|What the Big Print of Paradise Giveth . . .
|Paul is an engineer and geologist and the publisher of this mullet wrapper. Write him directly at email@example.com|
On the optimistic heels of COP21 and being lauded in the City of Light, a banner year of 98% renewable power generation and a grid-tie law expected in coming months, Costa Rica is certainly on a roll! Named the 2nd most environmentally friendly nation in 2013, it dropped to 54th the very next year when wastewater metrics were factored into the index algorithm. Deus ex machina stage left: Costa Rica ticks off a huge bucket list item in 2016 when Los Tajos Wastewater Treatment Plant, years in development, comes on line in La Uruca in June, a topic touched upon by Rebeca Madrigal in Medio Ambiente. Expected to provide capacity for one fifth of the national population, it is an environmental milestone of epic proportions, an occasion for merited national pride, fireworks even, and possible cause for a 2016 boost in our International Environmental Ranking. Imagine that, our nation of 4.9 million finally gets its first waste-water treatment plant! Not only that, it is purportedly the biggest and sure to be the best treatment plant in all Central America . . . !!!
Put that in your pipe, Daniel Ortega.
After last year voting down a moratorium on Genetically Modified Organisms bubbling up from the municipalities across the past few years, the Legislative Assembly, in a bill tabled for later this year, is expected to take up the more contentious issue of chemtrail regulation, after first settling all this impending marijuana business. For his part, President Solís spent dwindling political capital with his own ten-year moratorium on major hydro exploitation of the Pacuare and Savegre Rivers, a feather in his cap. While he consoles himself over sagging ratings and a spicy bowl of shark-fin soup, the favorable ruling over pesky Nicaragua at The Hague in December sure didn’t hurt. But that Fitch BB+ junk-bond rating, now that’s a black eye; can’t soft-pedal that one much, not to mention the 2016 Ethical Traveler snub. The Cabécar have hardly put down the healing stones they worry yet in their palms, grave eyes taking in their Pacuare watershed homeland. Activists have moved on to other fights but not without apprehension and furtive glances over their shoulders. Sounds good to me, a ten-year moratorium, but smarter folks say it’s only good for sure through the end of the Solis administration, if that.
Wasn’t that Dan Fowlie sporting that loud Aloha shirt and nibbling carpaccio and shrimp cocktail at La Brusqueta last month in La Piña? At 82, he’s perhaps not as menacing a figure as he may have cut in earlier years. Still, just a few years ago, upon his Terminal Island release after serving 18 of a 34-year sentence, Costa Rica denied him entry into the country on his prodigal return to that surf mecca where he was once King. Folks in Pavones at the time, it was rumored, were rattled, some of them. Others looked on with baited breath. Given Fowlie’s improbable eleventh hour migratory rehabilitation, a fait accompli at this writing, it calls to mind the curious case of Greenpeace co-founder Captain Paul Watson, whose decades-long dispute with Costa Rica is investigated in Sucesos by Jani Schultz. With two vessels offered to the nation by the widely admired environmental scion for Cocos Island patrol duty, there might be some value in dropping those old disputed charges after all and letting by-gones be by-gones.
Lauded for a long list of global superlatives, Costa Rica bottoms other lists, notably in the quality of its highways, ports, and generally, its transport sector. But it also ranks poorly in waste management policy and infrastructure. While Los Tajos is a $500 million investment, counting sewerage, to redress this national deficiency in wastewater, solid waste is also poorly managed, both in practice and policy. As Medio Ambiente Editor Laura Robleto has previously pointed out, plastics overwhelm us with environmentally persistent and bulky waste that screams for societal and cultural changes away from disposables. This edition she turns her environmental laser onto personal responsibility during this municipal election season. Terri Petersen laments that half the garbage hauled out of Jimenez past her Mogos home for off-pen disposal is organic kitchen waste and could all be composted and used to grow food. Co-authoring with husband vermiculturist Gary Strehlow, the composting article in Medio Ambiente launches Soil Sense.
As if that were not enough, fifty-one percent of the Costa Rican electorate, it turns out, favors the legalization of medical marijuana. Projected as a potential $1 billion industry, it will be pretty tempting to jump on the progressive bandwagon of this cash cow, even for those lawmakers that have positioned themselves in the moral-probity caucus of the legislative scrum. With medical-marijuana legislation on the docket, we get to watch lawmakers agonize in a delicate balancing act over the bill’s many permutations. In a curious anecdotal sideline, serial pot grower Mario Alberto Cerdas Salazar, Attorney at Law, busted not once, not twice, but three times for growing weed in his Alajuela home, had charges of cultivation and possession dismissed in January. Two of the three judges concurred that while possession is technically illegal, it is not a criminal offense unless intended for distribution. Hm. Whatever is this country coming to?
With payback as low as five years for roof-mount solar, this year’s coming grid-tie law will usher in a boom in the domestic solar industry and an exciting opportunity for everyday homeowners to invest in the quickening carbon economy and coming paradigm shift. Did I say solar? Well, hydro too, just that with hydro it’s a bit more like relationships: complicated. You can find my thoughts on the comparative merits of solar and hydro in today’s evolving energy sector in Medio Ambiente.
Not to be outdone by the likes of ICE, ARESEP, and the President of the Republic in the regulatory sphere, water managers from a swath of federal and municipal agencies have been progressively tightening enforcement of existing water law by tying concession requirements to rural building permits for sites beyond the reach of Acueductos and Asada networks. Nationwide, some subdivision projects are discovering that buyers for their lots cannot build without having their own concession, a bit of a marketing short-sheet—a tiny rip in the fabric of the space/time continuum—and has folks with skin in the game scrambling for options. The alternatives include Condo Law and its byzantine, costly, and lengthy approval process, or heavy investment into the public sector for extension of nearby Asadas. Given long-standing water shortages in Guanacaste and yearly rationing in many of metro San Jose’s towns and neighborhoods, better management of the nation’s water resources could not come a moment too soon. We’ll see if the heightened enforcement and greater challenges to private home builders and developers alike pay any environmental and social dividends. Many see red instead, calling it little more than a new siphon worming its vile way into the old pocketbook.
Closer to home, the big remodeling of Sirena Ranger Station is under full swing in this unseasonable El Niño summer. The normal occupancy of 75 daily overnighters has been cut back to 30 during the remodel, all in camping, so space is tight for visitors and permits tend to be sold out a month in advance pretty much the day they become available. At Osa Corcovado Tour & Travel we have opened up regularly-scheduled collective “pickup” tours in response and are running a custom multiple-day expedition up the Piedras Blancas and into Carate, the El Dorado Trail, we’re calling it, outside of the park, where permits are not required. Last year saw a 4.4% CR growth in international tourism, up from 4.1% in 2014, and local hotel and lodge owners are mostly smiles; I try to refrain from reminding that Winter is Coming. With that damned Internet, those of us still lumbering along in the travel agency industry—bricks and mortar outfits—are being sorely tested. It is pretty ironic that the Internet Café industry is itself a dinosaur, obsolete, put out of business by the very thing it centered its business model around. I can’t help but chuckle when I think about the entire collapse of huge industries like camera film, phone booths, vinyl LPs, whale oil, pet rocks, and things like that, within my lifetime the internal combustion engine, perhaps. They never see it coming! Off with his head! Internet Cafes and travel agencies are small potatoes. Now I get to laugh at myself a bit.
We ranked only 12th last year in the Happy Planet Index. We were at Number One in 2014, but that is little wonder given the national elation over the Sele’s performance in World Cup play that year. Here in Paradise we are likely to keep ranking high in global indices. With increasing migratory oversight, one exception is the 2016 Most-Likely-to-Overstay-Your-Visa list, where the nation polled in the upper tenth percentile world-wide for half of the nineties and most of the oughts. Cost of living here is consistently ranked among the highest in Latin America. The budget pensioner toying with Costa Rica is forced, however kicking and screaming, to mull over Panama and Ecuador for competitive advantages against that palm-worried nest egg.
Prices are high in Manhattan as well, but most of those folks wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else. In a different way, there’s just nothing like Costa Rica, at any price. So long as the chemtrail lobby doesn’t manage to subvert international air travel, it’s still, for those of us not treading the sands of paradise already, just a plane ride away. Oh, and for the record, the World Economic Forum last month ranked Costa Rica as the best country in the world for comfortable retirement.
En garde, Ecuador!