrary, as a citizen, I am interested in knowing more about the topic, and the benefits it could represent for the protection of the environment in a country like ours, where 75.5 percent of Costa Rica’s territory is made up of trees. The article emphasizes government initiatives that provide financial support to protect the environment. Although, in the same article we can find another kind of comments about it like resources are not enough to keep restoring protected areas. That is why the article sounds kind of ambiguous in some developed ideas, it contradicts itself in some key points.

The expert claims that Costa Rica is the easiest place to put forward ideas of forest recovery, not only justifying that her strategies will work in our country because some lands suffer the consequences of the deforestation, but also it is important to explain the goals of the project of restoration. Which might range from maximizing carbon sequestration to restoring the full composition of species to providing habitat for specific faunal species of concern.

Moreover, the experts do not support the information that they are securing either with statistics, arguments, and information that prove the government’s performance in terms of environmental issues such as forests protection. According, to the ecologist Rebecca Cole, “A lot of small-scale farmers just don’t have access”. “They would like to improve on how to manage their land in a more sustainable way…” The organization could give more evidence to exemplify or to demonstrate the veracity of its arguments.

Something to called my attention that Cole states, “There has to be a change in the mindset” as a reference of restoration in Costa Rica. This statement confusing, because it is not clear if she was referring to the government, or the Costa Rican people. It is important to avoid misconceptions since the beginning, so the audience can follow the article without problems.

On the other hand, the information based on community-led as a future of preservation and restoration of tropical forests seems a terrific idea. Throughout the article the writer mentions some places such as Las Cruces, La Selva and Palo Verde which can take advantage of the environmental education program which The Organization for Tropical Studies wants to apply in Costa Rica.

Selecting a restoration strategy, for tropical forests or any ecosystem, must be based on a thorough understanding of the ecology of the system. The ecologists have a specific mission to accomplish and is to carry out conservation and protection of the tropical ecosystems, but Costa Rica is trying to do its best effort, we know it is a difficult task but with more support forests can be saved.

Sincerely,
Karla Solís Herrera
University of Costa Rica
English major, third year student

To share editorial ideas, comments or news tips, please email Katherine Stanley Obando, Editor, kstanley@ticotimes.net

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