Playa Potrero Garden Project, Part 1print story
May 03, 2011
After a few weeks of discussions and chasing the President of the Potrero Association, I finally got the OK yesterday to begin a community garden project in the village center. Needless to say, I am so stoked! The garden will be a great opportunity to teach the kids about organic gardening, permaculture techniques, composting, recycling, and taking care of the earth.
While Costa Rica, and all of Central America for that matter, is traditionally an agriculture based economy, at this point most communities have been pushed into the tourism sector and as a result the earth around them suffers. Not only do tourists from the developed world come baring unchecked levels of garbage, but as the people themselves adopt practices from industrialized nations they become disconnected with the environment and rely on unsustainable products, just like the rest of us. I think it should be a law that as a tourist, you cannot bring anything into the country that will need to be thrown away, and you must bring a reusable bottle to drink out of. What do you think happens to all of those plastic bottles of purified water you chugged when you were scared to drink the water?
Trash, landfills, and pollution are a massive problem in Central America. There are no major recycling facilities, so what little materials make it to the sparse recycling cans, end up being dumped in the landfill like everything else. Recycling and proper garbage management in general are “new” concepts in Costa Rica that are still only being purveyed at the grassroots level (similar to the situation in Rio as seen in the movie Wasteland, although not on such a large scale).
The real culprit here, is plastic. In some of the most beautiful areas in Costa Rica, such as Nosara, there are massive landfills filled with towers of plastic bottles, wrappings, and packaging. The plastic doesn’t even begin to decompose, and thus in the rainy season it catches water and creates a stagnant breeding ground for mosquitos and disease. In Nosara, the landfill is in the process of being closed down due to it being declared a public health hazard. Because people in Central America throw their toilet paper in the trash instead of the toilet, the stagnant water is met with human waste and landfills become major breeding grounds for e.coli and dengue fever. Sadly, cases of these fatal diseases are reported in large numbers around the landfills.
It is common in Central America to be sitting on a bus and see the person in front of you throw bottles and plastic wrappings straight out the window, without even blinking an eye. As a result, you will often be driving down a road in Central America, relishing in the breath-taking scenery, and as you turn a corner and peer over a ravine you are greeted by a make-shift landfill spotted with grazing sheep and cattle. It’s a pretty horrifying sight to behold.
Anyway, back to the garden. Some of these problems, such as throwing trash out the window, can be prevented with a little bit of education. My hope is that by teaching basic lessons on these subjects we can keep a few plastic bottles out of the landfills, make the center of potrero more beautiful, and raise awareness of the importance of taking care of the earth.
The first order of business is to clean the site of the Garden-to-be. The area that we will be “beautifying” is currently, well, a complete and total wreck. It is littered with the loathed plastic bottles, bags, old fans, twisted metal and any other random bit of waste you can think of. In short, it’s gross. But, Meradith and I are getting a team of volunteers together on Friday to re-vamp the area and I have a feeling that we will be in good shape after clean-up day.
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