An extraordinary thing happened in Costa Rica on December 1, 1948 after a successful revolution against anti-progressive forces. José Figueres Ferrer abolished the Costa Rican Army. The photograph of Costa Rica’s Man of the Century, Don Pepe, taking a hammer to the wall of the Cuartel Bellavista became the symbol of an act that changed this small country forever. He boldly stated, “The army hands over the keys to the barracks, to be converted into a cultural centre. We are the sustainers of a new world in America. Little Costa Rica offers its heart and love to civilian rule and democracy.”
Central America had a history of being the opportunistic playground of empire-building nations and corporations from other continents. It was being plundered for its resources and its people were incidental pawns in the games of these power brokers. Their own governments were often run by ruthless dictators who carried out the wishes of their invaders. When one looks at the political landscape of the time, both within Costa Rica and the other countries of the region, this single act of Figueres is without parallel.
During an interview with the New York Times in 1973, he said, ”I am what you might call a farmer-philosopher.” Nature was frequently the metaphor for his discourses and that was certainly the case in his thoughts in his book about the revoliton of 1948, El Espiritu del 48.
“I did not plant all the trees in the forest. I set out like the sower of seed from early dawn for the landscapes of my country to plant ideas, inspiration, ideals and enchantment. There took root the noble soul of this country and the honest groundedness of our people. That was the revolution. That was the spirit of 48! “
Over 50 years later, another seed was planted and it has the promise of equaling that historic moment for Costa Rica. On May 8, 2002. The newly elected President, Abel Pacheco delivered his inaugural address:
“We will compete without destroying Nature because, beyond the events of the moment, our rich bio-diversity will always be a great wealth and we will preserve it. Before we declare peace among ourselves and we declare peace among all nations; now we should declare a peace with Nature.”
It took about five years for this seed to grow into an initiative authored by the next President, Oscar Arias and aptly entitled, “Peace With Nature”.
Peace and nature are irrevocably linked together in this country, clearly enunciated by the new President in his initiative. He wrote, “In addition to having a long tradition of democracy, peace and respect for human rights, Costa Rica has been internationally recognized for its pioneering efforts to protect the environment.”
Armies of nations, warlords, and terrorists still champion violence as a means to peace, or achieving their selfish needs, and it is impossible to separate the two. Nature is the battleground for these armies and the battles and casualties have been fierce. But a new battalion has joined their international ranks—the insatiable forces of greed. Our natural world has finally fallen victim to the relentless onslaught of the soldiers of avarice. They have depleted our resources, polluted our streams and oceans, killed off thousands of species, and poisoned our air and bodies with their pollutants.
Once again, Costa Rica must lead by example. Violence against man and nature come from the same seed. It is time to defend peace and nature. It is time for the voice of the Leatherback to become the voice of the people. Please save Las Baulas National Park and send another message to the world that, “Little Costa Rica offers its heart and love” to nature.
If Costa Rica fails in this final battle, the world will be a much more dangerous place to live in.