Friday, September 25, 2015

Energy for a Broader Purpose by Keaton Stoner

            After spending the first four weeks of my Costa Rica experience at the OTS La Selva Biological Station, I have quickly begun to appreciate the Costa Rican holistic approach to life that is naturally engrained in the culture here. As a Type A, self-proclaimed enthusiast of efficiency, “tico time” certainly took a little getting used to, though I am starting to become more comfortable with a more laidback approach to life. However, the approach to life that I am discussing extends far past the idea of low-stress, flexible daily schedule to what it innately means to be a human.
            A few weeks ago, our group visited a Coopelesca hydroelectric dam and I was incredibly impressed with the overarching goals of the operation. While in the United States, most energy companies (most companies, for that matter) have priorities based upon profits, cost cutting, and public relations, Coopelesca seems to be thinking on a different level with a sincere commitment to the environment. Sure, we see “green” companies in the United States, but how many are only green when it’s convenient? How many have an earnest desire to protect our world and are not only striving to gain good publicity as “environmentally conscious?” Coopelesca literally goes out of its way in terms of both money and effort to promote a carbon neutral approach to energy production. Keeping in mind the unavoidable environmental damage that was caused in the dam construction, they have since undertaken a reforestation project to replace the trees cut down, built a bridge and water pipe across the dam canal to maintain the natural crossing of terrestrial and river animals, and constructed a unique fish staircase to allow for upstream fish migration around the dam. By installing cameras on the bridge to take pictures of crossing animals and investing profits in conservation and education, Coopelesca has also shown a social and scientific commitment to the community. All of these efforts only top off the fact that Coopelesca produces clean, naturally powered energy that would otherwise be replaced with the harmful burning of fossil fuels.

            It is refreshing to see a major company with such a holistic idea of humanity. In the United States, we are too often bogged down by superficial priorities that force us to lose sight of the fact that we are cohabitants, not owners, of the natural world. Along with the concept of “tico time,” the sense of pride shown by the Coopelesca workers demonstrates how the Costa Rican community recognizes that as humans, we sometimes need to take a step back and appreciate our environment for what it is, while also identifying our inherent obligation to protect it.

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