Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friedman on Costa Rica

First it was Rick Steves. Now, it's Tom Friedman's turn. Two of my favorite columnists come to Costa Rica and neither gives me a holler? Rude.

That aside, here's Friedman on Costa Rica in his Sunday column in the New York Times:

More than any nation I’ve ever visited, Costa Rica is insisting that economic growth and environmentalism work together. It has created a holistic strategy to think about growth, one that demands that everything gets counted. So if a chemical factory sells tons of fertilizer but pollutes a river — or a farm sells bananas but destroys a carbon-absorbing and species-preserving forest — this is not honest growth. You have to pay for using nature. It is called “payment for environmental services” — nobody gets to treat climate, water, coral, fish and forests as free anymore.

Friedman paints a pretty positive picture of Costa Rica's environmental progress, which, while essentially true, definitely glosses over some of the less glamorous goings on of recent years--has he not been reading the Tico Times? He lauds the fact that Costa Rica has a minister in charge of energy and the environment, but doesn't mention that the most recent minister resigned under fire, and his ministry has neglected the country's second-most popular national park.

Yes, despite its problems, there is still much the United States can learn from Costa Rica, especially in the realm of environment and energy. But I'll leave you with this line from the introduction to the "Working Paradise" chapter on the environment from Steven Palmer and Ivan Molina's 2004 Costa Rica Reader:

"No program of ecological protection or conservation alone can solve this extreme and dreadfully ironic coexistence of dense natural diversity with postmodern humanity's limitless capacity to despoil its environment. The indicators point to political struggle and some very tough sacrifices for all contenders if Costa Rica is to remain an ecological jewel in an increasingly degraded and deplted global treasure chest."


  1. So did you go out and buy the Costa Rica Reader?

  2. Actually have had it since December, but just now making my way through the environmental section at the end