In 1996, the Costa Rica government made it illegal to clear forests without a permit and began paying residents to protect the forest.
In the current times, the issues of deforestation, rising temperatures and extinction of flora and fauna have taken over the world. However, the Republic of Costa Rica is here to give us all some hope. On the SubReddit r/geography, one Reddit user recently shared incredible satellite images of Costa Rica, showing how the country's forests have recovered in the last four decades.
The Reddit user shared several images compiled as four GIFs, depicting Costa Rica's various regions in 1987, 2000 and 2015. The caption reads, "Reforestation in Costa Rica as seen from satellite images (GIF comparing 1987, 2000, and 2015)." Costa Rica, like many other countries, has experienced intense deforestation over the past century. According to earth.org, by 1987, the country had lost nearly half of its forest cover. Farmers took over to grow crops and raise livestock after loggers harvested trees for lumber.
Environmentalist Ben Goldsmith wrote in a tweet, "Costa Rica took the decision to revive the forest area in the 1980s. Since then, in one generation, forest cover has more than doubled, from a quarter of the country to half," alongside pictures showing the improvement in the dense forest coverage in the country.
After decades of deforestation, suffering ever more flash flooding, drought, erosion and landslides, democratic Costa Rica took the decision in the 1980s to turn the tide. Since then, in one generation, forest cover has more than doubled, from a quarter of the country to half.… pic.twitter.com/1ulPU7HEkw— Ben Goldsmith (@BenGoldsmith) April 6, 2023
According to the United Nations University, more than three-quarters of the country was covered in tropical rainforests and other indigenous woodlands in the 1940s. Then, between the 1940s and the 1980s, extensive, uncontrolled logging resulted in significant deforestation.
By 1983, only 26% of the country was covered in forest. However, the devastating effects of deforestation prompted the Costa Rican government to take action. In 1996, a law was passed that made clearing forests without a permit illegal, and the government began paying residents to protect the forest rather than cut it down. The outcomes are clearly visible in the satellite images.
These beautiful green forests are one of Costa Rica's main attractions. Every year, thousands of tourists visit the country to see the incredible natural environment. Tourism revenue supports 200,000 people and contributes to the country's conservation efforts.
Patricia Madrigal-Cordero, the former vice-minister for the environment, shared, "People come to see the mountains, the nature, the forests, and when they are stunned by a monkey or a sloth in the tree, communities realize what they have here, and they realize they should care for it."
Caring for Costa Rica's forests is caring for the entire planet. Dense rainforests, such as those found in Costa Rica and the Amazon, have been dubbed "the lungs of the planet" due to the way they remove heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and replace it with breathable oxygen.
The trees also draw water from deep underground and allow it to evaporate into the air, increasing rainfall across the region and watering other plants. Cutting down the rainforest would harm the entire environment on which people rely.
Costa Rica's success in reforestation serves as an inspiring model for the rest of the world, demonstrating the positive impact that determined conservation efforts can have on the environment.