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A lack of knowledge hinders any issue which necessitates positive change; the root of all progress is education. Such is the case with environmental justice, a pressing topic in light of climate change and given that certain United States politicians continue to deny the existence of global warming. Costa Rica has fortunately recognized these global environmental indicators and has implemented environmental education programs to complement its already progressive policies, to include their goal of reaching carbon neutrality (Blasiak). Through ecological education, Costa Rica promotes environmental sustainability from recycling and farming without interactions detrimental to the ecosystem.
As a hegemonic power in the world, the United States is often cited as an exemplar for progression. The dearth of recycling programs in the U.S., however, is slightly shameful and surprising for a country which prides itself on having a history of environmentalism; from Teddy Roosevelt’s nature conservation to Rachel Carson’s research on pesticides’ detrimental effect on the environment. Although the United States makes up for the largest percent of Costa Rica’s ecotourism, Costa Rica can independently boast grander efforts towards environmental justice. This is evident through Earth University, a banana plant-turned-school for approximately 400 students from 43 different countries, to include many from Latin America and several from Africa. Here the students are challenged to create sustainable business, an increasingly useful skill in the face of expanding population and the aforementioned climate change (PBS).
From the economic perspective, sustainable business not only benefits the environment but is also economically savvy. Savings are accrued through merely reducing, reusing, and recycling. By taking the extra step and implementing more complex environmental improvements, such as animal waste recycling or solar panels, however, one can significantly increase long term savings. Additionally, an aesthetically pleasing natural environment is attractive, both literally and figuratively, for nature-loving tourists. While it has been argued that ecotourism decreases deforestation through the establishment of natural parks and preserves, its adverse effects include solid waste increase from tourists and heightened air pollution from travel (Stem).
It must be acknowledged that between environmental education and ecotourism investments, the former is of utmost importance when regarding environmental preservation while the latter has the potential to put commercialism and money before environmental protection. In this way, Costa Rica should continue to invest in environmental education and prioritize this strategy over other components of environmental conservation, to include ecotourism. This being acknowledged, education of the environment can be intertwined into ecotourism through the promotion of conservation to visiting tourists. Moreover, ecotourism intersects with environmental education in the sense that it not only serves as an economic incentive but also encourages citizens to educate themselves on conservation. In short, ecotourism leads to awareness of issues and subsequently to education of these environmental aspects (Stem 329, 337).
While Costa Rica has the advantage of pre-existing natural landscapes as ecotourism destinations as well as an environmentally-conscious government to continue promoting environmental sustainability, their endeavors should not be overlooked. The country’s recognition that environmental justice and education are linked in their dependence on each other has led to effective policy changes and a deepened sense of ethics (Locke). From efforts in recycling to the promotion of a symbiotic relationship between humans and the ecosystem, Costa Rica has proved itself as a role model nation for eco-justice in Latin America.
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