Costa Rica School Trip Country Profile

Costa Rica

Country Profile

Costa Rica, literally "Rich Coast", stands out from other Central American destinations as a stable country with highly developed health and education systems.

It also offers an array of stunning locations where you can experience environmentally sustainable development in action. In fact, a key government policy objective is to foster sustainable development as a way to secure stability and growth.

A Developing Nation

Bearded Lizard

Costa Ricans enjoy one of the highest life expectancy levels in the Western hemisphere (higher than in the USA), and better living standards than most of Central America.

The current literacy rate in Costa Rica is 96.1% (compared to 99% in the UK) - one of the highest in the region. Elementary and high schools are located in almost every community, and are free.

Costa Rica is an active member of the UN and the Organization of American States (OAS); both the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the UN University of Peace are based here.

Environment

Butterfly

Costa Rica has a very strong record of 'green' development. Approximately 25% of the country is a protected area or part of a national park - the largest percentage of protected areas in the world.

Since 1979 Costa Rica has successfully reduced deforestation from some of the worst rates in the world to almost zero in 2005.

In 2007, the government announced plans for the country to become the first carbon-neutral country in the world by 2021.

The government's visionary policy of paying farmers not to clear land, but to manage it and conserve vital ecosystem services, is a critical component of the country's successful rainforest maintenance, to mitigate the effects of climate change and preserve biodiversity.

Rainforest Walking

In fact, over 18 countries, including China, have consulted Costa Rica to learn about this effective conservation policy.

In 2009, the New Economics Foundation (NEF) ranked Costa Rica as the 'greenest' country in the world. Most recently, in 2011, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) highlighted Costa Rica as a good performer on environmental sustainability. This is a context with significant environmental credentials.

Costa Rica has 615 species of mammals and birds per square kilometre - more than any other country in the world. Much of Costa Rica's remarkable biodiversity is due to the steep climatic gradients found on its tropical mountains.

Biological communities vary sharply along these gradients, offering visitors a fascinating demonstration of species adaptation to different conditions.

However, Costa Rica is not immune to climate change, and altered weather patterns have had an impact on these vulnerable ecosystems.

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