There’s really no place like a rainforest. No, really. These amazingly diverse forests deep in Central America do more than you might think for the environment of the whole world.
Though Costa Rica seems like a tiny dot on a map compared to some of the states and geographical regions in North America, it harbors one of the world’s most incredible places: thousands of acres of richly biodiverse rainforest land.
Why are rainforests important?
Think back to science class. Through respiration and the regular processes of growth and decay in nature, plants give the world oxygen. That oxygen is now more important than ever, with all the pollution created by our increasingly industrialized culture.
Rainforests give back a huge amount of clean, fresh air into the environment — and that makes a worldwide difference. For instance, the fresh, clean air of the Costa Rican rainforests benefits more than just Costa Rican residents; it actually positively affects all of the world’s climates, helping to keep them balanced.
This is just another marvelous feature of a planet whose processes all work together better than a puzzle to form a coherent, healthy whole, and you can make a difference in helping to sustain it.
Rainforests also provide a home to thousands of plants and animals that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. According to researchers, there are as many as 12,000 different kinds of plants, 838 species of birds, over 1,200 different types of butterflies, well over 400 different species of reptiles and amphibians (that’s a lot of lizards and snakes!) and about 232 species of mammals.
Few regions anywhere in the world are quite as biologically diverse as the Costa Rican rainforests. These are key areas of the world to protect.
Ways to Make a Difference
Get out there
So, what can you do to help protect this one-of-a-kind resource? Well, you’ve got a few options. GLA’s Nature’s Kaleidoscope service program lets high school volunteer abroad students experience that incredibly diverse ecosystem, work with researchers to help protect the rainforests, and learn more about ways they can apply those conservation skills in their own communities.
As part of the Nature’s Kaleidoscope program, students will spend a summer volunteering in rural communities surrounded by rainforests, talk with the locals (maybe brush up on their Spanish a bit) and learn to identify the plants and animals they see around them.
High school volunteer abroad participants will also get to help build tree nurseries and plant trees to help re-forest deforested land and even work with biologists to collect species as part of an ongoing research project.
Help from a Distance
Though going to an area and working with your own hands is the best way to truly appreciate the culture you’re making a difference in, you don’t actually have to log all those airline miles to make a difference. Programs like the Adopt-An-Acre organization allow you to get involved and make a difference from your own home.
If you can’t travel to Costa Rica to work in the rainforests yourself, you might even want to consider sponsoring someone else to go work with those in the local community. Don’t underestimate the difference you can make right from your own home!
Regardless of what you choose, knowing the situation of the rainforests – and of the environment in your own area — is the first step to working toward a beautifully sustainable world.