Nostalgia is a powerful feeling, a longing to feel again a sensation that we thought was gone, perhaps lost. It is the illusion of going back in time to a better, simpler, more normal time.
2020 was an impressively complex year globally – forest fires, elections, demonstrations, looting, explosions and of course the bloody pandemic that cut short the usual day-to-day progress.
But 2020 also gave the Earth a break, with significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, a not insignificant side-effect of the confinements imposed to flatten the pandemic’s contagion curve.
In many countries – Costa Rica among them – wildlife returned to roam the streets of suburbs and cities. Families of wild animals ventured out to “tourist” areas that centuries ago had been theirs and now had been devoured by modernity.
As if to remind us humans that this drama, this particular problem that originated in China and which suddenly became a global issue, was in fact only interrupting our normality, that of a single species among billions… Meanwhile the rest of the planet’s beings were relieved by the incessant hammering of a world that does not stop to meditate on where the single-use plastics go, or what is the effect of the fumes from our cars?
And this is not to demonise modernity in a hypocritical yearning for blue skies and more stable climates. To modernity we owe unique scientific achievements such as the extension of life expectancy, the eradication of several dozen diseases and the creation of half a dozen vaccines against Covid 19 in a span of just months, a milestone that previously required one or more decades of constant work.
It is the job of the present generations to find a balance between development and ecology. This is where we consider that the events of this 2020 can serve as a turning point in the way the human race as a species looks at the world and above all how it chooses to interact with it.
Climate change as the greatest threat to life on earth.
2020 made us stop planes, trains, trade, concerts, festivals and we were even banned from visiting friends and family. Our ties to what mattered were severed and we were all hurt. Let us laugh at our fate. Many questioned the legality of the most restrictive measures. And what we took for a fact and a right became a memory, a sentence in the past tense that spoke of the way things were just a few days before? As a species we humans have severed our ties with Mother Earth ….
As some private ventures revive space-age dreams and seek to conquer more distant frontiers, places where the civilisations that came before us saw so ethereal and impossible to reach that they decided to put the abodes of the gods there, it is useful to stop and think that although the night sky is filled with hundreds of millions of stars, many of those lights are galaxies with hundreds of millions of other planets, which inevitably translates as millions of other places with the potential to harbour life. And many of those lights are galaxies with hundreds of millions of other planets which inevitably translates as millions of other places with the potential for life…
…As far as we know for sure, only in this tiny “Blue Dot” is there life. And that life has forms as varied as the giant blue whales and as small as the placton that feeds the oceans.
It is useful, then, to understand and reflect that our condition as conscious animals with the capacity to inherit knowledge, far from granting us rights or privileges over other species, makes us responsible for them, and that instead of feeling superior, we should feel that we are just one more among the biodiversity of the planet.
For generations we have sacrificed forests for comfort, rivers for training, and limited the greenery of the land and the blue of the seas for the thrill of travelling faster and flying higher. But there is no action without reaction.
The planet is warming, the frozen poles are shrinking and hundreds of species each year are being added to the list of extinctions. Our rivers, seas and oceans are about to hold more plastic than marine species and some countries are approaching the point of stopping deforestation not for lack of impetus and greed but for lack of forests to cut down.
What can we do to correct the current course?
The first thing we must do is to “demystify” ecology and the environment. The pulse of the world is dictated by cities. Grey cities of traffic, nauseating smells, people rushing around in a chaotic back and forth, to the beat of a cacophony of sirens, blaring horns, shouting and stressful faces, muscle contractions and sleepless nights.
In this narrative where the constant chaos, agitation and haste are normalised, the peace of the countryside, the softness of a cool breeze and the singing of a river become idyllic tales of faraway places. The space that everyone longs for but few are lucky enough to know.
Countries and destinations like ours become distant worlds, different from the capitals of constant growth. In these capitals, politics, the stock market and TV series marathons are the voices that evaluate the stability of society at the cost of wear and tear and the neglect of nature.
The way to influence a change to this is through education rather than the replicating complaint of the environmentalist who travels to international forums to receive applause for his or her lectures on the moral high ground. We must show all people that they too are part of the ecosystem. And offer the environment as an immersive experience.
Travel, discover, learn and share!
Interacting and immersing ourselves in a reality that is different from everyday life is perhaps one of the best alternatives we can have when it comes to motivating a change in the course of our lives and, with them, of the planet.
It is common for city life to make us think of the countryside, forests, jungles and seas as rare, unreachable, almost mythical destinations that are located much further away than they really are when in reality even the pipes of our houses are connected to the sea.
Knowing the impact of our daily life on the environment, flora, fauna and ecosystems of the planet helps us to weigh our actions by measuring how much they affect others, the earth and how much they will affect us in the future.
Travel where you can, discover the good, the bad and the ugly. Learn and challenge your own conceptions of what is right. Dare to be wrong and above all be willing to change your mind whatever it is if the evidence shows otherwise.
Stay with local families, rural enterprises. Real people and not big hotel chains that over-romanticise a luxurious view. This way you will also know that every penny you pay goes directly to help a family and is an incentive for them to preserve the beauties that delight you.
Visit and live with the people of the countryside, look for places those fortunate enough to live surrounded by nature and don’t believe that this idyllic visit is a reflection of a perfect paradise. Look amidst the wonders of nature for the dramas of each family and the difficulties they encounter on a daily basis, such as access to education or basic services.
And understand that while they breathe the fresh air that your lungs may have already forgotten. You never went through many of the problems, difficulties and uncertainties that they go through on a daily basis.
And in the end return to your life but take what you have learned and share it with your close circles, intoxicate others with that desire for nature, peace and strength that only the clean flowing rivers and the pure mountain air can give.
Look for sustainable and ecological tourism alternatives, seek to connect with nature and not necessarily overwhelming luxuries. Learn and share where the fruits of your breakfast come from or the titanic work of thousands of anonymous people who harvest the beans of your coffee one by one.
Costa Rica is open again to offer you all this and much more. Learn from us and teach us what you know. Let’s start from the common point of taking care of nature as an investment in our future.