Questioning Costa Rica: Perspectives on ecotourism from the ground up

VanderJagt_Costa Rica_05_09, originally uploaded by CLACS – NYU.

Hello from Quepos, Costa Rica! I arrived in Costa Rica 2 weeks ago, first participating in a language immersion program and home stay, while conducting preliminary fieldwork components. This week marks the true beginning of my interview and surveying process.
My research question concerns environmental consciousness of Costa Ricans, specifically focusing on the opinions of residents of the adjacent towns of Manuel Antonio (home of the second most visited national park in Costa Rica) and Quepos. I am most interested in the disconnect between extreme environmental ethic apparent within the programs in Manuel Antonio National Park, versus the everyday actions of residents which live around its borders.
I am happy to report that preliminary interviews and discussions have revealed an almost unanimous belief that, in accordance with my hypothesis, the majority of Costa Rican citizens do not have an embedded environmental consciousness. Most respondents feel that the level of environmental consciousness is on the rise, many attributing this growth to the steady rise of the tourism industry. One respondent explained that the large numbers of ¨ecologically conscious¨ tourists who visit Costa Rica have had a direct impact on the growth of Costa Rican environmental awareness. She explained that hotels cater to ecotourism standards expected by the clientele, and as a result, educate their employees with environmentally conscious information. I have set up an appointment with the Director of ecological programs in Quepos to discuss the following situation: Since my last visit in November, new disposal bins have been set up throughout town. These sets of bins include one for trash, one or recycling, and one for organic waste. However, upon looking into each bin, there is no separation; each contains all types of garbage. While it is apparent that town officials are moving toward more environmentally friendly practices, what can be done to successfully translate this into everyday behavior of town residents? I look forward to an upcoming meeting with the Mayor of Quepos, the Director of Environmental Education at Manuel Antonio National Park and a visit to a local school for a National Park sponsored environmental education presentation. Reporting back soon!

Diana Van der Jagt
MA Candidate, CLACS

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