current affairs

Four reasons to cheer for Costa Rica

Being English, there hasn’t been much to cheer about this World Cup. My dual nationality hasn’t helped either, since Australia were on the early plane home too. Of course, the team I’d most like to see win the World Cup is Madagascar, but they’re currently 144th in the FIFA world rankings (one above North Korea – in your face, Kim) and have yet to qualify for a major tournament.

So I’m going to support Costa Rica. Here are four reasons why:

  1. Costa Rica is one of the world’s leaders in peacekeeping and non-violence. They abolished their armed forces in 1949 and haven’t had any since, a unique national experiment in pacifism. “Without a doubt,” says former president and Nobel Prize winner Oscar Arias, “military spending represents the single most significant perversion of worldwide priorities known today.” Indeed, and if Costa Rica were better known, perhaps their role as the ‘Switzerland of Latin America’ might be celebrated a bit more too.
  2. Costa Rica could be the world’s first carbon neutral country. A handful of nations have announced their intention to go completely carbon neutral, including Iceland, New Zealand, and Ethiopia. The smart money is on Costa Rica getting their first, and they’re already approaching 100% renewable energy. Even if they don’t win in Brazil, they may well win what environment and energy minister Roberto Dobles calls the “carbon-neutral World Cup.”
  3. It’s top of the Happy Planet Index. A few commentators have mentioned this, and rightly so. The Happy Planet Index measures how well countries meet the needs of their citizens, balancing wellbeing indices against environmental performance. Citizens of Costa Rica have a longer life expectancy than citizens of the United States, but use a third of the resources.
  4. Costa Rica has left its oil in the ground. We all know that to have any chance of stopping climate change, we have to stop burning fossil fuels, but every country wants to maximise it’s own oil reserves for economic growth. Costa Rica has oil in the north of the country, and for decades it has held off on exploiting them. There is intense pressure on the country to open them up, so it may not hold out forever. But here’s hoping they continue to live up to former president Abel Pacheco’s words: “Costa Rica’s real oil and real gold are its waters and the oxygen produced by its forests.”

Sceptics needn’t bother Googling for the latest bit of bad news from the country – I’m not hailing it as a perfect tropical paradise. But it’s an interesting country and a place we could learn a lot from. And besides, if Costa Rica win the World Cup we’ll have at least a sliver of an excuse for not getting out of our group. Yo apoyo a La Sele. Vamos Ticos!


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