Filed under: Energy + Climate, Food + Health, J500 Week 8, Nature + Travel, Society + Media | Tags: banana industry, Ben Pirotte, biodiversity, Costa Rica, food, photography, sustainable travel, travel
To fight the harsh Kansas winter, my family decided to pack up and leave for sunny, warm Costa Rica. Known around the world as an eco-paradise, this tiny, Central American country has a lot to protect.
Fresh food, especially fruit, is an important part of Costa Rican’s “Pura” lifestyle. At the hotel, shrimp cocktail fills a papaya bowl. The shrimp was caught off Costa Rica’s coast, and the papaya was also grown nearby. Talk about eating local! As a plus for living in this tropical environment, locals pay significantly less for their products. A pound of bananas at a local market only cost 19 colones (that’s only 3 cents!), compared to the cost in the US of an average around 30-40 cents. However, is that the true cost of a banana? Unsustainable practices in Costa Rica’s banana industry include heavy use of pesticides, deforestation, and improper treatment of many banana harvesters.
Tourism is booming in Costa Rica, which claims to be one of the most eco-friendly tourist destinations in the world. However, places like Costa Rica’s North Pacific coast, in the state of Guanacaste, are sometimes trading tourist dollars for safe environmental practices, as resorts and the winter homes of rich migratory North American retirees flood the landscape.
Biodiversity is an incredibly important part of Costa Rica.
Comparable to the size of West Virginia, this small tropical country contains five percent of all of earth’s species. However, pressures from population growth and development from tourism are a constant threat to Costa Rica’s abundant wildlife.
While there, I learned this tiny country is a big player in environmental sustainability, despite its miniscule size. However, no country is perfect, and Costa Rica is no exception. With the tourism industry booming, and a global desire for a tasty banana, this Central American country has to deal with some difficult choices.
Photos and text by Ben Pirotte
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