Conservation in Monteverde: Liberal Arts In Focus, Costa Rica

Senior Amel Topic ’15 writes to us from Costa Rica, where he is taking “Exploring Sustainability and Development in Costa Rica” with professors Diane Beres and Soren Hauge. Amel is a triple major at Ripon College in Economic, Business Management and Global Studies.

Visiting Monteverde was an extraordinary experience due to the unique culture of the city and all the activities that were occurring. It was founded as a settlement of Quakers from the United States and Costa Rican locals, the community quickly became one of the pioneer conservationists in Costa Rica and is perhaps best known for its unique cloud forest. For our experience, we stayed in a local hotel called Hotel Bellbird which was owned by a nice gentleman named Alexis. The experience was unique as the hotel combined modern technology such as Wi-Fi while having some sustainable characteristics such as being produced largely from wood. The hotel even had a ping-pong table which was quite fun! Two activities which we did, and which I found particularly interesting, were looking at the sustainable practices of the Monteverde Institute as well as visiting a Cloud Forest.

As a part of our various visits to the Monteverde Institute, we were given a sustainability tour by one of the MVI Board Members whose name was Anival. We were shown various projects the Institute has undertaken which are aimed at creating more sustainable practices for not only the Institute but the local community as well. One such program was a water treatment operation which attempts to reduce how much waste is put into the environment from using the bathroom, showering, and other means. This project has thus far been fairly successful at the Institute, and Anival mentioned that they will try to help other businesses and operations in the community implement such a system. While this project was truly interesting, perhaps most interesting of the projects Anival mentioned was the various gardens that have been created which are meant to be accessible by the local community. What I found most admirable about the project is that there is a plan to make the gardens, which are on somewhat steep hills, accessible to handicapped individuals.

Although learning about the various projects that the Monteverde Institute is creating in efforts to improve sustainability, the highlight of visiting Monteverde was definitely the cloud forest. Cloud forests are a unique ecosystem found only in higher elevations, and, as the name suggests, are typically covered in fog from the condensation of the warm air. Due to the high moisture, there is a lot of biodiversity and many unique species. I found this experience perhaps most exciting because I had done previous research on the Monteverde Cloud Forest and found the ecosystem truly fascinating and one which I wanted to see in person. I was definitely not disappointed as the forest was as cloudy as I had hoped it would be, due to the rain. Although we did not see the Quetzal or any of the various cats found in cloud forests, we did get a sighting of a Bell Bird which was definitely unique!

Seeing the community of Monteverde was definitely one of the highlights of the trip and there were various activities to experience and enjoy. I would definitely recommend visiting Monteverde if you are visiting Costa Rica any time soon!

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