October 10th, 2013 by mongabay
By Larry Kraft
This August, my family and I spent a week and a half in Monteverde, Costa Rica. This is the tropics, but at an elevation of 4,500 feet or so. This well-preserved swathe of forest straddles the Continental Divide, which results in clouds and weather coming up from both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The elevation means it’s never very hot, and the tropical latitude means it’s never very cold. The mean temperature for any month of the year falls between 70°F and 61°F (21°C and 17°C).
There is much to do here: hiking; zip-lining; learning about how coffee or chocolate is made; and visiting bat, butterfly, frog, snake, or orchid exhibits. But to me there are two key things that stand out. Life and Conservation.
The Kraft family on a hanging bridge. Photo by Larry Kraft.
Life explodes from the earth with a huge variety of plants, trees, vines, insects, bats, birds and mammals. The misty clouds drifting up from the coasts not only give the cloud forest its name, but also nourish life above the ground. All kinds of things grow on top of other things. Epiphytes grow on trees and then eventually decompose, creating a microenvironment from which more life can emerge. Some of what grows and lives in the canopy is only found there and not on the ground.
The thick cloud forest canopy. Photo by Larry Kroft.
Epiphytes growing on a tree. Photo by Larry Kroft.
Kraft kids beneath “Poor Man’s Umbrella”. Photo by Larry Kroft.
Concern for the environment can be seen everywhere. This seems to be a place where tourism has had a positive impact. Every tour operator here touts its environmentally-friendly practices. Many explicitly mention that a portion of money spent goes towards preserving the forest or improving the situation for some type of animal. Sorting bins for different kinds of trash and recycling materials can be found at nearly every hotel. Composting seems to be practiced by many, if not most, homes. And as the primary business in the area is eco-tourism, the community’s livelihood depends on conservation.
On the surface, it seems an unlikely place to see impacts from climate change. But dig a little deeper and ask questions of the locals, and interesting anecdotes emerge.
One local told us that you used to be able to set your clock by the heavy, daily rains in the rainy season. We were there during the rainy season, and for the most part, had lovely weather with sun and minimal rain on most days. The area has had more than one recent year with not enough rain. This causes multiple problems, including water shortages within the community itself, insufficient water for farms downstream at lower elevations, and energy issues. Seventy-six percent of Costa Rica’s energy comes from hydroelectric power, much coming from this watershed. Our Spanish teacher told us of energy shortages and power outages occurring in these drier years.
Though there have been some years with not enough rain, the total amount of rain, on average, is actually trending higher. But the rain is falling differently. There are more frequent and longer-lasting dry spells, followed by larger downpours. Plus the ever-present mist, which gives the cloud forest much of its unique flora and fauna, is actually starting to drift in at higher elevations.
In a conversation with J. Alan Pounds, world-renowned amphibian and climate researcher, and a resident scientist at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, he noted that the dry spells and reduction in mist are already having significant impacts on many species. As of late, he has been studying orchids, of which there are more than 500 species here–more than any other location in the world. And he is noticing significant stresses on these beautiful plants. Quite simply, they do better when there are clouds in the cloud forest.
Dancing lady orchid. Photo by Larry Kroft.
Equally worrisome is what’s happening with animals. One of the founders of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, Bob Law, and one of the park rangers there, Wendy Brenes, told us they were beginning to see lower elevation species at higher elevations. In the Monteverde area, they are now regularly seeing the chestnut-mandibled toucan and keel-billed toucan, which in prior years were only seen at lower elevations. And they are now seeing the fer-de-lance, a deadly poisonous snake, at one of their stations in a lower part of their reserve, where previously it had never been seen. Now perhaps this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but what happens to the higher elevation species that have no higher to go? Eventually, they are likely die off. And if they do, what is the impact on the ecosystem?
Chestnut Mandibled Toucan. Photo by Larry Kroft.
Fer-de-lance. Photo courtesy of caspar under creative commons license.
We heard rumor of a massive amphibian die-off, which I confirmed in my conversation with Alan Pounds. In papers published from 1999 through 2006, he showed that warmer temperatures allowed a certain type of fungus to flourish (chytridiomycosis) that completely wiped out certain species of frogs, including the golden toad, from the Monteverde area.
Golden toad, now extinct. US Fish and Wildlife Service (public domain).
One of the things you realize pretty quickly is how incredibly connected and balanced everything is in the cloud forest. If one part of this ecosystem is disrupted, what does it do to the other parts? And since the cloud forest is so connected to the well being of the people here, and in the rest of Costa Rica, how will people be impacted? What new fungi or other diseases will suddenly be able to flourish in different environments, and will they attack frogs, the food we grow, or perhaps even people directly?
The people of Monteverde and Costa Rica can be seen as a microcosm of the overall impact of climate change on humanity. We’re in the midst of a grand, rapid, and dangerous experiment. The climate and earth will adapt to the changes we are causing, but the question is: will humanity be like the animals at the top of the mountain in Monteverde?
There is a bit of a counter-culture feel in Monteverde. In spite of the remoteness of the area, the focus on conservation, and the feeling of apartness from the politics of the West, climate change is a great equalizer. There really is nowhere in the world where one can escape from the impacts of climate change.
About Larry Kraft
Larry Kraft is a former high-tech exec, now traveling the world with his wife and two kids on an environmentally-focused trip. In addition to teaching their kids, Larry and his wife Lauri are creating educational content for their kids’ school, Peter Hobart Elementary School in St. Louis Park, and the 85,000 kids that follow the Wilderness Classroom, a non-profit with whom they are partnered. Larry is also a Climate Reality Leader, having been recently trained by Al Gore and his Climate Reality Organization. His first trip around the world was solo with a backpack in 1990/91. He’s since touched all 7 continents, and over 60 countries. He can be reached on the Kraft blog, on twitter at @LarryKraft1, or via email at lkraft [at] hotmail [dot] com.
October 10th, 2013 by mongabay
By Simon Bradley / Save Our Species IUCN
Friday, October 11th is World Egg Day, when agribusiness promotes the consumption of eggs as a healthy source of protein. When it comes to one of Indonesia’s national icons however, the Endangered maleo bird (Macrocephalon maleo), conservationists such as the Alliance for Tompotika Conservation (AlTo) an SOS – Save Our Species grantee, are trying to discourage the practice of eating its giant eggs for special occasions.
Maleo digging. Photo by ALTO – Kevin Schafer
This distinctive megapode – about the size of a chicken – is endemic to Sulawesi and Buton Islands, where it once blackened the beaches during egg-laying season, when the usually solitary animals would march out of the jungle to mate and bury eggs deep in the sands. Nowadays, the unusual life-cycle of the maleo is an increasingly rare sight. Using its big claws to hatch and tunnel to the surface, the lone chick can walk, feed itself and fly within a matter of hours, being independent of its parents and leaving evolutionary biologists to ponder how individuals recognize each other later in life. A remarkable bird indeed, the maleo is also strikingly beautiful and has been legally protected in Indonesia since 1972. Yet old habits die hard and maleo eggs – like most megapode eggs – are very high in protein, making a tasty dish for those who can find them.
Consequently, as with so many species, it seems effective maleo conservation hinges on local support and participation in the process. Going beyond awareness-raising to protecting eggs on site has proven an effective strategy implemented by conservation organization AlTo which has been actively engaged with local Taima community members for the past decade.
Protecting nest sites and allowing eggs to hatch naturally has seen a 62% increase in bird populations in one site where AlTo works, for example. Meanwhile the impact of using other methods including incubation has yet to be measured and gauged. According to Marcy Summers, director of AlTo, “doing conservation as close to possible as keeping things in their natural wild state is generally the first way to go for effective conservation efforts.”
The giant maleo egg in a man’s hand. Photo by ALTO – Marcy Summers
AlTo’s strategy to date has been to educate local community members to identify, survey, monitor and protect egg sites and to report incidences of harvesting these precious eggs. As AlTo integrated into the community it has also begun to conduct surveys to identify other possible nesting beaches, often tapping into local knowledge and experience. But the organization also works with local authorities to support the enforcement of laws. Meanwhile, the recent official recognition of the area as one of seven Essential Ecosystems by the Indonesian Federal government is a boon for all local conservation efforts.
Naturally funding from external sources helps AlTo maintain and develop the program. For SOS a global coalition initiated by three founding partners—IUCN, World Bank, and GEF–it was the combination of an excellent grassroots project with proven results and the prospect of real conservation success that made AlTo’s maleo bird project the seventh active SOS project in Indonesia and its third in Sulawesi alone.
For Marcy Summers and the community of Tompotika, such support helps continue the slow but steady progress toward restoring the maleo bird to being more than just a national symbol, but a living breathing success story that everyone helped make happen. So perhaps today on World Egg Day, spare a thought for the maleo and its giant egg and get involved. Hopefully through the efforts of groups like AlTo we may yet be celebrating new calendar days like Maleo Egg Day instead!
A maleo pair. Photo by ALTO – Kevin Schafer
ALTO staff train villagers on maleo data. Photo by ALTO – Marcy Summers
September 23rd, 2013 by mongabay
By Phyllis Sena
Eastern hellbender. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher / WCS.
The WCS’s Bronx Zoo is joining the fight to save the world’s largest salamander, the Eastern Hellbender, by teaming up with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Buffalo Zoo in reintroducing 38 of these animals into wild streams in the state of New York. Juvenile eggs were collected from the Allegheny River drainage at the start of the program, and they were raised off-location and returned to that same drainage. Each amphibian was tagged with a chip for future surveys and species health assessments after exposure to their natural environment.
This program will enable conservationists to release young hellbenders back to the wild at an age that will enable them to survive and live a full life in the state of New York. Currently this state lists the Eastern Hellbender as a species of Special Concern, due to several factors including disease, pollution, and habitat destruction.
Hellbenders are found in rocky streams and are entirely aquatic. Some of their nicknames include devil dogs, Allegheny alligators, and snot otters. Hellbenders can measure nearly two feet in length as adults, and join a category of two other giant salamanders, the Japanese giant salamander and the Chinese hellbender, which can grow to up to six feet long.
Photo by Julie Larsen Maher / WCS.
September 18th, 2013 by mongabay
With rapidly rising demand for rhino horn fueling large-scale rhino slaughter, some conservation organizations have painlessly removed the horn as a preventive measure against poaching. Photo by Rhett Butler.
Sunday, September 22nd is World Rhino Day 2013. This yearly celebration, started in 2010, hopes to remind the world of the plight of the world’s five remaining species of rhinoceros: the white rhino (Ceratotherium simum), black rhino (Diceros bicornis), Indian rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus), and the Sumatran (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).
Today three of the five species are listed Critically Endangered according to the IUCN Red List and the other two are also threatened with extinction. The biggest threats to these massive herbivores are habitat loss and poaching brought on by an increasing demand for rhino horn for use in traditional Chinese medicine (though there has been no proven medical benefits) and newer, non-traditional uses (beauty regimes, hangover cures, and wine).
In South Africa, the country where World Rhino Day originated, the rhino crisis is at its worst, having lost over 550 rhinos so far this year. Experts estimate that less than 100 Sumatran rhinos survive in the world today.
International World Rhino Day celebrations include education projects for students, fundraising dinners, auctions, art contests, poster displays, and wine tastings.
If you want to join in the World Rhino Day celebration, you can find an event near you by connecting on Facebook and visiting worldrhinoday.org.
White rhino in Kenya. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
September 13th, 2013 by mongabay
By Alexander Holmgren
Northern Cassowary (Casuarius unappendiculatus) in West Papua, New Guinea Indonesia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler / mongabay.
The Cassowary is one the worlds most exotic animals. Three species of Cassowary are recognized to this day scattered across the forests of New Guinea and Australia. The Cassowary’s vibrant blue and red hues that run along its neck as well as its elaborate make it truly a sight to behold. Know primarily for their mysterious nature these birds are adept at disappearing through the forest long before humans arrive. Because the Cassowary cannot fly it has adapted through other means such as it’s large size and powerful legs for survival. The southern Cassowary is actually the third tallest and second largest bird in the world, combined with it’s jungle habitat this makes for quite a spectacle as a two meter tall bird runs through the jungle at up to thirty one miles per hour. The legs of the Cassowary also allow these bird to jump almost 5 feet, and allow them to be one of the few birds that is a strong swimmer. The middle toe of each foot is host to a long dagger like claw ideal for defense, making the Cassowary one impressive bird.
Northern Cassowary (Casuarius unappendiculatus). Photo by Rhett A. Butler / mongabay.
September 5th, 2013 by mongabay
The famous Gus, surveying his NYC home. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher / WCS.
Gus was visited by more than 20 million zoo goers in the 24 years he graced the waters of The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Central Park Zoo. Sadly, Gus, the adult male polar bear, passed away last week at the age of 27.
“Gus was an icon at the Central Park Zoo and a great source of joy for our visitors and staff,” said Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President of Zoos and Aquarium. “He was an important ambassador for his species bringing attention to the problems these bears face in the wild due to a changing environment. Polar bears are apex predators – the kings of their domain, but vulnerable in a world affected by climate change brought on by human activity.”
Polar bears, the largest carnivore on land, actually spend much of their time in the water and Gus was no different. However, during his time in Central Park, Gus gained media attention for his repetitive swimming pattern. The public and zoo keepers were concerned for this magnificent animal’s mental health in such close quarters. WCS Central Park Zoo staff created an enrichment program that included such elements as food scavenger hunts, motor skill enriching toys, and personalized positive reinforcement training sessions.
There is no doubt Gus’ kin are in serious peril. Polar bears are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List and their habitat in the Arctic is disappearing at alarming rates due to climate change.
Though Gus might have been cramped at times in his New York City home, we can find some comfort in the fact that he helped spread the message about the beauty, majesty, and importance of these animals in our world, calling on us to make the changes necessary to save his species. On behalf of 20 million of us, thank you, Gus.
Gus posing for the camera. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher / WCS.
September 5th, 2013 by mongabay
Photo by Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay.com
A shocking 449 species of reptiles call Sundaland home, of which 249 are endemic to the region. Indonesia has an extremely high level of biodiversity, which is most likely due to the great size and tropical archipelago make-up of the land. The Indonesian fauna is so vivid, that the colors of these snakes actually camouflage them into the background. Each of these snake’s coloring has evolved to blend in with where it tends to reside, meaning the brown snake most likely lives within the dead leaf litter and the green ones within the trees.
Population numbers of these animals has started to suffer as a result of the rapid industrialization of the nation and high population growth. Many species of Indonesian snakes have been subject to habitat exploitation, illegal logging, fires, or habitat loss in one way or another.
August 30th, 2013 by mongabay
Excerpt from the new book Meltdown: China’s Environmental Crisis by Sean Gallagher
Adapted By Caroline D’Angelo
With soaring mountains and vast grasslands, the Tibetan Plateau covers approximately one quarter of China. The plateau’s glaciers hold the largest store of freshwater on earth outside the North and South Poles. Though remote and sparsely populated, the plateau is of crucial importance to China and its downstream neighbors: Three of Asia’s most important rivers—the Yellow, Yangtze and Mekong—originate here.
Over the past 150 years, China’s average temperature has risen just 0.4 to 0.5 degrees centigrade. However, the high plateau has warmed much faster than the rest of China or anywhere else in the world – just like a roof on a hot summer day –
And the glaciers are melting fast. The Hailuogou glacier on the 23,000-foot high Mount Gongga retreated over two kilometers during the twentieth century alone.
An screen shot of the book. Photo courtesy of Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
Glacial-fed flooding has become a major problem throughout the watersheds. The grasslands, degraded by climate change and development, are losing their ability to soak up the spring melt. And so moisture rushes downstream and ironically, the soil left behind on the plateau gets drier. Warmer weather has increased evaporation rates, and without the sponge effect of healthy grasslands and peatlands, patches of the once lush grasslands are becoming barren brown desert.
For 5,000 years nomads roamed the area with flocks of yaks, sheep and cattle. In recent decades however, the government, citing the grasslands’ degradation, has forcibly settled nomads and enacted laws to restrict grazing. Thousands now live in half-built “relocation villages,” where bittersweet memories of the grasslands give way to mounting piles of refuse.
“Life is more convenient now, but I worry that Tibetan culture is disappearing,” said one former nomad as people in a mixture of modern and traditional clothing walked by on the dusty streets of the town of Zaduo. While some like the business opportunities available in town, others struggle to make ends meet.
Photo courtesy of Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
Another young man told me “There is nothing to do here except sell caterpillar fungus.” The fungus is used in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine, and the man worries that climate change will once again disrupt his livelihood. “The fact that the weather is getting warmer here each year isn’t good for harvesting caterpillar fungus. If we lose this, what will we do? How will we earn money?”
But other resources on the plateau are becoming more reachable with the warmer weather: minerals. Mining for gold, copper, lithium, lead, iron and coal has become a major industry – and it looks like the bounty could be huge.
This has increased tensions. A herder explains: “Tibetans believe that when the gold is mined, the grass is disturbed and it is very bad for the sacred mountains. The locals never try to get the gold from the mountains.”
There has also been an increased awareness about conservation. In late 2010, the Chinese government announced that it will “halt the loss of biodiversity in China by 2020.” It is a wildly ambitious target, but one that needs to be at least attempted before the traditions and landscapes of the plateau change forever.
Photo courtesy of Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
An interactive map of the route author, Sean Gallagher, took through the Tibetan Plateau
– Post adapted by Caroline D’Angelo from “Meltdown: China’s Environment Crisis,” a new interactive e-book by award-winning photojournalist Sean Gallagher. Download a copy free from the iBookstore, Amazon, or Creatavist.
August 27th, 2013 by mongabay
By Ellen Jorgensen
There’s nothing so final as watching the bush pilot take off in his tiny plane, leaving you stranded in the Alaskan backcountry. We had plenty of food for a three-day expedition, but no satellite phone or any other way to contact anyone. In Alaska, the phrase ‘primordial indifference’ pretty much sums up your relationship with the vast, glacier-carved landscape. Mother Nature does not care if an ant like you lives or dies.
Our destination, the Skolai Valley, is located about 300 miles east of Anchorage, in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. At a whopping 13 million acres, it is the largest national park in the United States, and probably one of the least-visited. Much of its forbidding territory is snow-covered and similar to the Himalayas. In fact, the size of the massive ice fall that towers over the town of McCarthy, the origin of our flight, is exceeded only by one near Mt. Everest. But winding through the glaciers and snowfields are alpine valleys that are a backpacker’s dream. And Genspace, the nonprofit science-based organization that I direct, was lucky enough to have gotten funding in 2012 to launch this expedition to Skolai. Our mission: to barcode wild Alaskan plant life. Two of us headed down into the river valley and the other two climbed up to the level of the mountain pass to survey more alpine vegetation. We were carrying portable plant presses- normally something too bulky for backpacking but necessary for this trip.
A view of Alaskan icefall. Photo by Ellen Jorgensen
It really surprised me when the experts at the New York Botanical Garden explained that identifying plants is still carried out the way it was 100 years ago. You dig up the plant, roots and all, press it between two pieces of newspaper and dry it out flattened. Then an expert has to look at the sample and use visual characteristics to identify it. You have to be a taxonomist to decipher the jargon in the plant manuals: “awl-shaped stigma lobes”, “dehiscent fruits” and “anthers without basal appendages” are not normally part of my working vocabulary. Wouldn’t it be great if this process were made more accessible to everyone?
We wanted to enable citizen scientists, students, and people who love Alaska to conclusively identify species they find in the Alaskan wild using only a tiny fragment of specimen for a relatively low cost. DNA Barcoding is a method of taxonomic identification that relies on obtaining DNA sequence from specific sites in the genome to determine species and clarify evolutionary relationships. It requires a tiny piece of tissue rather than the whole plant specimen needed for traditional identification. The 200 specimens we collected in Skolai can be identified by traditional means, then barcoded by citizen scientists and local students. At our community laboratory Genspace in Brooklyn NY, anyone is free to learn and join us in DNA extraction, PCR, and sequence data analysis to add the specimen’s DNA barcode to the Barcode of Life database. As our team works our way through various regions of Alaska, a snapshot in time will emerge of the flora that can be queried by students, hikers, or any other amateurs in an accessible manner through the DNA barcode. To see what we need to move the project forward, you can visit our Microryza project page.
Alaska is home to some of the most hardy yet fragile species of plants. The effects of global warming are all too apparent here. Adding to the Barcode of Life database will help scientists in their ecological surveys, allow amateurs to participate and contribute, and help environmentalists catalog the effects of climate change. In addition, teaching and enabling people to learn barcoding hands on contributes to STEM learning, adult science literacy, and a deeper appreciation of DNA-based technolgy and what it can do to enrich our lives. Genspace, the community lab I co-founded, is uniquely suited to this type of collaborative citizen science. For the past three years we have engaged the public through classes and hands-on projects such as this one. Being actively involved in the research gives people a better understanding of its value, and raises public awareness of the power of this technology and also the precarious situation our precious natural resources face with the advent of global warming.
A plant sample. Photo by Ellen Jorgensen.
Ellen hiking in the field.
August 26th, 2013 by mongabay
By Elizabeth Loudon & Andrew Aldrich
Tarzan? Swiss Family Robinson? The immensely popular “Magic Treehouse” book series? It’s no wonder so many kids want treehouses. If you’re an ambitious parent, maybe you’ve tried building one in your backyard. Just a fancy playhouse in a tree right? Think again. Finca Bellavista, a visionary community of full size arboreal homes in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica, takes treehouse living seriously. Finca Bellavista, big-kids are making their childhood dreams come true as they settle in treehouses and begin living off the grid.
Finca Bellavista covers 600 acres in the westernmost portions of the Talamanca Mountains, nestled in a region that is increasingly popular for ecotourism. Surrounded by incredible biodiversity, residents enjoy a unique opportunity to unplug from technology and connect with nature.
While it is true that residents cannot surf the net as they drink their morning coffee, many believe this sacrifice is well worth it. A pleasure such as bird watching, rarely possible for the typical urbanite, is a part of many residents’ daily routines. Living among the trees affords residents a chance to enjoy their morning beverage of choice while listening to a plethora of birds’ songs.
A view of a tree house at Finca Bellavista. Photo by Andrew Aldrich.
With diverse neighbors such as birds and butterflies, it’s no surprise that residents are concerned about their impact on the environment. As the community matures, residents hope it will one day be completely self-sufficient and sustainable. Closeness with nature tends to augment residents’ passion for conservation. Plus, sustainability is practical when you live in a jungle. According to Finca Bellavista developer Erica Hogan, “Sustainable living is really the only thing that makes sense here…This isn’t the type of place you could build a ‘conventional’ community anyways…You would want the animals to go under the house, and you would want to have trails up to your house instead of a driveway.”
As the world’s largest treehouse community, Finca Bellavista has increasing energy needs with each new development. When the community receives the proper government permits, they will be installing a hydroelectric turbine to power a community grid. Solar energy and biodigesters minimize environmental harms while ensuring that residents don’t have to sacrifice modern comforts such as hot water and electricity.
Many emerging communities worldwide are doing their best to progress towards an eco-friendly future, but Finca Bellavista is unique in that it was initiated with sustainability in mind. Consistent with the green community goals, arboreal houses in Finca Bellavista are required to meet an extensive list of criteria before they are approved for construction. All homes must utilize rainwater or spring water, and incorporate some source of clean electricity. Also, concrete foundations are prohibited so that terrestrial animal migrations remain uninterrupted. A complete set of community guidelines is available here: http://www.fincabellavista.com/live-grow/community-guidelines/
In the 7 years since its inception, it has gained remarkable fame and international attention. Still, treehouse building is challenging because of its unconventional nature, so construction must progress slowly. Each house is built to last, often incorporating local materials. Unfortunately, challenges involving availability of construction materials that are sturdy and sustainable require that some materials be imported. Costa Rican construction normally utilizes concrete instead of wood, so quality screws are hard to come by. Also, Finca Bellavista architects are still searching for a roofing material that is durable enough to withstand the frequent rains, but lightweight enough to be suitable for treehouses. Many future residents take an active role in designing their homes, ensuring that their final product is just like the vision of their dreams. Developers Matt and Erica Hogan emphasize that they are learning and overcoming challenges as they go. Erica Hogan says, “It’s all about finding better solutions.”
As more lots are sold, income is generated to invest in improving infrastructure and sustainability projects. The gardens that produce many of the vegetables used in meals at the Base Camp will need to be expanded to increase the self-sufficiency of the community. Since Finca Bellavista has become attractive for tourists who wish to spend a few nights experiencing the treehouses, laundry and electricity needs have increased. Due to the delay in installing hydroelectric power, Finca Bellavista must maintain an office in a village 3 km from the property. This location houses meat freezers, laundry machines, and a charging station for the community’s electric maintenance vehicle. Until more clean energy can be generated on property, Finca Bellavista relies on conventional energy to fulfill these functions.
The future sustainability of Finca Bellavista as it expands requires improvements in power generation, which the owners hope can result from hydroelectric power. Finca Bellavista is also in the process of establishing a home owners association that will allow residents to play a more participatory role in the evolution of the community infrastructure and the establishment of public parks and services. Finca Bellavista has potential to expand as an ecotourist destination, which could include less costly overnight options designed to attract backpackers. With continued investment and a wealth of exciting new possibilities, one can hope that Finca Bellavista will grow and become more sustainable over time.