I noted a news item in a magazine this week that was highlighting the environmental credentials of Costa Rica – not a country that particularly springs to mind when thinking of environmental achievements. They have been awarded the 2010 Future Policy Award in recognition of their Biodiversity Law ‘as a milestone of excellence in meeting the goals of the UN convention on Biological Diversity’.
It would appear that Costa Rica, which is rich in flora and fauna, has developed policies designed to safeguard these habitats recognising their importance as an ecosystem and for bringing in ecotourism revenue (a topic I am not overly comfortable with). The part of the policy that particularly got my attention was that at a time when it is rumoured that the UK coalition ‘greenest’ government is contemplating selling large tracts of forest and national parks, the Costa Rican government is channeling revenue from fuel tax, energy fees and car stamp duty to pay for the management of nature reserves and environmental services.
The immediate question is, if Costa Rica, a so-called developing country, can take such a stance to protect its habitats, why, when we are so wealthy, can we not afford to do the same? Why do we not value what we have, whilst pointing the finger at developing countries for destroying their habitat.
I was struck at work this week at the mountain still to be climbed with regard to energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions. For some reason the conversation came round to company cars and tax, and the comment that there are two hybrid cars in the Company – the belief was that there is a good chance that they were bought purely for tax reasons. There then came the comment that the emissions from a Prius included a high degree of smugness. This was followed by a general level of guffawing from the self-proclaimed climate change sceptics in the room. In fact, they seemed rather smug about the fact that they were sceptical about climate change.
I tried to point out that climate change is not necessarily the issue, that wastefulness, loss of resources and biodiversity is the issue – particularly for those in the room with young children. The answer was that they would be able to watch the now extinct butterflies on a lovely big flat screen television. Apart from thinking that was a pretty pathetic and blinkered response (not to mention that televisions require resources to make and run), I started to imagine a world where the only interaction we had with nature was through videos of long dead species and then I shuddered.
The real problem is that in addition to the lack of appreciation of the effect we are having on our environment, I am not sure we have it in our power to change these attitudes.