The world cannot get enough of Beyoncé’s pregnancy announcement. Not only is she bringing new life into the world, her fans are ecstatic that she is going to be having twins. But what about the person who made the photographic magic happen? Well, that is none other than Daniela Vesco, a Costa Rican photographer who has been by Beyoncé’s side for a year.
When you think of Costa Rica, what do you think of? Maybe its volcanoes? Or possibly its luxurious beaches? Or maybe just the fact that it’s home to some of the happiest people on the planet? Well, now you’ll know Costa Rica for something else: its animal conservation efforts. How, you ask? Through discouraging tourist selfies with wild animals.
Warning: there are some confronting animal selfies below – so best avoid reading further if you don’t want to see them.
Costa Rica is the leader when it comes to public consciousness around selfies with animals.
While it’s common to see a polite sign here and there in tourist spots asking visitors to be respectful of animals, the Costa Rica Tourism Institute has now gone another step further by launching a social media campaign against the practice of taking selfies with wild animals. We probably shouldn’t be surprised – with 20 national parks, in addition to a bunch of reserves, animal refuges and protected areas, 26 percent of Costa Rica’s land is protected in the name of conservation. It only seems natural that Costa Rica would also pioneer a campaign on Insta under the simple hashtag #stopanimalselfies.
Chances are you’re probably, like us, wondering why the campaign isn’t using a Spanish hashtag.
The Costa Rican government are one step ahead: they know that the main offenders chasing wild animal selfies are English-speaking tourists, so they’re largely focusing their efforts on communicating with said English-speaking tourists.
“Our visitors must know the negative impact caused by selfies and photos showing direct contact with wild animals. Our goal and responsibility as global leaders in environmental issues is to educate and encourage new world ambassadors committed to wildlife protection,” said the Vice Minister of Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), Pamela Castillo, when asked about the initiative in an interview with CNN Travel.
It’s worth knowing that there are quite a number of reasons to refrain from taking selfies with wild animals.
The first, and biggest, reason to not take selfies with wild animals is that, because they’re not tame animals, they’ll likely freak out if you try to get close up and personal with them. Wild animals definitely don’t understand what the heck a selfie is, and trying to take one with them will likely endanger both you and the animal. Who’s to say that the wild animal won’t try to land a scratch on someone trying to get a selfie with it – and that person won’t try to defend themselves? And who’s to say that such a scratch won’t become infected? It’s a much better time on your vacation if you don’t get an infection.
Another thing to think about is that interaction with humans that really mess up a wild animal’s life.
For starters, it may scare the animals away from their natural habitat, which essentially risks scaring them away from reliable food sources and a safe environment. Traumatized animals may have trouble having babies – which can cause a decline in the animal population. These are all things we definitely want to avoid. Especially since Costa Rica is home to some species that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Some people use the opportunity to make money at the expense of animals’ well-being.
Possibly the worst thing to come out of the taking-selfies-with-wild-animals trend is that there are some less scrupulous humans who see it as a potential source of income. Yes, that means that they charge to get people up close and personal with unique animals. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these animals are well-cared for, or even tame, for that matter. They’re just kept in captivity for a quick buck. Yikes.
The good news is that there are alternatives available.
Just because you can’t take a selfie with a wild animal doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get a photo with them. Animal rights group World Animal Protection has said that it’s a-OK to take a “selfie” with wild animals if you’re a safe distance from them. Think along the lines of a photo where you look like you’re photobombing from the front. Another two things that World Animal Protection has stipulated make for an ethical wildlife photo-taking are pictures where the animal is in its natural home, and is free to move. Basically, snaps of animals in the wild, undisturbed, just doing their thing, are totally fine.
On the other hand, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute has also offered alternatives to selfies with wild animals
Juan Santamaría International Airport currently has a setup where you can take cute selfies with plushies. Not only will this mean that you can contribute to the movement of people avoiding animal exploitation, joining an ethical movement will also do so much more for your social media clout anyways.
Costa Rica is a global example of cutting carbon emission and using renewable and sustainable energy to power a nation. The Central American country has been striving to be carbon-zero ahead of the rest of the world. The country recently powered itself using only renewable and clean energy for part of a year showing that it is indeed possible. As such, the United Nation gave the country the highest award for being the environmental example it is.
Costa Rica was recognized by the UN for leading the way to a zero-carbon future.
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) recognized Costa Rica with its highest environmental honor. The Central American country was celebrated for its role in the protection of nature and its commitment to combat climate change with strong policies.
“Costa Rica has been a pioneer in the protection of peace and nature and sets an example for the region and for the world,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment program. “Climate change demands urgent and transformative action from all of us. With its ambitious plan to decarbonize the economy, Costa Rica is rising to that challenge,” she added. “Global emissions are reaching record levels and we must act now to move to cleaner, more resilient economies.”
Around 70 percent of all buses and taxis are also expected to be electric by 2030, with full electrification expected by 2050.
Ninety-eight percent of Costa Rica’s energy is renewable and forest cover stands at more than 50 percent after decades of work to reverse deforestation. In 2017 the entire country ran a record 300 days solely on renewable power. The plan is to run on 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030. Costa Rica has plans to switch 70 percent of all carbon-emitting buses and taxis to electric by 2030, with full electrification of vehicles projected for 2050.
“Receiving the Champions of the Earth award on behalf of Costa Rica, its entire population, the past generations who protected the environment, and future generations fills me with pride and emotion for what Costa Rica has achieved and for what we can continue to do because we can achieve even more. I feel very proud to be Costa Rican,” said President Carlos Alvarado Quesada.
“About 50 years ago, the country began to advance a series of innovative environmental policies because the paradigm of sustainable development is very much in Costa Ricans’ DNA. The decarbonization plan consists of maintaining an upward curve in terms of economic employment growth, and at the same time generating a downward curve in the use of fossil fuels in order to stop polluting. How are we going to achieve that? Through clean public transport; smart and resilient cities; sound waste management; sustainable agriculture and improved logistics,” he said.
Costa Rica revealed its plan of action to abide by the Paris Agreement’s target to achieve zero emissions by 2050.
Costa Rica’s Decarbonization Plan was unveiled in February and the target of the plan is to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, by reforming transport, energy, waste and land use. This would mean that the country will produce no more emissions than it can offset through actions such as maintaining and growing its forests.
Already, Costa Rica’s groundbreaking role in promoting clean technologies and sustainability has earned the country of around 5 million people a global emissions rate of only 0.4 percent. China’s global emissions in 2011 were over 10 percent, and the US was emitting over 6 percent.
UN Secretary-General urged world leaders to come together to discuss sustainability in New York during the Climate Action Summit.
The Champions of the Earth is the UN’s flagship global environment award. It recognizes Costa Rica’s sustainability efforts and highlights the urgent need to find solutions against climate change. The need for radical global action on this subject was highlighted by the UN earlier this week at UN’s Secretary-General António Guterres’ Climate Action Summit in New York.
For the summit, the Secretary-General urged world leaders and businesses to come together with concrete ideas on how they intend to cut emissions by 45 percent in the next decade and achieve net-zero emissions globally by 2050 as per the Paris Agreement of 2016.
The urgency of the problem was highlighted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg’s emotional speech.
By the end of the day, 65 countries announced efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, several asset fund managers offered to aim to a net-zero portfolio of investments by the same year. Dozens of businesses said they would abide by the Paris Agreement too. The urgency of the problem was highlighted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who chastised world leaders for their approach. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you,” she said, “if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”
The ‘Champions of the Earth’ award was established to celebrate outstanding figures whose efforts have transformed the environment and the world.
The award Champions of the Earth, bestowed upon Costa Rica this year, was established by the UNEP (UN Environmental Program) in 2005 to celebrate outstanding figures whose actions have been transformative to this earth and the environment. From world leaders to environmental activists and technology innovators, the award recognizes trailblazing efforts to protect the planet for generations to come.
Costa Rica is one of five Champions of the Earth this year. The other categories rewarded are entrepreneurial vision, inspiration and action; and science and innovation. All 2019 champions will be honored today at a gala ceremony in New York during the 74th UN General Assembly. Also honoured at the event will be seven young environmental activists between the ages of 18 and 30, who will take home the ‘Young Champions of the Earth’ prize.
Previous laureates from Latin America include Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile, for her efforts in creating marine protected areas and for boosting renewable energy (2017); former Brazilian environment minister Izabella Teixeira for her leadership and key role in reversing deforestation of the Amazon (2013); and Mexican ecologist José Sarukhán Kermez for a lifetime of leadership and innovation in the conservation of biodiversity in Mexico and the world (2016).