I recently participated in a field course in Costa Rica, where I visited Santa Rosa Guanacaste National Park. Although the weather and sights were breathtaking, there was something else that I found much more beautiful – the pride Costa Ricans have in their conservational efforts.
Guanacaste National Park was an effort started in part by an American biologist Daniel Jansen, who has conducted much of his life’s work in the park. Jansen realized in the mid 1970’s that Costa Rica was rapidly becoming deforested due to the amount of cattle farming present in the country. As such, he decided that action was needed to preserve the unique rainforest located in the region.
However, Jansen took a very different approach to conservation. Instead of buying all the land from famers and forcing them from their homes, he made a deal with the Costa Ricans – if they gave their farmland over to the Park, Jansen would personally guarantee that the farmers and their children would have work in the Park.
This action has truly changed the ideology of the conservation efforts. Costa Ricans now, for the most part, take a huge amount of pleasure in their National Parks. It was evident on the faces, and in conversations, of everyone I met on the trip that preserving the rainforest has become a major source of national pride.
I believe that the way Jansen went about conservation in Costa Rica should be an outline for conservation efforts worldwide. He did not isolate the communities from their land, instead he invested them in their forests’ futures, making them self-motivated to keep conservational efforts alive. The success of the Parks throughout Costa Rica are a clear indication that conservation is not just a one-man job, but an effort needed to be taken on by entire countries.