Calling all “ex-pats” to take our part in the worldwide actions, right here in Costa Rica.
Here in Costa Rica, immigrants from North America and Europe (or “ex-pats,” as some like to call ourselves) may find it easy to feel distant from the troubles of our former countries and the rest of the world.
As we are fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful and peaceful places, untouched by the horrors of a dictatorial government, where there is relatively low crime and no standing army, we may tend to forget that Costa Rica—indeed, all of the narrow Central American isthmus—is situated at the clash of two enormous continents, between two powerful oceans.
Thus it is especially vulnerable to the catastrophic effects of climate change.
Please read more about Costa Rica’s vulnerability to climate change below, if you are interested.
Right now I want to alert you to the Global Climate Strike, beginning this Friday, Sept. 20, and going throughout the week. These dates were chosen because on Monday the 23rd, the United Nations begins its 2019 Climate Action Summit in New York City. World leaders have been called together by Secretary-General António Guterres and asked to bring “concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.”
Many of the more developed countries have a long way to go if they’re to meet these goals; even Costa Rica, which does have very ambitious plans (see below), is likely to fail if it doesn’t step up the pace drastically and really begin implementing some of the programs it has mandated.
Why are people striking? Led by youth around the world, who realize their future is in serious jeopardy, individuals and organizations want to show that millions of people are sick of waiting for governments to take action. They’re watching catastrophic weather events, almost-daily weather records, habitat destruction, overuse of plastics, fossil fuel expansion, overfishing, coral reef destruction, and ocean species depletion, species extinctions, and environmentally-caused human-health problems, and they feel they cannot sit quietly and let all this destruction continue.
It’s time to take a stand, to show the political will to effect rapid and drastic changes in our policies and laws. We can’t solve the world’s problems on our own, even by modeling the most ecologically sound personal decisions. But together we can.
Do something this Friday and all week, and incorporate what you learn into your daily activities. As immigrants we may not have any political power in Costa Rica, but we do have the ability to make financial decisions that reflect our values, and we do have the ability to join with our Tico brothers and sisters in demonstrating that climate change is high on our list of priorities. There are at least four events scheduled around the country. Join one. Find more info and the RSVP button at the links below. Bring your neighbors and friends!
Friday, 27 Sep 2019 @ 12:00 noon
Estatua de León Cortés. Las Americas, San José Provincia San José 10108
Friday, 27 Sep 2019 @ 07:00am
sede central Turrialba 30501
Huacas, Guanacaste, Friday, 27 Sep 2019 @ 08:00 a.m.
Huacas intersección de Tamarindo.
Monteverde-Santa Elena, Friday, 27 Sep 2019 @ 11:00 a.m.
Monteverde – Santa Elena. Monteverde Friends School, Santa Elena
How Climate Change Effects Costa Rica:
If you’ve lived here more than a couple years you probably have noticed pretty drastic changes in the growing seasons (and if you talk to the farmers at the feria, they have plenty of their own stories about how weather unpredictability is affecting the way they manage crops), the amount of rainfall in winter, the number of bone-dry days during summers, and the increasing severity of storms. Indeed, Costa Rica saw its first hurricane in recorded history in 2016, and more will surely follow. Municipalities regularly shut down water supplies, from an hour or two to entire days.
The fabled cloud forest habitat is changing visibly and rapidly, with longer dry spells that threaten all the species that have historically thrived in that moist climate—including more than 500 orchid species. Costa Rica has the sad distinction of being the onetime home of the famed golden toad of Monteverde, whose extinction was the first to be formally attributed by scientists to global climate change.
Ocean rise brings its own sets of problems to this tiny country, with 800 miles of shoreline on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea—economically, Costa Rica is heavily reliant on tourism and water-related industries and activities.
Nice First Steps, but They’re Baby Steps!
About nine years ago the country announced, to great fanfare, its intention to become the first carbon-neutral country by the year 2021 . . . a little more than a year from now. While this goal is lofty and praiseworthy, anyone who drives these roads knows it will never be met as long as diesel trucks, cars, and buses, are clogging the roads and the air, and while fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides continue being pumped into the soils.
The country has amazing ideas, but needs a plan to make them happen, and that plan has to include huge investments in public transportation and drastic changes in agriculture practices. The country cannot rely on reforestation to sink all the carbon that needs to be sunk to become carbon neutral, which seems to be its primary tactic.
The government has initiated public awareness and education campaigns, but they may not reach to places outside tourism-dependent areas, such as our own rural central mountain canton. Certainly we do not see even such basic things as recycling bins with instructions, stiff penalties for pollution-belching automobiles, solar (or at least LED) street lighting, electric cars and charging stations, solar panels on homes, community vegetable gardens, and readily available organic produce.
Although the natural environment is so intrinsic to Costa Rica’s culture that local people profess to care deeply about it, single-use plastic and disposable items have become commonplace and expected. There is supposed to be a ban on plastic straws and bags, but there does not seem to be a way to enforce the ban, just as there seems to be no way to stop the diesel pollution from vehicles that supposedly pass a strict annual inspection process (ReTeVe).
There are many other areas in which climate change will impact Costa Rica, including forced migration, loss of seafood, changes to agriculture and the ways people eat, water shortages, flooding, adjusting construction methodology, and of course catastrophic weather events. And there are many other factors we may not even have considered yet. This is just a sampling.
But there are things we can influence, as consumers and as caring new immigrants who want to be engaged positively with our new country.
Please start by joining one of this week’s climate events, and taking a few small measures of your own; collectively, if enough of us do so, we will make a strong statement that we, too, want rapid action on climate from our local, national, and international policymakers.
What You Can Do This Friday, September 20:
- Grab a friend or colleague and walk out of school or work.
- Don’t spend money.
- Stay home or take public transportation, walk, or bike.
- Spread the word.
- Join an event or action near you.
- Teach your friends, family members, and colleagues why it’s important: Our house is burning, after all, and it’s time to force policy makers to take action on climate change.
- Never forget that there’s power in numbers!
If you are interested in learning and doing more, please write to the author at [email protected].
Maura Stephens is a journalist and educator from the United States.