Costa Rica: Climate Change Affecting the Cloud Forest

This post is part of our special coverage Forest Focus: Amazon and Global Development 2011.

The Monteverde Now project documents the stories of 11 members of the Monteverde Community through short video interviews where they explain how their life has been transformed and how they are adapting to sustaining their diverse and delicate ecosystem in the face of climate change.

The key players of Monteverde Now.+

The key players of Monteverde Now.

Monteverde in Costa Rica is located in the mountains in the Northwestern part of Costa Rica and is best known for the Cloud Forest Preserve that shares the same name.  Monteverde means green mountain and it is the name the Quaker settlers who founded the community gave the region almost 60 years ago. The Preserve is the result of the community's effort to save the water sheds and conserve the wildlife distinct to this biological zone.

Lucky and Wolf Guindon are a couple who were part of the pioneer group of Quakers who back in 1951 decided to make this mountain their home, and they tell about the early days and how this evolution into tourism is not something they expected or even encouraged:

Although the region was originally dedicated to dairy farming and the production of cheese, nowadays it is tourism which runs the community's economy as people travel to see species such as the resplendent quetzal, the three wattled bellbird as well as other animals and plants particular to the cold and wet climate atop the mist shrouded mountain range.  One of the interviews focuses on Maria Saenz,  a nature guide in the area as she explains how climate change is now affecting the type and number of animals found in the area as animals from the lower regions head up the mountain seeking cooler weather as the coastal areas heat up: but where will the animals of the cloud forest, already as high as they can get, go?

Change didn't come easily, people had to change their traditions and ideas about the role of nature in their lives. Eladio Cruz, who was born and raised in the area and is now part of the conservation efforts and member  of organizations protecting the Cloud Forest, confesses that he doesn't seem to be doing enough in conservation to pay back all the damage he used to do before he learned about conservation and decided to join the efforts to protect the area. In his own words: “Without a doubt, I was a great destroyer of nature.”.

Fortunately, people are increasingly making positive changes regarding the environment. Carlos Nyreen tells of how some school kids decided to turn some of the waste generated by the heavy tourism industry and turn it into energy. In Monteverde, garbage has to be trucked off the mountain and its high cost was pushing people to dispose of waste, such as used cooking oil, in harmful ways in an attempt to cut corners. Now, instead of being dumped into the ground, the kids’ school project is turning cooking oil the restaurants and hotels send them into bio diesel which is used to power the school buses that take them to and from the school.

Other people interviewed for this project who speak about the changes that have slowly transformed Monteverde are: a dairy farmer, a biologist, a tour operator, a cowboy, an educator, a researcher and a coffee grower.

Monteverde Now is a Master's Project thesis of the The United Nations Mandated University for Peace located in Costa Rica and The Monteverde Institute. On their site you can read more about the project and how to take action to protect the Cloud Forest and it is available (as are the videos) in Spanish as well.

This post is part of our special coverage Forest Focus: Amazon and Global Development 2011.


  • These stories are all inspiring.

    I live in Australia, a highly developed country, that like America seems to have dropped the ball on climate change. IF the major countries don’t set the example they make pledges for during elections, why will India and China?

    Australia’s current Government, (probably against much advice from marginal members) is pushing through a carbon tax legislation. It has taken down two previous leaders, and is not popular with business or some of the people, but they are doing it!

    Can you understand that this advanced country still has enough red necks who either green house deniers, that ignore carbons guaranteed massive impact on their lives and future generations, or just think its another tax – that the bill might be defeated? They cant see that it can create industry, have us as technology leaders, lesson our dependence on every increasing oil and car gas prices? We have had m

    So for you to report a story that is saving forests/ lungs of the world, in a developed country is inspiring.

  • A complete special coverage Forest Focus: Amazon. The videos deep and dynamic and with this information I am happy because I feel that people who want to be friendly with nature are more.

    A warm hug dear Juliana!!

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