I chose Costa Rica as the setting for my second book because I thought a mystery in the rainforest would be popular with older children. But I got more than I bargained for with this location. I found a nation with inspired problem-solving skills.
Eco-tourism has been an economic boon to Costa Rica, but it has increased the country’s needs, too. Tourism requires greater energy production, better road infrastructure and more employees in popular tourist locations. Eco-tourism specifically requires that the environment is unspoilt and the wildlife is unharmed. These needs are particularly hard to meet because monkeys and other arboreal animals who only travel through the treetops (being vulnerable on the ground) live in areas where roads are needed.
These needs had to be considered alongside existing responsibilities, including keeping local people safe from volcanic eruptions, helping those living in poverty, supporting industry and agriculture to help meet the country’s goal of being carbon neutral, and increasing access to the excellent healthcare and education facilities. There is also the constraint of a limited budget to be factored in.
In the UK, we consider the words ‘problem’ and ‘solution’ to be antonyms. In Costa Rica, a problem can also be a solution.
The need for more energy has been solved by the problem of the volcanoes, through the implementation of geothermal energy plants. The road system has been expanded with help from the problem of the monkeys being arboreal, by linking the forest on either side of the roads with monkey bridges.
In rural areas, some roads have been surfaced with leftover molasses from sugar processing. The government provides free housing for people living in poverty. These houses are built near popular tourist locations, so the people who move there can fill jobs in the tourism industry.
Hotel companies must demonstrate their commitment to Costa Rican values before they can build there. Examples of this commitment includes converting tracts of land to nature reserves and supporting projects their employees need, like local medical clinics.
It seems any problem can be solved when people work together and approach the task with positivity. That’s a message I can find a place for in my rainforest mystery.
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