Start telling your Earth story.
As climate change increasingly shapes news coverage and public interest, Grady is offering a new Maymester course on Environmental Journalism based on travel and experience in one of the last pristine places on Earth—the rainforests, volcanoes, and beaches of Costa Rica. Our environment—your environment –is going to be the story for the next 100 years, and this is your chance to report on it, to help people learn about it and deal with it. Costa Rica has made a national commitment to environmental issues. There is more biodiversity in Costa Rica than anywhere in the world. It has been ranked as the “greenest” country in the world, and it has lessons to teach each one of us.
To learn more click here.
Cecropia Tree Research by Caroline Ragan, Kimberly Johnson and Christina Cannon
A Day’s Work on the Farm by Jacob Blount
Marlon Martinez is in his mid-thirties, and is an agriculture specialist for the University of Georgia Costa Rica campus. He has practiced farming since he was a young boy in Costa Rica, learning from his parents how to run and manage a sustainable farm and garden. Marlon has worked for UGA Costa Rica for seven years now, starting as a part-time worker and through his experience and work ethic becoming the manager of the entire sustainable agriculture enterprise on campus.
An average day for Marlon begins at the crack of dawn at the stables, where he milks cows and chooses livestock, mostly pigs, to be later slaughtered. He only slaughters animals about every two weeks, because this is usually the time it takes the campus kitchen to need more meat to feed the staff, faculty and students.
After he leaves the stables, Marlon heads to the organic farm on campus by riding his motorcycle, his favorite form of travel. When he arrives he has a multitude of tasks awaiting him. Most of the time he begins by growing new seedlings to be planted into freshly dug soil. Then he starts harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables to be prepared by the University of Georgia Costa Rica kitchen staff. They are typically eaten later that day (for lunch or dinner) by the students.
Composting is a big part of Marlon’s job. During the harvest season, compost helps to sustain the integrity of the soil. Each day, compost is collected and broken down at a warehouse near the garden.
After his duties at the farm, Marlon delivers vegetables and fruits to many of the homestay families (in addition to the UGACR kitchen).
After his eight hour shifts at work, Marlon returns to his home and family close to the UGA Costa Rica campus. He is the sole provider for the Martinez family of four. He has a wife and two children, a twelve-year-old son named Yuriel and an eleven-year-old daughter named Melony.
Food Consumption on Campus by Caroline Ragan, Kimberly Johnson, and Christina Cannon
The Contradiction of Eco-Tourism by Elim Almedom
On a dirt road, after driving for under an hour, our bus rolls into Santa Elena, a small town in the Monteverde forest of Costa Rica. Here is what I find: A pizzeria, an enormous souvenir shop, and a multitude of signs offering tours of “authentic” nature in Costa Rica. I also find that I can get free Wi-Fi. Duly noted. Ecotourism is defined as “a form of tourism involving visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, intended as a low-impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial (mass) tourism”. Being an eco-tourist is surprisingly easy here, almost as if the town was made to cater to us. Which of course it is. Santa Elena is in the middle of a huge nature reserve that draws in thousands of visitors every year. What I am drawn to however is the underlying question—what does it really mean to be an eco-tourist? People, myself included, come to these places, these enclaves of the natural world, with the hope of finding unity with nature, of helping to preserve one of the last pristine places on Earth. Pristine. That’s an interesting word. What does it mean? Certainly, it must have something to do with being untainted by the material world. But are they? I spent all day with a camera glued to my face hoping to take in all that I could and maybe bring a few souvenirs home to mom. Wasn’t I just consuming nature? And what’s the problem with that? I’m not a corporation, storming in, guns blazing with plans to bulldoze Santa Elena and the surrounding Monteverde region in order to build a few shiny, new skyscrapers and maybe a twenty-story apartment complex to match. But it’s still worrying. While my impact may not be as damaging to Santa Elena as that, it is still palpable. The young children I encounter serve as a barometer of this confusion. Their parents know exactly what we’re here for, but the children looked at me in puzzlement. I sense mistrust in their eyes. To them I must have looked foolish, walking around, mouth agape, taking pictures of everything I could, from shrubs to signs to something as simple as a door to the market. Because to me it isn’t just a market, it’s an authentic, Costa Rican market with none of the trapping of the huge corporate chains in America. And then it becomes obvious to me what’s wrong with this whole set up. The markets in Santa Elena and the ones I see every day in the states have one major thing in common: commodification. Materialism did not disappear when we arrived in this nature outpost in Costa Rica. Rather we brought it with us, turning nature into a product to be bought, sold, and consumed. Am I a tacit participant in the very process I came here to avoid? Does the arrival of ecotourists in these places do more harm than help? After all, who needs Wi-Fi, “authentic” pizzerias, and souvenir tourist traps in a town whose simplicity is its main draw? Apparently we do. And as long as tourism is the main source of income for these small towns, they will deliver, cementing them as a part of the contradiction that is at the heart of their survival. As our bus rolls out of Santa Elena, I wonder if I will return—and if I do, will I be able to enjoy it, knowing that I too am part of the contradiction.
Farming on The UGA Costa Rica Campus by Caroline Ragan, Kimberly Johnson, and Christina Cannon