Can’t Have a Rain Forest without a Little Rain
|Paul is a geologist and engineer and publishes this newspaper. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org|
Hurricane Otto, which will go on to claim at least nine lives in Costa Rica, is still just a gathering swirl of low pressure in the western Caribbean Sea. Breathless meteorologists from Quito to Quebec City point out to slack-eyed television audiences across the northern western hemisphere that such a storm is very late in the year, one week past the close of the Atlantic hurricane season, in fact, and is tracking further south than any hurricane on record. It is moving at a snail’s pace, and the outer bands are slamming the Osa with torrential rains. If it swells into a hurricane and makes landfall in Costa Rica, it will be the first to do so since 1851. The Lookout Inn, which has monitored daily rainfalls for nearly two decades in Carate, will in a few days report to Sol de Osa that the storm will have brought a total of 60.6 inches of rain in the ten-day period ending November 23rd, compared to 80.3 inches for the entire month of October, the Osa’s rainiest month.
But as I pick my drive dates up and down the isthmus with Otto building, I don’t know that, nor of the deaths that will occur in a few days’ time. I just know that the Osa is incommunicado on this worse day of rains, not just by landslides and slumps that have decommissioned the highway leading in: not even boats or planes are reaching Jimenez today. Not only is Jimenez shut off from the rest of the nation, but Carate, one of most awesome places on the planet and which we feature prominently in this ninth edition, has been shut off from Jimenez for two days and will be for another week. But Carate was not connected by highway for practically all of its history, so this week’s meteorological disturbance is hardly a game-changer. Go there, breathe the spume, smell the musk, squeeze the toad; say “Ommmmm . . .”
In Guanacaste, where we are doing survey work, it is sunny and windy. In our water works in the Dominical region, the rain is heavy but not torrential and we are doing our best to keep working. After being cut for 36 hours, the roads into the Osa are clear as I thread the needle to barrel home from Guanacaste for the final Sol de Osa push. I arrive to find the ninth edition in good hands, my appearance an anticlimax, and I am now officially superfluous! Back days later I hunker less than 75 miles from the eye’s southern Nicaragua passage, and here on the Nicoya Coast near Puerto Carrillo, despite the devastation in nearby Upala and Bagaces, we get less than an inch of rain and no winds whatsoever . . .
As readers leaf through these words when the first copies hit the streets, I am cooling my heels at deer camp on a remote ranch in Hill Country, a few miles outside of Brady, Texas. Okay, I will cop to the irony in this ninth edition’s poaching feature of my tippling Jim Beam and puffing Cohibas around growing piles of butchered venison and pork amid the sound of knives being sharpened and the cracks of rifles at dusk and dawn as college-era pals of mine stock freezers for the coming year and I try to stay warm around the campfire. There’s a difference between hunting deer in the States and hunting deer in Costa Rica, even though here, like there, traditions similarly abound and like traditions everywhere, die hard. In the US, there is little diversity and large numbers of the few successful species like the white-tailed deer—not to mention the prolific feral pig. In Costa Rica it is the opposite: there is enormous diversity and low populations of individual species. When a deer is hunted in the States, it is a healthy culling of an environmental nuisance. When a deer is killed in Costa Rica, it is cold-blooded murder of a critical individual of a vital species.
Whether it is just the evolution of the frontier into sylvan glades or a Faustian bargain, the grooming of primal jungle savagery into gardens of ecotourism plenty is a fixed part of our Osa universe. I chuckle at the image of vegan Petaluma yoga peeps striking poses within a few dozen meters of where a vigilant puma has stashed a peccary collared. Zip we across steel cables an ecosystem that ten doctorate degrees would not allow us to fully comprehend. Gravity waves are, after all, now part of our quanto-electro-physical continuum. Costa Rica is rarely associated with retrogressive policies, though recent outlawing of GMOs by three quarters of its Municipalities certainly is cause for circumspection. With the sugar industry given a criminal thirty-year head start by nutrition scientists in the global food business, my doctor tells me I can now bolt bacon and butter again, no worries, but I need to keep my rice, bread, and potatoes under close control to curb my cholesterol count. Speaking of health, for the many of you kind readers that prefer natural insect repellant options to the toxicity of DEET, may I present you to Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya, and Malaria? Please shake hands.
Meanwhile the entire world cautiously exhales as the identity of the new leader of the free world becomes more widely known and appreciated for the full-spectrum gamut of cretin-genius that none of us thought could ever pick the locks of the US executive branch. For elite neoliberal sympathizers like me the new world order is the inconceivable made manifest. For populists that favor isolationism and abjure immigration and long to drain the swamp, the results are just as unbelievable. Yet in a democracy, elections matter, and here we are. For everyone everywhere, the results present not just an opportunity but practically an obligation to speak up and take stands. It’s not the first time that the winner of the US election is the loser of the popular vote, and while many take umbrage in this fact, the election was fair and square according to what I was taught in civics classes. While many readers may disagree with my personal outlook, I am heartened that in a sea of change, many positive things are possible despite pervasive forecasts for bleakness and despair. I remind all my progressive pals out there that campaign assurances remain the most malleable of all, particularly with this president-elect, and I chuckle at the schadenfreude of some right wingers momentarily enjoying the Obama coalition’s great comeuppance: enjoy your moment in the sun after so long singing the blues; you may not be too chirpy for too long.
For now we face a storm of less metaphorical whimsy, a real one that is sweeping away homes and swelling shelters and facing the Osa down from a global climate change complacency that has not seen a storm of this kind ever before in the history of record keeping. For my part, I am reminded in paradise that this too shall pass, and that after all, you can’t have a rain forest with a little rain.