Nature lover Gaia Vince headed to Costa Rica to seek out out why it’s happiness island
In keeping with the Completely satisfied Planet Index, Costa Rica is the world’s happiest nation. So journalist and broadcaster Gaia Vince made it her mission to be taught simply what makes this Central American nation tick.
She has not too long ago returned from a three-month journey there together with her husband and two kids, aged one and three, working with a movie crew to doc life within the happiest place on Earth.
“Over the previous couple of years Costa Rica has efficiently tackled a few of the big issues that its neighbours are failing to do,” says Gaia, who specialises in science, the surroundings and social points. “It’s a bit of paradise, however it used to have horrible poverty, human rights abuses and drug issues. I needed to find how they’d turned issues round.”
What Gaia found was pretty easy.
“They determined what they needed to occur then made it occur,” she says. “It had the worst deforestation within the growing world – in order that they planted extra bushes. Now it’s the one nation within the tropics that has reversed its deforestation.”
Nature is given the utmost respect by everybody in Costa Rica.
“Everybody you meet has a love for the pure world. They struggle to not pollute and there’s little or no litter,” she continues. “One of the crucial excessive examples of that is once I visited a fish farm. Hungry American crocodiles had descended on the farm and whereas in most locations they might have been shot, in Costa Rica they’re protected.
Conservationists seize the crocodiles and return them to the river they got here from.
“We have been proper in there. They have been greater than me and will have knocked me out with a swipe of the tail,” provides Gaia, who braved the crocodile-infested waters and likewise had a encounter with endangered turtles eggs.
“It’s unlawful to promote the eggs anyplace on this planet, however one little village got here up with a approach the place the locals and the turtles would profit by a small authorized harvest of eggs. Costa Rica is aware of that if they need the stability to work between people and the pure world, they must spend money on it and respect every have a proper to life.”
The movie crew treks the waterfalls as Gaia takes a courageous leap
Gaia additionally acquired the possibility to stay with one of many indigenous tribes dotted across the rainforest on the border of Costa Rica and Panama. Historically, the tribespeople make fires, plant cocoa, use historical medicines, preserve the forest and maintain chickens and goats. However they may also have interaction with fashionable life – on their very own phrases.
“They’ve a medical physician that comes each two weeks to a clinic they constructed,” says Gaia. “Usually, tribes like this may be swamped with vacationers, however they be certain that they’ve a number of individuals who go to them.
The cash they make from tourism went to constructing a faculty and offering gasoline for his or her boats.”
However the tribe’s harmonious relationship with nature and modernity has not at all times been fairly really easy.
“Twenty years in the past males have been getting pissed off as a result of that they had no jobs. Their crops have been getting degraded and folks engaged on banana plantations, that have been lined in pesticides, have been getting ailing,” Gaia explains.
“The lads turned to alcoholism as a result of they have been depressed, sick and jobless. Fortunately, the ladies knew that they had all survived very nicely earlier than they rejected their very own tradition, in order that they determined to return to their core values. They’ve now discovered a stability and whereas I used to be with them I helped thatch a roof utilizing their conventional data with fashionable instruments.”
This profitable story of sustainable dwelling is a miniature mannequin of what the whole nation has achieved.
The explanation Costa Rica has bounced again from a interval of shrinking forests and social unrest is partly all the way down to former president José Figueres Ferrer, who got here into energy in 1948. He removed the military, launched assured public schooling for all, enabled girls and the uneducated to vote and implement primary welfare laws.
Progressively, the nation turned what it’s at this time. It has free well being care, whereas the cash to fund initiatives comes from inexperienced tourism.
The Vince household are filmed having fun with an idyllic picnic on the seashore
The nation is nearly self-sufficient. Most of its electrical energy comes from river hydropower, which it sells to neighbouring international locations, and it has geothermal power farms that faucet into volcanoes, plus wind and solar energy.
As for future threats, Gaia places urbanisation on the high of the checklist. “Automotive possession has doubled within the final 10 years and air pollution is beginning to fill the cities.
They goal to spend money on a railway community whereas attempting to not disturb nature. The present street system is terrible. I needed to drive by means of rivers,” she says.
Arriving within the wet season and ending within the dry, Gaia and her household swapped London’s pigeons for vibrant toucans.
“We stayed in a beautiful village on the Pacific coast. It was close to a seashore surrounded by forest and had a bit of pool. There have been monkeys on the roof, toucans within the bushes and scorpions within the children’ bed room. However they liked it and need to return.
Waking as much as birdsong, solar, monkeys and bushes in all places, you possibly can stroll exterior and there’s the ocean swishing forwards and backwards, it places your life into perspective,” she admits.
So the place is the remainder of the world going improper?
“We have now an absence of creativeness and imaginative and prescient,” she believes. “In Costa Rica they projected ahead to 50 years forward.”
Costa Rica is certainly one of 5 blue zones world wide; areas which see extra folks than anyplace else dwelling past the age of 100 – which Gaia places all the way down to happiness.
“Within the UK we’ve got an epidemic of loneliness, and loads of experiences say it’s so dangerous on your well being and happiness. I believe a very powerful factor for folks is neighborhood. In Costa Rica all of them stay with their households, who they see each day, or in family-type communities. Individuals eat collectively lots. Strangers assist individuals who want it.”
Though important of the UK, Gaia plans to remain on these shores. “I’m Australian however my household and associates are in London. Plus I like London,” she provides. “However it was crucial for me that my kids see the pure world and admire it as a result of it gained’t be there ceaselessly.
What Costa Rica has achieved isn’t an accident, it’s a course of. They’re engaged of their pure world, which they as soon as misplaced, however managed to get again once more. And we may simply do the identical.”
Gaia’s documentary is a part of Channel four’s forthcoming Man Made Planet season, which explores the affect of humanity on Planet Earth.