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A Lesson in the Treetops

How Costa Rica preserves their rainforests with no roads.

Like another world…it was surreal. We were in the towering treetops of a rainforest, gliding slowly through the canopy, a drenching rain running off our water-repellant ponchos and off our rainhats down into our faces.

Peering out from the open-air gondola, we marveled at the sight of the exotic flowering vines draped from the huge trees and the mist rising from the ground far below.

And there was a mystery here.

Huge, 100-foot-high metal towers held up the cable along which our gondola glided. But where was the road the construction crew had used to bring in these steel towers? How had they brought in the tons of concrete needed to stabilize and support the towers?

I looked below for the road. Nothing there. Only a narrow trail. How could these towers have been brought in and supported without a construction road?

Our guide explained. The Costa Ricans are so protective of their natural wonders that sometimes they even avoid building roads into them!
It seemed like a park, but this part of the rainforest was privately owned, and the owner, a businessman, treated his land in a way more protective way than even our own national parks are treated here in America. 

Not wanting to remove any trees or disturb this amazing natural place, he had the steel towers brought in by helicopter and actually paid workers to haul in the cement on their backs

I love America. But one unflattering thing I’ve noticed about us Americans is we tend to think we have all the answers. The truth is, we have a very great deal to learn from other countries. And Costa Rica can teach us a lot about preserving the environment.

Not only did the people of Costa Rica make a conscious, national, democratic decision in the 1970s to preserve their environment…they did it in a way that builds their economy and uplifts the lives of their people,

It’s called eco-tourism. Countries all over the world are doing it. Depending on which country you’re talking about it, eco-tourism can pay for schools, parks, government services, retirement programs and medical care.

You’ve heard that tired argument that preserving the environment hurts business. Short-run, maybe so. Long run, the argument doesn’t hold water. Ask the people of Costa Rica whose living standards soar above their Central American neighbors’. Better yet, learn for yourself. Don a raincoat and glide through the treetops of a Costa Rican rainforest.


Feel free to email me your environmental tips and questions!

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