Day 56: Champion of the Earth? Watch this space

Today’s post is a little different. As you know, I started this year-long project as a search for sources of hope, changemakers to rally around and solutions we can all get behind. Small and concrete. When it comes to today’s topic, I am not yet informed enough to be able to say, “Here’s a simple Thing to Do.” But as someone who sings the praises of Costa Rica on the regular, I think that even if all I have to share today is an alarm bell, that needs to be done. (Maybe someone in this awesome little community of readers can further educate me.)

In other words: Costa Rica’s recent designation as a Champion of the Earth by the United Nations is not sitting well with many of the country’s environmentalists, and case #1 in the docket is the approval of a massive multinational pineapple plantation next to one of the world’s most prized wetlands. I’m talking about the Térraba Sierpe, which has been named one of the most important wetlands on the planet.

The country’s National Technical Secretariat for the Environment, SETENA, has approved a certificate of environmental feasibility to Pindeco, a subsidiary of Del Monte, to use almost 500 hectares of land contiguous to Térraba Sierpe for pineapple cultivation. If you don’t know about the human and environmental cost of pineapple cultivation in Costa Rica, The Guardian sums it up quite nicely here (yes, it’ll put you straight off your pineapple). Semanario Universidad reported last week that the plantation will be less than 500 meters from the center of the community of Palmar Sur, thereby sparking fears about the exposure of residents to toxic agrochemicals – this Punto y Aparte journalism project at Delfino.cr investigated the horrendous health problems caused by pineapple plantations elsewhere in the country  – and less than five kilometers from the heart of the Térraba Sierpe, which has been shown to be deeply affected in the past by agrochemicals used up to one hundred kilometers away.

Dive into the comments section on this issue or another government action taking place right now, legislators’ revival of shrimp trawling, and you’ll see the familiar tension between very real and urgent local economic needs and environmental alarm. But when you see “champion of the Earth,” “irreversible damage” and “irreplaceable ecosystem” in the same sentence, the one thing you know for sure is that this is not a conversation you want to walk away from.

So today’s Monday Motivation is simply: those of us who love Costa Rica, from wherever we are, need to watch this space. We can’t afford not to.

I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! You can also find me churning out small, square poems on any topic under the sun (here on the site, on Instagram or Twitter). 

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