Roberto Rainforest’s energy-filled voice comes crackling through the AM radio every weekday morning.
“Un muy, muy, muy buenos días a todos ustedes!” he cries,following a lead-in from “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” a song made popular in Disney’s “The Lion King.”
He’s broadcasting from Alto Los Mogos, a high spot above the Osa Peninsula’s rain forest, aided by a 240-foot tower equipped with the latest technology.
He recounts what wildlife has passed through the region,takes calls, delivers the local news – all with an underlying ambition of inspiring pro-environment action and giving a voice to the rain forest-covered region.
His words reach far beyond the rural peninsula that hangs off the country’s lower southwestern coast, spreading throughout the Central Valley, and, thanks to the Internet, to much of the world.
But Roberto’s show, broadcast weekday mornings from 5 a.m. to7, is only one piece of a radio station dedicated entirely to the environment.
Rainforest Radio, which went on the air for the first time in January, was founded by Jani Schulz and her husband, Jurgen, both active environmentalists and property owners on the Osa since 1994.
The couple fell in love with the region, and moved there full time in 1995. They built a home and purchased the land around them with the aim of conserving a little corner of the rain forest.
Schulz, a Texas native, said beyond the monkeys swinging through the backyard and the rainbow of birds that perch on the windowsill, it’s the people that captured her heart.
“Ticos are special people,” she said. “They adopted us as family and changed my life and the lives of my children.”
Through her relationship with her neighbors, Schulz became convinced that the only way to save the Osa was by way of its people, a community that in many ways has lost out in the past because of a disconnect with the rest of the world.
So the former radio show host and 15-year magazine publisher began designing Rainforest Radio, with the mission of connecting the Osa Peninsula with the outside world.
“Osa had no voice,” said Schulz. “And (its residents) had noway to voice their needs. We thought the best way to save the peninsula was through its people. If you save the people, you will save Osa.”
Thus began 90+ hours of programming a week, part of it broadcast from a little studio behind San José’s Calderón Guardia Hospital and another part from the station in the Osa, near the village of Rincón. The shows, mainly in Spanish, are not only a platform for people from Osa to share their ideas, but also a way for “Josefinos” to get to know the Osa.
“You would be surprised by how many people here have not even heard of the Osa,” Schulz said, recalling stories of Ticos who she introduced to the Osa for the first time.
The shows receive dozens of callers each day, host leading environmentalists and environmental organizations both from within and outside of the country, and aim to transmit an uplifting, informal and fun message.
“This is a different kind of proposition,” said Luis Diego Angulo, whose lengthy career in radio includes managing five radio stations.“It goes beyond small clips of ecological news and the basic messages of ‘recycle’ and ‘don’t litter’ and presents a full panorama of the worldwide environmental situation. And it is also delivered by people who live at the heart of one of the most precious ecosystems in the world.”
Mike Boston, a longtime Osa enthusiast who owns the Osa Aventura tour company, said the station has brought a new pulse to the area’s remote villages.
“It has been so well received here,” he said. “People are excited to call in and participate on the shows.”
But more than entertainment and the light-hearted message of earth-friendliness, Schulz hopes she can inspire Costa Ricans to take care of their country; and everyone – foreigners and Ticos alike – to take care of the world.
“I hope we can make a difference and that my great-grandkids will be able to see what I see down there,” Schulz said. “I think the Osa has the potential of being an example to the world.”