Nature Appreciation Through Travel

I’ll always pick country over city, nature over civilization, and plants and animals over people. It’s not that I’m not a people person. I love a good party and have some fantastic friends. But I think in a lot of ways humans missed the point. Often, they are subconsciously repeating a story that was told to them – a story about what man is destined to do and have dominion over. So I was thinking this as I sat surrounded in foliage watching a sloth in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica (it’s only fair to admit that I’d just read Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael.)

A lush green valley surrounded by trees. There are agaves in the foreground, and a few trees in the middle of the valley.

The topic of ecotourism is something worth considering. In Costa Rica it’s an enormous attraction, bringing more people, money into the economy and protecting the natural resources is a selling point. Also in Oaxaca I hiked and camped through the pristine Pueblos Mancommunados, called eco-villages, where simple, humble folk care deeply for the beauty of nature that surrounds them. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen happier people than those that live in these villages. In the village of Benito Juarez, I was greeted by nearly everyone who lived there as they passed, whistling, on their way to work.

However, the moment where I felt most connected to the Earth was in the holy village of Tafi Atome where Mona monkeys are considered sacred and protected. Because of this, the forests surrounding the village are also protected because it’s their habitat. All the forests in the Volta region are beautiful, verdant, humid and full of life, but usually there isn’t a consciousness about protecting them. They happen to exist because no one has had the need to cut them down, not because they want to conserve them. However a certain interest from eco-tourists may yet change that concept.

The point is that unless people consider something either sacred or worth protecting (hear that dollar sign? Cha-ching!), then they won’t. There must be an incentive to protect nature – and perhaps eco-tourism does just that.

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