Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lessons from Costa Rica

Must everything come down to dollars and cents? In a super-capitalistic society, I suppose we could reduce everything, even preserving the environment, into a commodity. With the crash of US economic markets and looming governmental budget cuts setting the stage for the dismantling of environmental regulation, it was heartening to see the New York Times article today about the cost effectiveness of maintaining biodiversity and other natural resources. Holding up Costa Rica as a model, a country known for its investment in national parks, the article cites their Payment for Environmental Services program, where land owners are paid to maintain native forest instead of cutting. In curtailing deforestation, Costa Rica serves as a model for the rest of the world and is the reason for their thriving eco-tourism. Having just returned from Four Seasons Resort in Costa Rica and visiting the Palo Verde rainforest, I can say that preserving the environment can be financially beneficial. The concept reminded me of a conversation our family had with Congressman Steve Israel in March. He spoke of securing money for restoring the Long Island Sound, helping to make commercial fishing a profitable profession again, only to see funding disappear. Some would say the program was big government waste, but others might see it as serving two purposes-- both economically and environmentally. With our current Congressional gridlock, perhaps we should take a look at Costa Rica's forward-thinking environmental plans and adopt them as our own.

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