John Quam Editor in Chief Howler Magazine Costa Rica

May 2019 Howler Magazine Editorial: It’s a World Effort, But Has to Start Somewhere

If you’re from a country with first-world privileges, then taking pride in our community here in Costa Rica might not come naturally. Most of us have been raised in areas where people take for granted the resources at their fingertips. Arriving in other places around the world, we might start referring to what we were accustomed to “back home.”

Well, you are not in Kansas anymore Dorothy … you are out in the WORLD.

It was our previous mindset not to even think twice whether the water coming out of the tap was clean; we would just drink it. When we turned a light on, it stayed on because our infrastructure has been developed to accommodate our needs. Our garbage was put out on certain days and some waste management company sent high-tech trucks to pick up our trash and also our recycling. We flushed the toilet and it was gone away and treated.

These are the kind of things we didn’t think much about in our home countries, before arriving in a place where such issues can be challenging. This is not unique to Costa Rica, but a situation being grappled with worldwide.

Most of the developing world is seeking solutions for the safe disposal of the massive amounts of garbage that all of us produce each year. This globally critical issue has been compounded by China’s recent refusal to be a dumping ground for the world’s waste. This compounds problems in countries that have exported their waste to China in the past. I see it as a wakeup call to stop using items that cannot be recycled or properly disposed of. Plastic is the worst offender, causing many threats to our ecosystem.

Costa Rica has recently stated its national goal to become plastic-free by 2021. This is a monumental undertaking. It will take the efforts of each individual, as well as companies and importers of products to make this happen.

In your own daily life, try to get through a single day without using plastic that you would normally throw away. It seems like an easy thing until you actually try. Most consumable products are wrapped in plastic; then there are straws, bottles and bags, just to name a few.

A couple of years ago, Max Machum, a 12-year-old boy, made the effort to expose what drinking straws do to our environment and our wildlife. Every time I go into a place that still serves drinks with a plastic straw, I am amazed by the lack of awareness. Thanks to Max’s efforts, however, things are changing. More often now, I am offered the option of no straw, or a paper or bamboo straw. When I shop at AutoMercado, I don’t see plastic bags anymore. This company has clearly made the effort to stop the perpetuation of single-use plastic bags.

As an emerging country, Costa Rica is making great strides in many areas to protect its environment. Some skeptics call it a “greenwash”, and yes, in some cases that might be true. But I believe this may be one of the few places on earth that really does care about its eco-image to the world.

Each of us has a duty to keep this gem green and protect it. Visiting tourists are reminded at the airport to enjoy, but not remove, natural items. Also, do not leave unnatural items that will affect the natural ones. We all must strive to make this world a better place to live, for ourselves and future inhabitants.

Some rightfully say that print is a cause of environmental harm. We sought out a printer that uses eco inks and recycled paper. We are also proud of being in the unique position of knowing that Howler copies are kept and shared by many readers. Thanks to our great writers, photographers and design team, Howler is not merely glanced at over a beer and then tossed … or worse, not picked up from the newsstand.