Today I read some news from last November, when the World Bank announced a payment to Costa Rica of $16.4 million dollars because of that country’s success in restoring its forests, and doing it while protecting biodiversity, the first country in Latin America to receive such a payment.
Once down to 40% forest cover, Costa Rica is now back up to 60%, in only a couple of decades.
This reminded me of a documentary I watched a few years ago about a Canadian forestry company working on restoring clear-cut land in Costa Rica. Through a careful choice of trees, they produced a forest that not only could lure back all the wild species that had once lived there, but, by including teak trees which produce one of the most expensive woods in the world, were able, through selective cutting to produce a forest that provided jobs and profit, along with sustainable biodiversity.
Now, cynics will scorn the introduction of profit. But anyone who’s spent a lot of time in forests, as I have, knows that a mature forest is not rich in wildlife. They’re dark and monotonous to walk through. Once in while though, you’ll come upon a clearing where a big tree has fallen, and there you’ll find a remarkable oasis of wildlife, plants and animals.
When a forest is cut selectively, at a rate that allows it to retain its full presence, you increase these clearings. Walk through a forest like that and you’ll meet wildlife in increased numbers and increased biodiversity. When this is done in the tropics, that effect is magnified, because of the higher growth rate of tropical trees, except in desert regions of course.
Watching that documentary it occurred to me that altering the tree species a little, you could probably produce a forest that would sustain orangutans, who in their Sumatran and Borneo homes are losing forest habitat at a high rate. According to the World Wildlife Fund, one race, the Tapanuli, is down to 800 individuals, the most endangered ape on the planet.
Why not develop forests for them elsewhere, like in Costa Rica, and reward those countries for doing it? The economy can’t support such an expenditure? Look at the vast amounts spent to counter the effects of covid 19 – or being spent on the Ukraine war. No one planned for those either, yet the money was there when needed.
Besides that, Costa Rica has learned the value of eco-tourism. Adding orangutans to what they have would only increase that.
Why not tell Indonesians to shape up and restore their forests? Well, until you have a world government, you can’t make anyone do anything. If they want to cash in their forests now, no one can stop them. They aren’t alone in doing that.
Now, what I’m talking about with the orangutans is what is currently being called “rewilding”. I’m not onside with everything proposed – if someone succeeds in restoring the T-rex, as in Jurrasic Park, you obviously don’t want to release them anywhere.
But with animals like the rhinocerous, whose numbers continue to drop because the will to fight poachers seems to come and go, rather than see them go extinct I’m all for introducing them in Arizona, New Mexico or Australia, after of course a study to determine what plants would be necessary, or what existing ones might be toxic.
The philosopher Confucious once said: “The way out is via the door – why is it that no one will use this method?” Well, in Costa Rica, and a few other places in the world, they have opened the door and entered a new and better world through it. It’s time the rest of us followed them.
2 thoughts on “Rescuing the Future | Costa Rica’s returning forests |think about the possibilities”
What an excellent post, Alan. Your ideas are simply commonsense.
Thanks Ark, and nice to hear from you again.