In a nice bit of synergy, this week I’m reading Beautiful and Abundant: Building the World We Want by Mother Earth News publisher and editorial director Bryan Welch (my boss) as I’m preparing to go explore Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula—the very hub of ecotourism. In his groundbreaking book, Bryan invites readers to visualize a verdant and prosperous future, offers a process for making our current lifestyles more sustainable and inspires us to nurture the "destination fixation" that stimulates all of humanity's greatest achievements.
I’m most intrigued by Bryan’s four questions, which help readers shape our own perspectives and develop strategies for a more sustainable future. These questions are helping me shape the query that’s top of mind for me right now: Is ecotourism in Costa Rica a sustainable, productive enterprise?
Is it beautiful? Bryan writes that “beauty should be a primary ingredient of every human endeavor,” and I couldn’t agree more. In the case of the Osa Peninsula, this one’s a no-brainer. The region’s unsurpassed natural magnificence—including waterfalls, a volcano, dense rainforest and untouched beaches—is its treasure.
Does it create abundance? “Few achievements in the history of our species have been accomplished in the absence of abundance,” Bryan writes. Tourism has become the second largest industry in Costa Rica, and ecotourism is its fastest growing segment. Done right, ecotourism will create solid, durable abundance for the people of that region. (My goal with this trip is to show how that is being done.)
Is it fair? “A sense of fairness is necessary for an enterprise to harness joint efforts among diverse people,” Bryan explains. This is one of the biggest questions that comes up when conversations turn to ecotourism. Are all Costa Ricans benefitting from the influx of tourists? What do natives give up to host the massive influx of foreigners? Is ecotourism helping to prevent rainforest destruction? I aim to find out.
Is it contagious? Bryan asserts that if something is beautiful, fair and creates abundance, it will naturally become “epidemically contagious.” We already see this happening with ecotourism, which has been growing about 20 to 30 percent annually. I caught the Costa Rica bug from myriad friends and relatives who have already traveled down there (and now wish they could live there). It’s a bug I don’t mind catching.
I plan to finish Beautiful and Abundant during my flight to San Jose tonight and share it with as many folks as I can on the Osa Peninsula—where folks are already hard at work building the world we want.
Photo above: Fascination with Costa Rica's pristine beaches is contagious. Photo by Barbara Bourne