Sunday, July 31, 2005

CR: Paradise or Environmental Disaster?

So I went to the Costa Rican Democrats Abroad monthly speaker meeting. The speaker was introduced as the number one Costa Rican activists. But first they had a debate and openings and blah blah a lot of talking. Basically a bunch of retired people debating CAFTA, oil, war, upcoming elections. They track each state to make sure they are involved. They also do a lot of letter writing. Pretty active group, surprisingly.

Basically there are a number of environmental disasters going on down here:
1. Garbage! Lots of garbage. The city of San Jose's landfill is full and they still haven't finalized a contract for a new spot. Seems like there are some allegations of corruption.

2. Recycling! There are recycling facilities here, but there are not any pick up systems for it. So recycling is dependent on very poor people mining the trash for goods. I've volunteered on the environmental committee and we are going to be working on tetrapak. Tetrapak is from some European country that is encouraging recycling of their products by providing technical expertise, etc. Tetrapak is the packaging for soy milk, regular milk, wine, etc.... Wine from a box is popular down here because of the moist hot weather. You can get some good wine from a box! Milk in a box is also very popular down here. Unfortunately the queen activist mentioned earlier says that Dos Pinos (the big milk manufacurer and user of tetrapak) has been promising to establish a recycling program for years but hasn't.

3. Transportation! Ask anybody who lives here and they will tell you that the roads are hell. That's bad because it increases the maintanence on cars. But that's not the point. Taxes on cars are extremely high, therefore people hold onto older gas guzzling polluters for longer than they should (although getting new cars is a form of consumption), when higher efficiency vehicles could be used. Additionally the only people who use the busses are people who can't afford a car. The bus system down here is privately operated because their are market forces that insure that they will make money. Unfortunately these busses are also big polluters. I can't find the source, but I read an article that if the governemnt reduced the tax on cars pollution would go down because people would buy more fuel efficient cars. I'm not sure, that just might encourage people to buy more cars. Needless to say in San Jose pollution is a pretty big deal. The government has an incentive to reduce it, nationalized health care has to pay for all of the ailments attributed to pollution.

4. Chemicals! There are chemicals here for everything. Every public bathroom you go into is laced with these smelly pucks. They make my nose burn worse than any thing else you would smell in a bathroom down here. In San Jose the bathrooms seem generally cleaner, I don't think they need all those smelly crap pucks. They should just put flowers in the bathrooms. We have a bouquet of flowers in our house and you can smell it outside before you even walk in the house, mmmmm beautiful flowers for super cheap. No seriously though Costa Rica has the worst record for banning dangerous chemicals. This activist passed around a list of Central American countries and the chemicals they've banned. Costa Rica had the lowest number of banned chemicals, something like 23; whereas Nica, Guat, Hond, Pan and other countries had higher numbers of banned chemicals. Assuming banning more chemicals is better. According to the speaker the government officials say yes they are working on it, but they never are and have no intention of working on it. Remember this is costa rican culture. It's better to tell somebody a lie than to tell them the truth if you think it will cause ill feeling. Kind of like the ill feeling I have in my nose from chemical pucks.

5. Endangered Species: Everybody knows that Costa Rica has some of the highest concentrations of wildlife diversity than anywhere on the planet. The Costa Rican government has placed protections on certain species. Take for instance certain species of trees. There are a numbered of endangered trees that have been listed. The problem is that the guards who are suppose to be on the look out for these special trees do not know how to identify them. So there is very little enforcement of these laws. There are a lot more species in danger that she elaborated on but I can't remember enough of the details.

6. Shark finning: Shark finning is when they capture a bunch of sharks hack off the fins and sell them to the Taiwanese who use it for an aphrodesiac. Can't they just use ginger or X, com on! Completely illegal but it happens anyways. Shark numbers have been going down drastically in the last few years. The costa rican government is suppose to send an official on every boat to watch out for this but they never do. They don't have enough resources.

Funny joke, my friend Abby who works at the Tico Times has been doing a great job of following the shark finning problem and writing about it. When they heard that Shar Cayman was coming to town they gave her a nickname: Shark Coming. They have a cute little dance that goes with it. Shar was a good sport and laughs, but won't answer to the nickname.

Read more about it here


joanyjim1 said...

Just thought you'd like to know that TetraPak is the parent company of DeLaval, manufacturers of cow and goat milking parlors. We have a good relationship with the product manager at the No. American headquarters here in KC, so if there might be something we can do from this end, it's an in!

Celia Davila said...
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