Costa Rica is a tiny country in Central America with 4.85 million people. It also hosts more than 5% of the world's biodiversity despite a landmass that covers just 0.03% of the planet. Despite its small size and population, Costa Rica has provided inspiration for the whole world and through this blog, I am highlighting three of its major achievements.
Photo credit: http://santamarta-florez.blogspot.ch
It met most of its electricity needs through green sources
Costa Rica ran on 100% renewable energy for 76 straight days between June and August 2016, demonstrating that life without fossil fuels is possible — for small countries, at least. This is the second year in a row that the Central American country has run for more than two months straight on renewables alone, and it brings the 2016 total to 150 days and counting. For 285 days in 2016, Costa Rica generated its power through non-fossil fuels. More than 80% of the energy the developing country generated during August was supplied by hydroelectric power.
After hydropower, geothermal was the next big power source, with the technology providing 13% of the country's energy production. Wind turbines contributed 7% of the power the nation needed, with solar accounting for a mere 0.01%. Note: The 98.1% figure only refers to electricity usage, not gas used for heating or fuel used in vehicles, for example.
Abolished the military in 1948
Costa Rica abolished its military in 1948 and has never restarted it. They have 70 soldiers who are trained to US military standards as a special intervention unit to support police and tackle narcotic groups. Since they don't have to invest in military, they invest their funds primarily in education and energy. The country invests more than 50% of its annual budget for social sectors like education, health, housing, culture and recreation. The adult literacy rate is 97.65% and the country boasts more teachers than police personnel. INCAE business school in Costa Rica is the top-ranked business school in Latin America and the University of Peace is another notable international institution.
The country invests more than 50% of its annual budget for social sectors like education, health, housing, culture and recreation.
Compare this with Pakistan, a country that has a 58% literacy rate and where defence spending is US$8.78 billion, which is 3.1% of national GDP. India spends US$55.9 billion and the US put in a whopping US$611 billion every year for defence. To help you contextualise this money in socio-economic terms, consider this: Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) employs 380,000 people and generates US$17.7 billion.
It cares about animals
This is not a complete success story yet but it shows that Costa Rica is on the right track. A few years ago, the country decided to abolish zoos and free all the captive animals. For animals that cannot be left in the wild, they decided to build sanctuaries. Unfortunately, the environment ministry lost a court case on this issue and as a result, could not execute its vision. Yet, the status quo is not being reverted to. Zoos will get a face lift and many animals will get a much better place to live.
Costa Rica recently passed an animal welfare law in a grand public ceremony led by President Solis with thousands of people participating in it. Among its main changes, the new piece of legislation introduces prison sentences ranging from three months to one year for those found guilty of killing a domestic or a domesticated animal.
Costa Rica is a tiny country with a small population but has a large heart and a grand vision. Not every small country can achieve what Costa Rica achieved. It requires visionary leadership, commitment and engagement from citizens and creative public policies by the government. I hope countries all over the world draw inspiration from Costa Rica and invest in education, energy and environment.