Ecology and Technology
As I write this, I’m sitting in a snug, paneled mountain lodge cabin. The rain falls heavily outside, rare for the dry season. It started while we were just on a horseback ride, and the rain falling on the surrounding jungle as we rode was resoundingly primeval.
Costa Rica is based on eco-tourism, and it’s far more than lip-service; it’s a true core value. There is a strong concern about waste, and carbon footprint, and general human impact. Even in the much more touristy places we’ve been — heck, even on the public beach — there have been recycling sorting systems that put the US to shame (seriously, if a small beach town in Costa Rica can easily sor, why is it so hard on Grand Avenue, and why do we need single sort?)
Trogon Lodge where we are now, a small mountain lodge in San Gerardo de Dota, takes this to a wonderful extreme. We’re in a small cloud forest, one of the two places in the country where the quetzal bird flourishes. Hummingbirds dart between the beautifully landscaped flowers (the government has recently banned feeding them in manmade feeders, since the sugar water was not providing the birds with the proper nutrition and was inhibiting pollination). At night, we all eat in a hillside dining hall, with tick wooden tables, heated with woodstoves, and with a wonderful repast of trout caught onsite and other produce grown here, and last night, even a carrot flan. The cabins have little gas heaters that come on only at night, and hot water bottles that the staff tuck into our beds. The lodge takes sustainability to a whole new level, and that makes it so much easier to think about it myself. For years, I have argued that plays are important because they make people think in new ways and change their behavior — I know my core behavior will change as I return home, and I wish every American could come here and see it in action.
We’ve been on several nature hikes, due to Beatrix’s love of animals, which is how we found ourselves standing on a hillside at 5:15 this morning with a small group looking for quetzals. When we spotted a juvenile male, our guide (for whom the quetzal is obviously a passion), whipped out his cell phone so he could play a recording of a young female to coax it out. For the next half hour, we drove that poor young male crazy as he flew around us, looking for the female he heard calling.
Every guide we have had has made excellent use of technology to help interpret the tour. From the night hike in Monteverde, where the guide showed us pictures of exactly how a certain moth paralyzes tarantulas to lay its larvae inside the spider (and then they are born they slowly eat the tarantula from the inside out), to those who use it to demonstrate calls such as the earlier example, to using their phones as a translation aide, smart phones have become invaluable to natural interpretation here.
Later, as we ate lunch on the deck, Beatrix asked me to download a hummingbird call so she could attract them. I guess I’m not the only one whose behavior has changed.