In defense of trees and Costa Rica’s sustainable policies

I happened to pick up an envelope I’ve had since my son brought it from California a few weeks ago. It was a plea from UNICEF for a check to help feed the starving children of Ethiopia. My first response was “Are Ethiopian children starving again…or still?”

A quarter of the world’s population is either starving, fleeing from wars or fighting them, trying to save themselves from floods, fire, the fallout from nuclear or oil disasters, evil dictators, terrorists or the war on drugs. They are dying from incurable diseases or suffering from preventable ones. They are being sexually or physically abused by a family member or a stranger, going bankrupt or watching their country go bankrupt, looking for a job or living on the streets. Some are old and alone, others young and alone, and almost to a person, they are scared silly of the future. Generally speaking, the world is filled with horrors and folly. Even dutifully sending my $40 to UNICEF is not really going to be even a finger in the dike. The hole has become too huge.

I have been talking to some good friends and commenting that it is no wonder that some people become control freaks. They are simply trying to keep chaos at bay and protect their own little worlds and their loved ones from the dangers of an unknowable future. That we live in the best place possible in an impossible world gives us a responsibility to do whatever we can to keep this niche protected from the threats that plague so much of the world. And in our efforts, may even be an example to others.

In last week’s substitute column, my editor, Jay Brodell, chided Costa Rica for naming the protection of trees rather than fiercely defending its national sovereignty, and choosing trees over open pit gold mining. And for not allowing oil exploration in the Caribbean.

I have to defend the defenseless tree and Costa Rican choices. A tree does nothing but good during its life, providing medicine, food, a house for kids, a haven for birds and animals alike. It absorbs carbon, furnishes medicines, food and shade, saves water and makes the world more beautiful.

Yes, when they die, trees give off carbon, but the emission as they rot is benign compared to that from a dead animal (which, of course, includes us) who has had to work hard during life to do half the good a tree has done.

In the territorial conflict with Nicaragua, Costa Rica has chosen to focus on protecting its trees rather than starting a war. I think even this small decision helps create a more sustainable world. As for gold mining and oil exploration, the government of Costa Rica is probably aware that, unlike richer countries, it does not have the wherewithal to handle the catastrophes that can result from mining cave-ins on land or oil leaks in the sea. And may I just comment, in passing, that oil rich countries don’t seem to have benefited their general populace much so far. The main use for gold seems to be (other than pretty fillings and jewelry) the ability to exchange it for goods, if someone will take it

There are many ways to sustain ourselves locally, the most obvious being cutting down on the amount of energy from oil. We have all seen the increase in the number of small cars and disappearance of the SUVs and other gas guzzlers over recent years. In this country, with its multiple growing seasons, it is possible to eat well all year round if one chooses healthy fruits and vegetables.

As for Ms. Sarah Palin, Jay can certainly go to bat for her, but I am afraid that she has been replaced as Queen of the Right Wing Fundamentalists by Michele Bachman, who can talk a lot faster and more articulately.

Right now I am feeling inordinately blessed because this past week I have had a chance to spend time with nearly all of my closest friends. To be able to tend this garden of friendships in a country that values trees more than political power is a gift I wish I could share with the rest of the world. Life is so much easier when I concentrate on tending this garden of friendships, instead of worrying about the rest of the not so “best of all possible worlds.” But that is not easy for me.

This entry was posted in Friday Column. Bookmark the permalink.