Tag Archives: sustainable

Eco-Touring in Costa Rica

Taken from our hotel patio

Taken from our hotel patio

Eco-Touring Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a dream vacation for any eco-tourist.  This is a great place to connect with nature.  You will see the natural world in all of its glory from the volcanoes to the rain forest canopy to the seashores.  The tropical forests are lush and teeming with wildlife.

Travelling around

My wife and I just completed a ten-day odyssey through this land of wonders.  During this trek we were driven some 1000 kilometers (600 miles) through the countryside on our ground transfers and tours.  You would have to be crazy to drive in Costa Rica due to the roughness of the roads and the utter lack of traffic regulations.  Driving is best left to the local professionals who know the terrain.

Most of the roads we travelled had no yellow lines down the middle.  But where present they were merely decorative.  For example, a left turn signal is given to a trailing vehicle on a road with a double-yellow line to indicate that it is safe to pass!  We were driven down highways, back roads, and even no roads at all.  We saw farms and fields and small towns and rural crossroads.

It was interesting to see all the agriculture and the native vegetation.  We saw sugar cane, coffee and rice plantations, pineapple farms, melon farms, and orchards of many varieties.  We toured a coffee processing plant and learned way more about producing coffee than we had expected. We saw rubber trees, coconut palms, date palms, plantain trees, and pineapple plants. There were lush and aromatic tropical flowers everywhere.

There were wild rivers full of exotic inhabitants.  On a river tour we saw crocodiles, iguanas, howler monkeys and white-faced monkeys, bats, and even the lizard that walks on water, Basiliscus Basiliscus or the “Jesus Christ lizard”.  Costa Rica has some 500,000 species of animals including some 600 resident bird species plus migrants from all over the continent.

Bird thief.  Can anyone tell me the species?

Bird thief. Can anyone tell me the species?

At one of our hotels, there was a bird family that would hang out at the open air restaurant and steal sugar packets and other goodies off of the table.  They would first graciously pose for pictures and then demand payment in kind.

Our cabin in Arenal

Our cabin in Arenal

We spent three nights in an elegant cabin in the mountains.  Our cabin had a glass wall facing the Arenal Volcano.  We could watch the clouds perform their fan dance across the peak.  We never tired of watching the graceful movements of the clouds.  One afternoon we had a cloudburst that was a passionate display of the powers of nature at their finest.  The next morning the clouds graciously parted and allowed us to take pictures of the volcano erupting.

While in Arenal we took a zip line tour of the jungle canopy.  We travelled some 8 kilometers (5 miles) on the cables, with the longest segment being about 800 meters long (one-half mile). Did I mention that my wife and I are in our sixties and have never done zip lines before? We got to see a tarantula up close and personal.

Our accommodations were posh, with all of the amenities that one would expect at a nice resort.

The People 

The people of Costa Rica are known for their warmth and kindness.  They are gentle and giving souls who will do anything to help a friend or even a stranger.  Everyone in the tourist industry that we met went out of their way to make sure that our trip was a great success.  Everyone speaks English, even in the most remote areas, and most speak it at least well enough for simple conversations.  You can expect that anyone in the tourist industry will speak English very well. But even so, I took great joy in practicing my fractured Spanish, and the people were happy to help me improve.

The people of Costa Rica all seem to be healthy and strong.  This seems to stem from their connection to nature, their cheerful disposition, the rigors of their daily lives and the excellent diet that they enjoy.  Infant mortality is low and the life expectancy is 78 years.  Even the people in their sixties or beyond seem attractive, healthy, slender and strong. It would seem to be a great place to spend one’s golden years.

The per capita GDP is $12,157.  By comparison the per capita GDP of Mexico is $16,588.  Everyone in Costa Rica has access to a good education and medical care.  But the people seem happy and prosperous beyond the statistical data.  The roads are seemingly full of late-model SUV’s of Toyota and Hyundai persuasions.

The Food

The food in Costa Rica is truly outstanding, and is reason enough to make the trip.  Rice and black beans is a staple which is called “casado” (marriage).  Breakfast is often a combination of casado and fresh fruits.

Coffee and chocolate are two of the spectacular foods of Costa Rica.  The rich volcanic soils grow some of the best coffees in the world.  Pineapples and coffee are the two largest export crops.

Fresh pineapple in Costa Rica is a memorable experience.  A slice of fresh pineapple can bring on tears of joy at the sheer wonder of the cool sweetness.

All of the chickens are free range, as are the cattle, pigs and goats.  There are no factory farms or feed lots. There are also abundant resources of fresh-caught fish and seafood.  The diet is based on plant products with these protein sources as flavoring, and not the main source of nutrition.

As a vegan I had wondered how hard it would be to stick with a vegan diet while traveling through Costa Rica.  I found, much to my relief, that a vegan diet is no problem in Costa Rica.  Everywhere we went had vegan options.  There were times where I requested menu items prepared without cheese.

In Costa Rica, food is local.  Many people engage in subsistence or village agriculture, living substantially off of the grid and making due by their own resources.

Some of the best food that we ate came from little roadside diners and dives, places where the locals ate.  On one of our tours we ate under a shed roof at a combination farm and farm museum in the middle of nowhere.  We had a truly outstanding meal while the farm animals contemplated where our next meals were coming from, and the naughty white-faced monkeys in the treetops pelted us with mangos.

The Weather

We traveled in late May.  May is the start of the rainy season.  Since we were somewhat off-season we found the hotels and restaurants uncrowded and the rates low.  We did get some afternoon cloudbursts, but that is just part of being in a rain forest.  Also, for an eco-tourist this is an opportunity to see how a rainforest nurtures its abundant flora and fauna.

Tour Planning

We were especially pleased with our travel company, Costa Rica Vacations, which helped us plan this trip and executed the plan flawlessly.  This was not a bus trip with fifty strangers, but a customized package suited to our exact requirements.  Your desired trip may look altogether different than ours.  That is the beauty of dealing with Costa Rican Vacations.  You can plan your own dream vacation and trust that it will be an experience that you will never forget.

Special thanks to :

Jeremy Clyce
Travel Consultant

Costa Rican Vacations

Jeremy helped to design our trip and did everything possible to make it the experience of a lifetime.  I would highly recommend him for any of your Costa Rican travel needs.  Jeremy is an American Ex-pat, and part of a large and growing American ex-pat community in Costa Rica.

Corporate Greed as Sin

SERMON: The Tragedy of Sin

United Church of Cloverdale

2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Greg Bentall

The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20 could be expected.  It was clearly NOT an accident, but a DISASTER waiting to happen.  According to the dictionary, an accident is:

  • Any event that happens unexpectedly, without a deliberate plan or cause.

Police no longer talk about car “ACCIDENTS.”  They are now called COLLISIONS.  The logic here is that accidents are things that happen unexpectedly, and are hence unavoidable.  If a drunk driver causes a collision it is no accident, but rather a predictable tragedy.

Imagine a collision where one driver stops on a green light, and then gets rear-ended by the driver of the second car:  The driver of the second car might protest:  “But I had no chance to stop!  The car in front of me stopped on a green light and I ran into him!”

But the truth is that all automobile collisions could be avoided if only we took action FIVE SECONDS before the collision occurred.  Perhaps the driver in this instance might have been paying closer attention to the traffic and road conditions.  Then, maybe that driver would have seen the dog that darted into the intersection.  Or perhaps, the driver could have slowed down by five or ten miles per hour, giving that driver time to stop, even when the driver in front stopped suddenly at a green light.

At the Deepwater Horizon there were warning signs days ahead that went unnoticed.  The first sign was that the seal on the blowout preventer had blown days ahead, and bits and pieces were appearing on the surface.

It also turns out that the blowout preventer, the so-called “fail-safe” device, was itself DEFECTIVE and inoperable.  Dead batteries on control panels meant that the device could not operate.  There were also leaky hydraulic systems that prevented the control valves from closing.

Hours before the explosion there were numerous signs of the impending failure, but these all went unheeded in the tragically careless push to keep production levels high.  According to reports from the survivors, there was a big argument between the TransOcean drilling chief and a manager from BP.  The drilling chief wanted to stop drilling because of safety concerns.  The BP manager forced the drilling to continue.  This was twelve hours before the explosion.

The issue for BP was simple.  The drilling was already over budget and five weeks behind schedule.  Finishing the well was the top priority, and it seems, the ONLY concern.

The result of this arrogance has been the worst man-made ecological disaster in history:

  • Eleven workers were killed.
  • We can expect hundreds of billions of dollars in economic destruction across the Gulf region, as this spill has crippled the seafood industry and tourism.  This economic disruption may last for decades.
  • We may be looking at the destruction of all life forms in much of the Gulf of Mexico.  This destruction of the whole ecosystem may take decades to repair, if it can be repaired at all.

The Gulf Coast contains some 40% of our nation’s wetlands.  Wetlands are the nurseries of the planet.  Without them many species cannot survive.  Also, wetlands are an important barrier against hurricanes.  Wetlands work like giant sponges, soaking up wind and rain and tidal surges caused by hurricanes.  Without these wetlands hurricanes will become far more destructive than they are now.

This is the TRAGEDY OF SIN.

Sin is:

  • Corporate managers blinded by greed without concern for effects.
  • The reckless disregard for safety of the workers.
  • The reckless disregard for the environment.
  • And, the reckless disregard for all of those living in the Gulf Coast.

Sin is placing an insatiable demand for profits and timelines ahead of safety, ecological responsibility, and the well being of the residence of the Gulf Coast.  Wherever sin rules, bad things happen, and we end up paying a terrible price.

Sin is not about breaking God’s laws.  Sin is about breaking ourselves AGAINST God’s laws.  When we break the laws of God we can expect to have a catastrophic outcome.  The TRAGEDY OF SIN in the Gulf of Mexico is now our worst nightmare.


Our scripture lesson for this morning is about the great moral lapse of King David.  The story of David and Bathsheba shows what happens when SIN reigns.  It is a tragic story right out of a “soap opera.”

David looks out from his castle and spots a beautiful woman bathing on her roof top.  David is instantly seized with lust for her.  He sends his servants to inquire of her, and he discovers that she is the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who is presently off fighting against the Ammonites with David’s army.  David then has Bathsheba brought to the castle where he lies with her, and she becomes pregnant.

David then summons Uriah the Hittite to come and report to him.  While Uriah is in Jerusalem, David encourages him to go and be with his wife.  But Uriah is a man of honor, and the Code of Honor of that day did not allow for any form of conjugal visits during a time of battle.  And so, Uriah refused to go home to his wife.

Actually, that sounds like a wonderful rule for all wars.  Such a rule might cause all battles to be over in a matter of weeks or months, instead of years or decades!

So Uriah returned to the front without seeing his wife.  And Uriah also carried David’s order to Commander JOAB that Uriah was to be killed.  This does not seem fair, does it?

Joab did as David had ordered.  He arranged to have Uriah the Hittite killed in battle.  This was done to prevent King David from being embarrassed by his act of adultery.

David now thinks that all is well until he is confronted by the prophet Nathan.  Prophets are women and men who speak God’s Truth.  Speaking truth to power is the essence of the prophetic witness.  Nathan uncovers David’s tragic sin.  David, now finally realizing the evil that he has done, tries to do repentance before the God.

But things seem to work much differently these days, especially in the political arena.  Instead of David’s confession and repentance, we normally expect a quick fix by a SPIN DOCTOR.  If King David were around today I am sure that his spin doctors would have taken care of everything.



Office of Communications

Palace of King David



The King is deeply saddened by the loss of Uriah the Hittite.  Uriah was David’s dearest friend and closest confidant.  And even though Uriah was foreign born, he served his King and Country as well any native son.  He died a hero’s death fighting against the Ammorites.  

The King had recently recalled Uriah to Jerusalem for a consultation.  And while Uriah was in Jerusalem, he went home to see his wife, even though such visits are against a soldiers Code of Honor.  THIS EXPLAINS THE BABY. [Note:  Thankfully, this is before the days of DNA testing!]  But please do not hold this Uriah.  He was a wonderful man even though he BROKE the soldier’s code of honor.  

King David LOVED Uriah so much, that upon Uriah’s death, the King took Uriah’s widow and child to live in the castle, and to be a part of the King’s own family. 

But David did not do the “Spin Doctor” thing.  He sinned badly with a tragic outcome.  Both Uriah the Hittite and his child died as a result of David’s Sin.  But he did listen to the voice of God through the Prophet Nathan and he repented for his Sin.

The walk of faith requires an upright life.  The walk of faith demands an internal moral compass that acts in restraint, and seeks to live in a way that avoids the TRAGEDY OF SIN.

  • If only David had stopped to think before he had Uriah murdered so that he could steal his wife
  • If only the BP manager who ordered that the drilling continued could have paused to consider the tragic loss of human live, and the ecological and economic catastrophe that he was creating by his impatience.
  • If only corporations such as PG&E would stop funding BOGUS and SELF-SERVING propositions such as Proposition 16.  This proposition was designed to prevent municipalities from managing their own electrical power, as is done very successfully in HEALDSBURG.  Instead, this proposition was labeled and argued as the VOTERS RIGHT TO CHOOSE proposition, and PG&E spend millions of dollars to wage a campaign based on self-serving lies and distortions.

The upright life is based upon the simplest of notions.  It does not mean to follow endless rules and regulations imposed upon us.

  • It means to “Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”
  • It means to “Love one another as love comes from God.”
  • It means to “Love the Lord our God and our neighbors as ourselves.”
  • It means to “Do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.”
  • It means to care for all creation, and to be a careful steward of our world and all of its resources.  For this is the only world that we have for ourselves and our children’s children.

Whatever science fiction fantasy that we might harbor regarding moving on to another planet, this planet is all that we have.  And when we destroy it we destroy our own habitat and our own future.

This is the TRAGEDY OF SIN.