Friday, June 13, 2008

Good Bye Costa Rica!

This is my last blog. I have enjoyed my stay in San Jose and all of visits around the country. Tomorrow I will be flying back to the US of A and although I am excited to go I will definately miss this place. I have made great friends on the trip. I have also done and seen many things that are not possible to see anywhere else.

I will miss the food. Above is the standard Costa Rican dish, rice, beans, chicken or meat, and fried plantains. This was a majority of my diet for this entire time. I am ready for a little more diversity back home. This is the type of cultural involvement that I am glad I took part in. This is one aspect that I believe that separates this program. You are really immersed into the culture here. Forced to learn another language, eat different food, expose yourself to different customs. Costa Rica is an amazing place.

I feel like we were truly involved in our trip. I am so glad that I decided to join this trip. the adventure aspect was exactly what I wanted. As opposed to the other programs we did not just look at museums and old castles, although that is still very cool, we were able to be a part of our experience. From white water rafting, to hiking in the jungle, to the canopy tours. The excitement never stopped. This is truly what separates this program and I am thankful that I was able to enjoy it.

Thanks to everyone who kept up with my blog. I was only able to give you a small portion of what my actual experience was about. I highly recommend if ever the opportunity arises come to Costa Rica you will not regret it.


Go Bananas

To produce bananas, numerous chemicals are used in banana production to enhance the success of these crops. The demands of North American and European consumers for a cosmetically attractive banana use agrochemicals. Fungicides are used to kill off fungal diseases and pests, fertilizers to accommodate for declining soil quality and availability and herbicides to keep the ground free from vegetation.

Large chemical use has negative impacts on the environment. The amount of pesticides used in agriculture in Central America is ten times the amount used in industrial countries. Many chemicals used on banana plantations have been prohibited in the United States, the major manufacturer and exporter of these chemicals. Soils on banana plantations have been contaminated by intense chemical use; the land of many abandoned plantations has been so contaminated which makes future agricultural use impossible. Also, heavy rains wash the chemicals into rivers and streams massive fish kills are a result.

Although banana producing countries are largely economically dependent on these exports, the local populations do not acquire the major benefits of production. Workers are often immigrants from Nicaragua that work long, difficult hours for minimal pay and generally no benefits. Additionally, workers are often denied the right to organize as unions.

The banana industry provides much needed revenue and employment to Central American economies such as Costa Rica. However, these benefits are cancelled out by the effects to the environment and plantation workers. The demands of developed countries for perfect and inexpensive fruit contribute to the unsustainable production methods (i.e. excessive agrochemical use and deforestation).

There are movements that promote a more sustainable, fair commodity. The push for a more sustainable, fair trade banana must come from consumers willing to purchase these types of bananas. The Costa Rican Ambio Foundation and the Rainforest Alliance started the ÒEco-okÓ program. This program encourages growers to use growing practices that are better for humans and the environment. Chiquita is the first major banana producer to support the Òeco-okÓ certification program. The program involves installing solid waste traps in packaging facilities in order to diminish river contamination, monitoring water quality, rebuilding warehouses to store chemicals safely and composting organic waste.

My opinion of coffee in general

I am not a coffee drinker. I have tried it and it just does not appeal to me. I have had to drink it on the long nights during finals week, but other than that I shy away from the drink. I usually choose a sweeter drink for the caffeine aspect. I have also noticed that my host family does not drink a lot of coffee. They drink more tea than coffee. What makes people like coffee? I think people only like coffee for its caffeine, but then I wonder why there is such a thing as decaf. It does not make sense. Coffee, to me, seems very bitter. I guess it is an acquired taste, but I do not think anyone can say that coffee tastes very good.

Coffee also gives you bad breath. In elementary and high school, the worst part was going up to a teacher who drinks a lot of coffee. They would have the WORST coffee breath. I appreciate the fact that here in Costa Rica coffee is one of the largest and oldest agricultural providers, but I do not know how it can be so successful of a market. This might be a very biased stance towards the drink, so I apologize to those who disagree with me. I just would much rather drink a glass of orange juice or water.

As for Costa Rica, I have bought A LOT of coffee, only as gifts though. I have heard it has some of the best in world and so I too gave in to that market demand. Maybe some day I will enjoy a nice cup of joe but currently this is not my drink I will stick to orange juice.

My time in Costa Rica

After many of the experiences I have had in Costa Rica, I have realized that sustainability is a necessity for the future of business and the world. I have taken great interest in the different practices that companies have begun looking into. We watched the eleventh hour, it was a very interesting movie. It was kind of shocking to see the impacts that our businesses have made on the world. The biggest factor that played into this was the Industrial Revolutionwhich began in the early 19th century. This began the large scale manufacturing and the use of heavy machinery and many carbon producing processes. This was a time when the US thrived but it was not underrstood then that our success would eventually result in long term struggle with the environment and our natural resources.

Being a college student I realize that when looking for a job in a few years I will be looking for a comapny who has the same values that I do. I will be looking for companies that have a strong sustainability program that I can be a part of.

Cradle to Cradle sent many good messages on how little things we do can make a huge impact. Anything from change a chemical in a product to planting a seed somewhere can help in this sustainable revolution as some may see it. He describes how currently the world has a mentality of cradle to grave and we assume that everything we buy initially will be throw out never to be used again. He suggests a shift of attitude to a cradle to cradle point of view, where all products and resources should have the ability to go back in to the earth as they were once taken from it. This is his main point. It will not be quick or easy but in order to achieve the goal of sustainable living, these are steps necessary to take.

I intend on furthering my knowledge and use of sustainable practices after this trip. It will be interesting to go back home and look for unsustainable practices that are all around me but I never noticed before.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Coffee in CR...again

On the way to one of our volcano trips, we visited a local coffee plantation. They have won awards like many of the plantations in Costa Rica. We did not stay very long and unfortunately my camera was dead so sorry but no pictures.
With over 500 billion cups consumed every year, coffee is one of the world's most popular beverages. The coffee market has become a very successful one to have business in. The pricing of coffee can go very high for premium coffee. It is amazing to see how much companies can charge for a single cup.
According to the International Fair Trade Association and the other three major fair trade organizations (Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, Network of European Worldshops and European Fair Trade Association), the definition of fair trade is "a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade¨. It offers better trading conditions to marginalized producers and workers. Fair trade organizations, along with the backing of consumers, campaign for change in the rules and practice of conventional international trade. This kind of regulation can increase the price of coffee because of the necessary benefits given to the workers.

Fair Trade Coffee is something that Costa Rica has tried to implement in their practices. It is a huge economic provider for the country so in order to maximize the country´s success, using FTC is a good option.

Ecotourism 4

Another note on Ecotourism was our stop at Cahuita and Manzanillo, Puerto Viejo.

In Cahuita we went snorkling. It was very fun but frustrating as well. I was not able to avoid the corral reef because of all the waves. I ended up hitting it which apparently kills it in addition to scratching you up as i found out the hard way. But, I did see some cool fish. I used a disposable camera so that is preventing me from showing any pictures of it except for a few.

When we had lunch on the island near the snorkling area we saw many white faced capuchin monkeys, who did there best to steal our food and other items. We also saw snakes on the trip. We saw the eyelash viper. It is highly poisonous but we were still able to get within a few feet of it.

We also went to the Poas Volcano. We were very lucky that it was not clouded over as usual. It is at such a high altitude so there are always clouds blocking the view. We arrived at the perfect time.

We did not stay there very long and so afterwards we headed to the Lo Paz waterfall and butterfly gardens.
There we saw snakes, frogs, birds, monkeys, and butterflies, oh yeah and a few waterfalls.
There were many different species of tropical birds. They were landing on a lot of people and some were even biting.

We took a trail that traveled down the mountain along side of 3 or 4 waterfalls. They were huge. Below is a a picture of me and my roomate PJ.

My friends wanted to hop on the ox cart. Not really sure why it was in the park, but whatever.

Butterfly gardens were interesting. The blue butterfly below is not actually blue it just takes that shade on because of the way the sunlight hits its wings.

We were also at a hummingbird area with hundreds of hummingbirds. I thought they were going to take my head off.

Lastly we saw some monkeys, they were known to pee on people if you got too close to them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More Ecotourism

Another area we traveled to was La Selva Research station. It was purchased in 1968 by the Organization for Tropical Studies and declared a private biological reserve and station. Since then, it has become one of the most important sites in the world for research on tropical rain forest. The Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) is a non-profit consortium that has grown to include 63 universities and research institutions from the United States, Latin America and Australia. We were very lucky to be able to visit this place.

One of my favorite things I have seen was the poison dart frog a.k.a. the Blue Jean Frog. There were so many of them around the rainforest.

These frogs have poisonous skin in which indigenous tribes used for their blowdarts. Hence the name poison dart frog.

Below is the Bullet Ant, not something you want to encounter without knowing. These ants have a sting that feels like the sting of 40 wasps.

Below are wild hogs, they are the biggest mammals in the rainforest at La Selva. They are very calm and we were able to get very close to them. There are many of these throughout the research station.

There were also monkeys, and many various plantlife throughout the area. We were able to see an incredibly diversified ecosystem while at La Selva.