Tom Friedman must have a nose problem.
I had to laugh at the NY Times piece by Thomas Friedman. It is a puff about the rivers and power resources in Costa Rica. It is supposed to be a model for the US. Tom Friedman has to be a better fiction writer than he is a journalist. I prefer to believe that Friedman was just sloppy and not totally dishonest, but honestly for starters, Costa Rica has no municipal sewage treatment plants. The capital of San Jose, two million people, pumps everything into the rivers. The river where Thomas Friedman went white water rafting faces this:
During the last decades, the proliferation of tourism megaprojects and agricultural infrastructure have caused considerable impacts on the region’s natural systems, which already suffer from regular impacts caused by natural processes, including floods and droughts. The development of infrastructure projects to control floods, as well as the unrestrained extraction of superficial and subterraneous waters for irrigation threaten the ecological integrity of the region.Duke University
The air in San Jose from auto pollution is choking and the city has regular scheduled power outages as the government monopoly rations power distribution.
I would not swim on any Costa Rican beach that has a house or hotel in sight. There is not one state in the United States that would tolerate the pollution and power distribution standards that exist in Costa Rica. I will add, that I happen to like Costa Rica, but am not blinded by a ten day sheltered exposure.
This is not the direction the United States wants to go in either energy or conservation.
(No) Drill, Baby, Drill
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN New York Times
Published: April 11, 2009
Liberia, Costa Rica
Sailing down Costa Rica’s Tempisque River on an eco-tour, I watched a crocodile devour a brown bass with one gulp. It took only a few seconds. The croc’s head emerged from the muddy waters near the bank with the footlong fish writhing in its jaws. He crunched it a couple of times with razor-sharp teeth and then, with just the slightest flip of his snout, swallowed the fish whole. Never saw that before.
These days, visitors can still see amazing biodiversity all over Costa Rica — more than 25 percent of the country is protected area — thanks to a unique system it set up to preserve its cornucopia of plants and animals. Many countries could learn a lot from this system.
More than any nation I’ve ever visited, Costa Rica is insisting that economic growth and environmentalism work together. It has created a holistic strategy to think about growth, one that demands that everything gets counted. So if a chemical factory sells tons of fertilizer but pollutes a river — or a farm sells bananas but destroys a carbon-absorbing and species-preserving forest — this is not honest growth. You have to pay for using nature. It is called “payment for environmental services” — nobody gets to treat climate, water, coral, fish and forests as free anymore.
The process began in the 1990s when Costa Rica, which sits at the intersection of two continents and two oceans, came to fully appreciate its incredible bounty of biodiversity — and that its economic future lay in protecting it. So it did something no country has ever done: It put energy, environment, mines and water all under one minister.
“In Costa Rica, the minister of environment sets the policy for energy, mines, water and natural resources,” explained Carlos M. Rodríguez, who served in that post from 2002 to 2006. In most countries, he noted, “ministers of environment are marginalized.” They are viewed as people who try to lock things away, not as people who create value. Their job is to fight energy ministers who just want to drill for cheap oil.
But when Costa Rica put one minister in charge of energy and environment, “it created a very different way of thinking about how to solve problems,” said Rodríguez, now a regional vice president for Conservation International. “The environment sector was able to influence the energy choices by saying: ‘Look, if you want cheap energy, the cheapest energy in the long-run is renewable energy. So let’s not think just about the next six months; let’s think out 25 years.’ ”
As a result, Costa Rica hugely invested in hydro-electric power, wind and geo-thermal, and today it gets more than 95 percent of its energy from these renewables. In 1985, it was 50 percent hydro, 50 percent oil. More interesting, Costa Rica discovered its own oil five years ago but decided to ban drilling — so as not to pollute its politics or environment! What country bans oil drilling?
Rodríguez also helped to pioneer the idea that in a country like Costa Rica, dependent on tourism and agriculture, the services provided by ecosystems were important drivers of growth and had to be paid for. Right now, most countries fail to account for the “externalities” of various economic activities. So when a factory, farmer or power plant pollutes the air or the river, destroys a wetland, depletes a fish stock or silts a river — making the water no longer usable — that cost is never added to your electric bill or to the price of your shoes.
Costa Rica took the view that landowners who keep their forests intact and their rivers clean should be paid, because the forests maintained the watersheds and kept the rivers free of silt — and that benefited dam owners, fishermen, farmers and eco-tour companies downstream. The forests also absorbed carbon.
To pay for these environmental services, in 1997 Costa Rica imposed a tax on carbon emissions — 3.5 percent of the market value of fossil fuels — which goes into a national forest fund to pay indigenous communities for protecting the forests around them. And the country imposed a water tax whereby major water users — hydro-electric dams, farmers and drinking water providers — had to pay villagers upstream to keep their rivers pristine. “We now have 7,000 beneficiaries of water and carbon taxes,” said Rodríguez. “It has become a major source of income for poor people. It has also enabled Costa Rica to actually reverse deforestation. We now have twice the amount of forest as 20 years ago.”
As we debate a new energy future, we need to remember that nature provides this incredible range of economic services — from carbon-fixation to water filtration to natural beauty for tourism. If government policies don’t recognize those services and pay the people who sustain nature’s ability to provide them, things go haywire. We end up impoverishing both nature and people. Worse, we start racking up a bill in the form of climate-changing greenhouse gases, petro-dictatorships and bio-diversity loss that gets charged on our kids’ Visa cards to be paid by them later. Well, later is over. Later is when it will be too late.
Costa Rican Electricity Institute
Says No Power Outages This Year
Power outages are somewhere near the top of residents' complaint lists. In Costa Rica, like much of Central America, sometimes the lights go out, though often there's a warning from the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) before they do.
But 2008, ICE claims, will be a blackout-free year, the daily Al Día reported.
This might come as relief to those who recall in mid-April when the government declared a state of emergency amid sweeping blackouts across the country. There wasn't enough rain to feed Costa Rica's hydroelectric plants, said ICE President Pedro Quirós.
Quirós told Al Día Friday the reservoirs in Arenal and Chachí are now at capacity, and users can rest assured that “this year there will be no cuts in electricity service.”
Costa Rica to ration power amid hydro shortfall
27 Apr 2007 02:24:05 GMT
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SAN JOSE, April 26 (Reuters) - Costa Rica said on Thursday a lack of rainfall to drive its hydroelectric plants meant it would have to start rationing electricity.
Power will be rationed twice a day for five hours at a time for different sectors of the population on a rotating basis, Pedro Pablo Quiros, executive president of the state-run Costa Rican Electricity Institute, said.
Costa Rica's rainy season, which normally starts in March, has still not begun, leaving the country's resevoirs depleted and triggering periodic power outages over the past week.
A sprinkle of rain spotted San Jose on Thursday, a far cry from the dousing needed to replenish the reservoirs.
"No one foresaw that the summer would be so strong," said Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias.
Costa Rica, famous for its lush rainforests, relies heavily on hydro-power, but built its first combined-cycle electricity plant in 2004 to meet 10 percent of its energy needs.
It now plans to install a 150-megawatt thermal electric generator at a cost of $150 million to help ease the shortage.
Tourism boom threatens Costa Rica eco-paradise
Fri Jun 20, 2008 6:44am EDT Email | Print | Share | Reprints | Single Page [-] Text [+]
TAMARINDO, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Pungent brown sewage spews into the Pacific ocean. In the background, cranes put up hotels and beachfront apartments.
Once home to monkeys, turtles and other rare wildlife, this stretch of coast in northwest Costa Rica is developing so fast that it is tarnishing the country's reputation as a destination for eco-tourists.
Biting the hand that feeds in Costa Rica
...Agro-export organizations oppose conservation measures that aim to improve the landscape to entice ecotourists. Use of pesticides is rampant, even though 20 per cent of them only make produce look better. There are five times more crop pests in Costa Rica than in North America, and agriculturalists argue that pesticides are a must to control them, even though pesticides cause huge wildlife losses through poisoning.
To make matters worse, Costa Ricas waste disposal is a nightmare. Raw sewage is usually dumped in the nearest wastercourse, just anywhere it can flow away.
The Costa Rican federal and local governments are so poor, largely due to a lack of any organized taxation system, that enforcement of all conservation laws is in the hands of local communities.
They, too, lack financial capability to enforce conservation laws. Even though Costa Rica has had a national conservation strategy since 1984, it has not spawned any workable programs.
"The laws are tough, but nobody really pays much attention to them," said a conservationist based at San Jose.
"Sure we have national parks and wildlife reserves, but nobody really enforces environmental laws there, or anywhere else," said a spokesman for the Fondacion Neotropica.
Wildtrapping of birds is a case in point. It is unlawful, but almost everybody does it. Costa Rica has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, and fully one-half are wild birds, poached from wild nests. About 50 per cent of Costa Ricans admit that they have owned a wild parrot at some point in their lives.
There are almost 200,000 pet parrots in Costa Rica, all belonging to species that are threatened or endangered.
Tax for Releasing Sewage Into Rivers
Posted 04-07-2009 at 09:51 AM by larryhans
In Costa Rica, we have to pay a tax for polluting rivers with raw sewage and soap out of households, industries, businesses and government offices.
This is the new canon of discharges which came into force this year and aims to raise funds to build wastewater treatment facilities throughout the country.
The tax is collected by the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (Minaet) through the Water Department. Homes will receive their surcharge in their drinking water bills.
Two months ago, a report was released by the government citing Jaco Beach has having a bacteria count of coliforms multiple times higher than acceptable for human bathing. Many people who live here already know this is a problem since they can smell the raw sewage as they walk by the rivers or over the bridges on a daily basis. Furthermore, business owners and homeowners are not surprised by this report since they know themselves to be pollutors and/or contributors. More so, Costa Ricans know very clearly where the pollution is coming from as noted by the Sala IV in 2007.Surf in jaco
The problem is further exacerbated by local business advocates focusing not on the report but that the report was published with alterior political motives. Translated: They are not denying the reports of “Aguas Negras” or “Black Water” but fuming about how the report was published and its timing. Nobody seems to focus on the real issue which is lack of enforcement for existing laws.
Currently, there is one inspector for about 400 septic treatment plants in this area and once cited the violator has XX months to correct the problem. When the inspector returns to check on progress, who has oversight of the inspector? When you pay minimum wages to an inspector, the lure of pay-offs to look the other way from larger developers is huge. People cannot deny that payoffs occur and in fact exists and happen on a daily basis.
One leading local business leader says “control the rivers and we will control the pollution.” This might be true but it still does not address the root problem which is education and enforcement of existing laws. How can a law be enforced if the penalty is not a deterrent? When a developer spending millions of dollars to build pays only hundreds for a penalty, it makes good business sense to move the project along without regard to preserving the enviroment or minimizing the damage.
Until Costa Rica suffers a loss of tourist dollars, which is forthcoming, the governement will not move to correct these issues. Costa Ricans never created parks or bio-zones because they wanted to preserve their beautiful country, business leaders and foreigners did this to create opportunities. The opportunity to be the “green” tourism destination was a economic decision not a altruistic one. So when Costa Rica begins to lose hundreds of millions of dollars each year in tourism because people finally have witnessed the hypocrisy of this country. Only then will the government and the business leaders move to correct the issues.
The sad truth is we do not have to wait until then, If people were to understand that preserving their country and not polluting it, means a better future for them and their families. Or their health will be much better if Costa Rica remains clean, then we will really begin to make REAL changes here. The false promises of business leaders, government, and developers is short sighted and dollar related. True fundamental change begins with each person living in the country, each persons decision not to pollute, and each persons committment to a cleaner and safer home for all of us. This can only be achieved through education and massive public service announcments.
Two years ago, a sign was erected on the highway that leads to the central pacific beaches from San Jose. The sign was titled “Playa Limpia” or Clean Beach, and discussed how we need to keep our beaches clean for us and others and for the environment. It was a great public service, the problem is ticos erected the sign and could only be seen by people returning to San Jose after they have spent the weekend littering the beaches and towns. Common sense tells most of us, the message should be delivered prior to arrival at the beach. Imagine in the US Parks, you are leaving Yosemite during the dry season, upon you exiting the park, you are given a message that using fire is prohibited.