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Costa Rica is one big safari park !!

Ex president ofCosta Rica Rodrigo Carazo in his Eco-Hotel Villa Blanca with Jörn Malek left

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. ~ Aldo Leopold, American ecologist, 1886-1948

The first tourism for pleasure was confined to the rich and powerful, an indulgence for the Greek and Roman civilizations. In the 18th and 19th centuries, wealthy Europeans and Americans toured the cultural centers of Europe or vacationed in country summer mansions. But everyday people stayed home and worked. Thomas Cook organized English rail excursions as early as 1840, when a middle class emerged from the industrial revolution. But mass tourism only got a start 100 years later, when air travel began to shrink the world. Inevitably, that innovation brought developing “Third World” countries within reach as leisure destinations.

In an effort to attract tourists to sun, sand and surf, countries such as Mexico and Jamaica licensed builders to change or exploit the natural environment to create resort areas. Slowly it became apparent to many that the costs of such developments – both environmental and social – could be higher than the benefits.

Eco or “green” tourism developed with the heightened environmental awareness of the 1960s and 70s. It is generally defined as low-impact activities in nature that help preserve and sustain the environment and benefit native people. The hope is that this type of tourism can prevent and even reverse environmental destruction. The tourist trade in Costa Rica, in a country described by one naturalist as “one big safari park,” is a test of that hope.

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