Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Bird's Eye View

Our second day in the beautiful Costa Rican town of Monteverde began bright and early as usual. After a delicious but brief breakfast, our group piled onto the bus for our new adventure.

Steps leading up to the Monteverde Institute
First stop -- Monteverde Institute.

We were welcomed by Justin C. Welch, an American native whose studies brought him to Costa Rica where he has resided ever since. Titled "A Sustainable Community for a Sustainable World," Justin discussed Costa Rican water resource management, focused in the Monteverde area. I found it very interesting to hear that they run as a nonprofit, reinvesting everything back into the community.

Our group listening to Justin Welch's lecture.
Monteverde Institute
We learned of the two ways to view water resource management; naturally and anthropogenically. The natural perspective looks at what is actually happening to the water; the chemical contaminants invading the water, the type of ecosystem the water is a part of, the biological processes themselves, and how watershed affects the dynamic of the local community. The anthropogenic perspective takes a less scientific route. This tradition looks at how these things affect individuals and their community groups. Many things are observed during this view such as the economic necessity of clean water for flourishing tourism, the recreational use of water, how the changes in the water system affect the health and well being of individuals, and lastly this perspective focuses on the access to water as a basic human right.

Welch talked of the differences between the United States and Costa Rica's water regulation system. Even within the United States, west coast as compared to east coast, there are major differences in the type of water management. Costa Rica's course of action aligns best with that of the east coast. The Costa Rican constitution itself even states the importance of a "clean, healthy and balanced environment," (Article 46 & 50) -- maybe that is why Costa Rican's have displayed such a commitment to conservation! I found the specifics of watershed and the variant types of water, grey water, black water, etc., to be the most interesting facts of the lecture. Prior to today, I had not understood the importance of watershed and the various departments of the Costa Rican government whose goal was to protect watershed.

Although Costa Rica makes an effort to be "green," no pun intended, its biodiversity and exemplary education system still does not prevent all issues like the frightening statistic that 24.8% of the total population has access to a sewage system. However, the Monteverde Institute has been working to obtain all research regarding water resource management in the area in order to have digital library resources available to all in this quest towards full sustainability.

After a quasi-tour of the institute and a brief break to explore the rare flora and fauna on site, we returned for our next guest lecturer. We were introduced to Ernesto Ruiz, a native of San Jose and a current PhD candidate at the University of Florida. Ernesto furthered our knowledge of ecotourism and its subsequent effects on Costa Rica, a motif of our excursions throughout Monteverde. "Without tourism this town does not eat" focused on the notion of food security. Our class defined food insecurity as both quantitative and qualitative. High rates of food insecurity coincide with consistent availability of food and cultural taboos against certain foods. He furthered our definition by revealing the purpose of his research, to explore the consequences of food insecurity through access to food and patterns of consumption and production.

This ignited a lively discussion of the connection between rising Costa Rican tourist rates and the dynamics of food production and availability to local Costa Ricans. Ernesto was kind enough to also give us some researching tips for our ethnography assignment, his speciality, which will occur next week! Our back to back discussions were brought to a close with lunch. We ate pizza, a nice departure from the typical Costa Rican tradition of rice and beans.

The Cooperative
After our hunger was quenched we traveled to our final, and my favorite, lecture of the day. CASEM is a local women's cooperative, although there are a handful of active male
participants, in Monteverde. The co-op started to sell arts and crafts produced by local women thirty years ago in an effort to help women learn to support themselves and speak up for their personal rights. The director of the co-op, Patricia, was lively, engaging, and openly shared with us her story of overcoming the stigma surrounding her disability and the gender blocks in the way of her path to success. Her discussion, after a brief overview of her organization, revolved around cultural issues in the community. Personally, I found she gave great insight into the dynamics of Costa Rican Culture. Patricia reinforced a recurring concept in class, the importance of education and knowledge in development.

Snake eating a lizard
Up next was the adventurous night tour of the forest. Being afraid of birds, ridiculous and irrational I know, this seemingly fun excursion was causing my stomach to spin overtime. About 90% of Costa Ricans living in Monteverde depend on tourism as a main source of income, therefore tours such as these were common occurrences. Our group split into two and after a brief introduction with our guide, we were off! The two hour journey flew by too fast. We saw a sloth, a porcupine, a butterfly cocoon, a walking stick (the bug not the actual stick), a twenty foot deep ant colony, mating beetles, a tarantula and a snake in the process of eating a lizard after a stealthy catch! Luckily, no birds were in sight...

This post, along with many other exciting accounts of my trip can be found on my own personal blog,
I hope you subscribe and continue to follow my adventure!

I finally met a Beatle!
Our group awaiting to embark upon the night tour!

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