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Category Archives: ecology

At the beginning of the 20th century there were only 11 cities in the entire world with a population over one million people. 1950 there were 50 cities, in 1990 276 and today we have around 450 (in 2015 there will probably be over 550 of those metropolis with over one million inhabitants). This urbanization leads to a huge segregation of stripes of untouched nature that makes it impossible for flora and fauna to interact in its usual ways. This has already started with agriculture and farming, which cut the land in stripes and meant the beginning of deforestation. But urbanization is even more cruel, as it leaves even less living space to animals and plants. One problem is that full land stripes are covered with concrete cities. Another problem is the highways and roads that cut through landscapes making it virtually impossible for animals to move in their accustomed ways.

By 2020 there will probably be ten cities with over 20 million inhabitants! Imagine the population concentration and its effects on nature in such areas! Already, these megalopolises are famous for their sanitary problems, their slums, crime and problems of poverty (which, as a effect often lead to more pollution due to bad policing). Also, poverty leads to the “better areas” of the city seeking seclusion. Even more concrete is built, but in this case vertically (for dividing walls). These so-called “gated communities” seek luxurious standards and are often completely unaware of the natural roots of the places they live in – these city dweller have been born into concrete, they live in concrete and all they know is concrete. Their awareness for ecological problems is often quite small (remember that most of these megalopolises are in poor countries) and not much is being done to improve the situation.

Water supply is becoming increasingly difficult and waste disposal is often unorganised, thus leading to pollution and diseases. Every fourth person on the planet does not currently have access to fresh water! This is most often an urbanisation problem. A further problem of large cities, of course, is traffic. The faster they grow the more important private transportation becomes because public transport often fails at this point (unless it has been planned based on long-term considerations).

So the cities that we live in and consider to be the height of our civilisation are actually threatening the standard of life we have gotten used to. As soon as their growth becomes uncontrollable, they become an environmental threat that is hard to evaluate. Let’s stop and think and try to help educating those who are unaware of the uprooting and destructive effects of urbanization.

Read more about urbanization: http://esa.un.org/unup/

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Costa Rica has over one million hectares of natural reserves. These have been established in the course of the 20th century by private efforts and (increasingly) by the government of Costa Rica. While these natural reserves are clearly an important touristic asset for the country, these reserves do much more for the people. They create an awareness and pride of their natural resources.

Nowadays, many Costa Rican (tico) children are taught in school the value of the rainforest and the complexity of ecological interactions. About half of Costa Rica’s children live surrounded by, at least patches of, intact nature. For the other kids that grow up in urban areas, efforts are made to put them in touch with ecology as well. But of course, this is always an organisational and logistic problem due to financial straits. (Edunamica, for instance, is a private organisation that strives to boost talented students throughout the country; these students are later taking on coaching functions. Ecological education is becoming an increasingly important issue here. But one should of course not forget that there are often more pressing everyday matters for the inhabitants of Costa Rica.)

Also for Europeans and Americans the rainforest seems like a great place to educate ourselves about ecology. But do not forget that we are always outsiders and interrupt nature’s undisturbed way by visiting. On the other hand, national park entrance fees are an important support to maintain such areas. Make sure to pay the entrance fee… Also, nature guides in Costa Rica are fabulously educated and have a lot to tell you. So if you are really interested in learning something and you want more than just catch glimpse of some monkeys, than this is well worth its while. Not only will you bring some important knowledge home, but you will also support the spreading of knowledge in a new emerging profession, which in turn will spread again more knowledge: the guia natural (nature guide) of Central American nature.

By the way, the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism makes admirable efforts to properly educate and certify these guides. Costa Rica is clearly a regional leader in these issues and tourism has profited a lot from it already.