Costa Rica is a very unique country. Not only because of it’s ecosystem (it has 5% of the world’s biodiversity in a land mass roughly the size of West Virginia), but because of its position in the world. It’s situated in Central America, a region unfortunately known for some major violence and civil strife, and yet Costa Rica is a bastion of calm and peace, in this sometimes stormy sea.
How about this little factoid? Their army was abolished back in 1949. So instead of going to guns and military training, money here goes to healthcare, education and infrastructure.
While ‘going green’ has become a trend amongst travel companies and destinations, the entire country of Costa Rica is doing so much more. A large part of their tourism is based on and around the environment – the rainforests, the ecology, the marine ecosystems – so they knew sustainable tourism had to become more than just a catchphrase.
This tiny, innovative country is the very first developing nation to have a real plan of becoming carbon neutral (with a goal of 2021).
To put this into bite size facts:
- 26% of its territory is under national park protection
- The eco-tourism sector is a $2 billion-a-year industry
- Its forest cover has actually doubled since the 1980s — thanks to more trees per capita being planted more than anywhere else and a ban of deforestation.
It seems like everyone watches to see what giants like the United States or China are doing, but we have a lot to learn from tiny Costa Rica.
They developed something called Payments for Environmental Services (PES). Essentially, the government is paying folks to be green. Landowners are rewarded financially when they maintain environmental services that benefit other people. Like anything, it’s not a perfect plan for all, and has some issues, but it’s a start.
Shiny, Happy People
And then there’s Costa Rica’s reputation for being one of the happiest countries in the world.
The latest version of the Happy Planet Index, just out last month, compiled by London’s New Economics Foundation (NEF), placed Costa Rica on top…numero uno.
“The Happy Planet Index measures what really matters — long and happy lives now and the potential for good lives in the future,” said Nic Marks, creator of the index, in a press release.
It does link happiness and the environment, and combines three key variables – what people say about their life satisfaction, their longevity and their ecological footprint.
Have you been to Costa Rica yet? Not a bad time to go check it out and see what’s making so many people happy!