25 September, Biological Reserve, A wonder of the World
The rain has pretty much been non stop. I had the opportunity to go to the Farmer’s Market with Suzie and her brother and friends in the morning. So I bought a few supplies to keep me going. The weather cleared and I got a strong feeling I had to go to the Biological Reserve. It is only a few kilometers up the mountain. I figure this is the moment where it is not raining and I dearly want to explore the natural world here. This is a unique wilderness area and I am told the reserve is on the edge of the forest. Today I visited the cloud Forest. The forest straddles the Continental Divide at 1440 meters (4662 ft), the Santa Elena and Monteverde Cloud Forest area offers one of the most interesting place to visit in Costa Rica.
In Monteverde Costa Rica rain forest are found more than 100 species of mammals including 5 species of cats, over 400 species of birds including 30 kinds of hummingbirds, tens of thousands of insect species (over 5000 species of moths) and 2,500 species of plants (420 kinds of orchids). The area is acclaimed as one of the most outstanding wildlife refuges in the New World Tropics. I will explain what it was like to go through the forest and my amazing meeting with humming birds up close.
It is important to understand the depth of biological diversity here and how unique it is. It is very different from my homeland of Australia and may hold out a model for the world. Here is a quick profile of just how unique this area is.
The Central American country of Costa Rica, despite its small size, has high levels of biological diversity with some 12,000 species of plants, 1,239 species of butterflies, 838 species of birds, 440 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 232 species of mammals. Costa Rica has an ambitious conservation program, perhaps one of the most developed among tropical rainforest countries, that protects more than 10 percent of the country. One protected strip of forest runs uninterrupted for 40 miles through nine ecological zones from sea level to 12,500 feet. In 1995, the government presented a plan to protect 18 percent of the country in national parks and another 13 percent in privately owned preserves. Areas targeted for protection are those with high biodiversity. The government funds the project by issuing landowners forest protection certificates which will annually pay landowners about $50 for every forest hectare (2.5 acres), with the agreement that the forest will be protected. Around two-thirds of Costa Rica’s remaining rainforests are protected. … Not only do the landowners end up with more money in their pockets, but operations also do less damage to the forest as they remove valuable trees.
Eco-tourism has become one of the most important sources of revenue for Costa Rica. The country is considered an ideal introduction to the rainforests for its biodiversity, its excellent and accessible parks system, and its relative safety for tourists. In some areas, tourism has proved a little too much for the environment and some parks now have restrictions on the number of visitors allowed at any given time. Further, the construction of hotels in some locations has proved ecologically controversial. Still, Costa Rica serves as a prime example to other developing countries that economic well-being is compatible with forest preservation.
Costa Rica is looking to capitalize on its forests in ways other than eco-tourism. In 2005, Costa Rica joined a coalition of tropical developing countries that proposed a “rainforest conservation for emissions” deal at the December United Nations summit on climate change in Montreal. The plan, which was accepted by the UN, called for wealthy nations to compensate poor nations for rainforest conservation. Costa Rica already had a similar program in place which protected rainforest by selling allowances to emit greenhouses gases. In 1999, the program generated some $20 million.
Despite its environmental rhetoric and conservation legislation, Costa Rica has a poor track record when it comes to deforestation. In the early 1990s, the country had one of the worst deforestation rates in Latin America. Costa Rica was once 99 percent forested, but forest cover has steadily diminished from 85 percent in 1940 to around 35 percent today according to the FAO’s State of the World’s Forests (FAO’s Forest Resources Assessment says the current cover is closer to 50 percent). Historically, clearing for agriculture (mostly coffee and bananas) and cattle pastures has been the largest contributor to Costa Rica’s rainforest destruction. During the 1970s and early 1980s, vast stretches of rainforest were burned and converted into cattle lands, but when the largest importer of Central American beef, the United States, ceased beef imports, Costa Rica was left with millions of acres of cleared land and a lot of cattle.
Today, while deforestation rates of natural forest have dropped considerably, Costa Rica’s remaining forests still face threats from illegal timber harvesting in protected areas and conversion for agriculture and cattle pasture in unprotected zones. The popularity of Costa Rica as an eco-tourist destination makes parks a source of income rather than an expense, and past governments have been known to use park funds for making up budget shortfalls instead of maintaining protected areas. Corruption remains a problem in Costa Rica, though not as much as in nearby countries
Statistics as follows. Then an outline of my experience in the forest
Costa Rica Forest Figures
Total forest area: 2,391,000 ha
% of land area: 46.8%
Primary forest cover: 180,000 ha
% of land area: 3.5%
% total forest area: 7.5%
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: 3,000 ha
Annual deforestation rate: 0.1%
Change in defor. rate since ’90s: -117.2%
Total forest loss since 1990: -173,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:-6.7%
Primary or “Old-growth” forests
Annual loss of primary forests: n/a
Annual deforestation rate: n/a
Change in deforestation rate since ’90s: -100.0%
Primary forest loss since 1990: n/a
Primary forest loss since 1990:-29.4%
Social services: n/a
Multiple purpose: 73.5%
None or unknown: n/a
Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 2,391,000 ha
Primary: 180,000 ha
Modified natural: 1,319,000 ha
Semi-natural: 888,000 ha
Production plantation: 1,000 ha
Production plantation: 3,000 ha
My visit to the Montevarde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
I took my chance as there was a break in the rain (thank god). Perhaps the rain makers had stopped dancing. Anyway, on my return from Santa Elena and shopping I was dropped on the road that goes up to the reserve. It was a few kilometers mostly uphill, but I needed the exercise. As I walked I found myself surrounded by Eden. So many varieties of ferns, tropical plants, flowers, and what really excited me, was the large blue butterflies. They were big. Somewhere in my memory I believe we had butterflies like that in Australia. They were magnificent. I continued walking and saw a group of Costa Ricans with cameras looking at a bird. I saw the sillouhette of a flutter but couldn’t see the bird, they were very excited. I felt this is why conservation is important. We lose when a species becomes extinct. We lose in more ways than one, but certainly not knowing about the rich diversity around us is a tragedy. Many people are living through work and television they have definitely lost touch with their true nature as I like to put it.
I got up to the reserve and to my surprise found a hummingbird exhibition. Outside was thousands of humming birds hovering around the honey. It was amazing to see such diverse colours, shapes and sizes. I was told by the café owner the female was brown and the males were colourful to attract them. I thought of men and wondered about their colours. Perhaps career, money, house is a colour women attract to. For me I am attracted to the unseen in men, I love their compassion, sensitivity and intelligence and independence. I love to meet men who have found their own way and questioned the world they live in and tried to make peace. These are unusual men, but they must be out there. Anyway that was an aside (haha).
Preamble: The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (http://www.monteverdeinfo.com) is a private non-profit reserve administered by the Tropical Science Center, and contains 6 distinct ecological zones. Called a cloud forest rather than a rain forest: because of it’s altitude, the clouds go through the forest. The canopy is extremely rich with birds, insects, butterflies, and thousands of plants. Great bird watching, Resplendent Quetzal is usually seen in the March-April nesting season. Note it is private it is owned by the Quakers I am told. More people are buying up land to save it. It is a good idea.
I paid US $17 or 8,500 colonas to visit the forest. I don’t mind paying if it is going into conservation. I entered the forest along a wooden track. I was stunned to see old growth trees peppered along the trail. I was told as you go deeper into the forest they get bigger and bigger, they are hundreds of years old. I made my way to a waterfall. There is no shortage of water here. I’ve never seen so much water. It is so waterlogged, like a giant sponge. That is a principle Bill Mollison (Permaculture fame see http://www.scottlondon.com/interviews/mollison.html) talked about with the creation of swales, they are graduated channels in land that act as a sponge to hold water. Here in Costa Rica that happens naturally and you can feel how spongey it is. The rain is non stop and I wonder about landslides as it is so water logged. Hoping I can leave as some of the roads are just rocks and dirt.
Anyway, as I looked at the forest I was contemplating peace, values and how to connect people to the reality of their embedded ness in nature. We are so disconnected from the natural world it is like a virtual reality TV. show when we are informed about the environmental issues. Meetings like Global Warming Copenhagen Summit 2009 was viewed as not binding and reflected the major clash of cultures in respect of business and environmental sustainability. In my opinion carbon trading still maintains an economic system of trading that reinforces you can trade your way around reduced emissions which is a behavioural response. Although I am deeply aware people need to be eased into change to accept change is imminent, however time is the issue here, we don’t have the time to wait for people to get comfortable. In truth, we need a radical new system which returns us to self sufficiency immediately. We must live our connection to the planet rather than look out the double glazed window sipping our coffee lamenting ‘people don’t change’. Again, Gandhi comes up in the essence of his beliefs ‘be the change you wish to see’. You have to be it to change it. I’ve seen too many environmentalists with all the mod cons complaining about business yet living in the comfort of dare I say it, creature comforts. At the expense of creatures. The mystics of aboriginal history understood themselves, if I can word it that way, as not separate from nature. This is wholistic thinking rather than separate, reductionist rational thinking. The shift is a shift in consciousness, this is a topic not really discussed. Even those in the spiritual area are not really talking environment, so we haven’t seen the integration of ourselves as nature. Anyway, that is another discussion.
I did some reflection in the forest and even made up a poem as I walked. It was deeply inspiring to be surrounded by the cathedral, this to me is a holy sacred space. I don’t need man made things to recognise the creation is alive and directly created by an intelligence some call god, eco system, life and so on. It is not haphazard, it is definitely created and all plants and animals know their function in a highly complex and integrated system. That is why when we genetically engineer or start deforesting on a massive scale we are definitely creating disruptions to the natural order. We do not fully understand that reality but we are going to experience more feedbacks through hurricane’s, floods, droughts, wild fires and melting ice caps. The reality is becoming more evident as the earth attempts to align with a new future. The planet itself is consciousness, people may find this surprising, I remember years ago getting an instant picture of that, the planet is called gaia and it is an organism upon which we live. So it is not unaware of the imbalance on the surface and it is coded to come back into equilibrium or alignment.
We also are moving spiritually into the alignment. All spirituality is, is the natural order or universal laws that assert themselves when we find ourselves out of alignment with our true nature. That is why values such as love, peace, joy, empathy bring us into a sense of unity, this is the flow many refer to and is paralleled to nature which also has natural flows. The spirituality that is emerging of living in the now is learning to trust the universal flow and becoming aware of a higher purpose why we are here. It is not to just consume and destroy the planet. There are many levels to reality and we have not begun to see beyond the duality of fear and love we live in and perceive as real. We are moving towards a significant shift in the next few years that will bring us into harmony. The natural word has the humming of harmony through the design that affords interconnectedness. So we are on a wonderful planet and we are within it as well.
My advice to people is to live sustainably and self sufficiently, we will need to live off the land. Learn about plants and animals. Walk through nature and see it as equal to yourself. See it as yourself and be grateful to be living on such a diverse and magical planet. Think of how water is held in clouds, I remember seeing that and thinking you would definitely think thousands of tons of water couldn’t be floated in the sky. If we were inventing technology, ‘impossible’ would be the word used. Yet nature carries the water in the sky, transports it in currents in the ocean, rivulets, streams and rivers on land and holds it in ponds, lakes and oceans. The planet is 70% water. Even the atmosphere is 20% oxygen according to wiki pedia. So water is visibly the most dominant.
Be true to your nature, find out what that means… dream to awaken.