Costa Rica trip to give students new perspective on land preservation

The Costa Rican attitude toward preserving land makes Costa Rica the ideal location for the new study abroad summer program in land use management and environmental ethics, said Dan McCool, director of environmental studies at the U.

“At one time, Costa Rica looked a lot like the other Banana Republics of Central America, but after a revolution and a new democratic constitution, the people of Costa Rica made the conscious decision to focus on preserving their natural wonders for ecotourism,” McCool said.

McCool plans to take a group of U students to Costa Rica this summer. The trip will take place between May 7 and June 1. Students on the trip will receive six hours of credit for two classes: The Politics of Public Land, POLS 5550, and Environmental Ethics, PHIL 3530.

The students on the trip will travel around Costa Rica to visit various ecosystems, from the tropical rainforest to the coastal desert. They will talk with government officials and interest groups to examine the way progressive land management polices have been formed.

McCool said Costa Rica has been revolutionary in the way it has provided incentives for private landowners to work with the government in preserving land.

“The government in Costa Rica is concerned about the needs of the broader public rather than just a small group of plantation owners,” he said.

Natasha McVaugh-Seegret, assistant director of environmental studies, said the beautiful Costa Rican rainforests will be a stunning change of environment for students used to living in a high mountain desert.

“Walking through the jungles of Costa Rica, students will be able to see how a relatively undeveloped country is taking a progressive approach to preserving its natural treasures,” McVaugh-Seegret said.

She added that students will be spending little time sitting in the classroom and will spend most of their time out in the field, hiking through national parks and talking with locals about land use policies.

“It’s going to be classroom on the move; our goal is to see as much public land as possible,” McCool said.

McVaugh-Seegert hopes students will gain a greater understanding of the interdependence between the United States and countries like Costa Rica.

“From the air we breathe to the food we eat, we are very connected with countries like Costa Rica?that’s why its important that we preserve those places,” she said.

The trip is open to all eligible students from any major. Students interested in learning more about the study abroad trip to Costa Rica should attend an informational session Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. in the Union Den. The program cost is $2,850.

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