Project Costa Rica: Costa Rica's Journey to a Peaceful Society

Environmental diversity creates need for national biological conservation

by April Stanley

Arenal Volcano
The constantly flowing Arenal Volcano is just one of
the many biological wonders in Costa Rica. The
country has three major volcanic mountain ranges.

One challenge for the Costa Rican government is to provide security in the absence of a standing army. To do this, the state has invested in promoting quality of life through means of education and health care, rather than investing in weaponry and armed forces. As an additional security component, the government has invested in the environment.

Environmental degradation is known to directly or indirectly cause human suffering. It can also create conditions that increase the potential for conflict, such as economic disruption, social tension and political antagonism. While there are environmental problems in Costa Rica such as deforestation and soil erosion caused by the cattle industry, an emphasis on protecting the environment is apparent.

Twenty-five percent of Costa Rica's land is under some form of protection, whereas the global average is only 3 percent. Half of that protected land is within the national park system.

Costa Rica has quite a rich and diverse environment. While occupying only .01 percent of the earth's landmass, Costa Rica hosts 5 percent of the world's biodiversity. In this country, there are 35,000 species of insects, more than 10,000 species of plants, 850 species of birds (more than the United States and Canada combined) and 800 species of butterflies (more than the entire African continent).

The key to supporting this biological wealth is to maintain the many diverse ecosystems. The ecological richness includes lowland rain forests, cloud forests, tropical dry forests, mangrove forests and swamps. Included in Costa Rica's environmental riches are also three major volcanic mountain ranges (which include active volcanoes) and 750 total miles of coastline.

Given that this country has 31 national parks, it is no wonder that Costa Rica is an extremely popular ecotourism destination.

Tourism and ecotourism have grown because of the environmental beauty Costa Rica offers, in addition to a stable political atmosphere. Having surpassed cattle ranching, coffee and banana exportation, tourism is now the country's top source of income. Ecotourism, which is exploring natural areas to observe wildlife or learn about the environment with minimal or no damage to the ecosystem, has become popular in recent years.

Costa Rica offers many options for active travelers. One can participate in a variety of adventures such as white-water rafting, kayaking, scuba diving, surfing, camping, hiking, mountain biking and bird watching. Taking a canopy tour is an increasingly popular way to explore the tropical rain forest. A person hangs from a harness that is connected to wires some 100 feet above the forest floor and glides through the forest canopy on wires, stopping at platforms to enjoy the view.

A round trip air ticket to Costa Rica can be purchased for around $450 and the duration of the trip from Dallas to San José is only three hours. Costa Rica is a fascinating destination with many experiences to offer and is both inexpensive and relatively close.