Author Archives: Surya

About Surya

I love ART! I love making things with my hands, creating is such a big part in my life! I love painting, Ceramics and I make a lot of Jewelry!!!

Costa Rican Pineapples

pineapple

Odds are that if you buy a pineapple at a supermarket it comes from Costa Rica—a tiny country in Central America. Most people would agree with me in that pineapples are delicious! But how many know the real environmental and human impacts of the pineapple industry? Well, this is just one more thing to think about when shopping. As with everything (or at least almost everything) else in the store, pineapples come with a heavy environmental footprint. Since Del Monte put forth the ‘Gold’ pineapple, which is a sweeter variety, in 1992, pineapple has become a “luxury fruit” with an increasing demand. Costa Rica happens to be the largest provider of fresh pineapple to EU and US, providing more than 80% of the yearly imported fresh pineapples in the US, and more than 70% in the EU.

destinos

Pie chart showing where Costa Rica exports pineapples: 53% North America, 44% European Union, 2% rest of Europe, 1% others.

Costa Rica’s economy largely depends on ecotourism and agriculture.   Extensive monoculture, incentivized by agricultural export models and free trade agreements, have caused negative impacts—from which the pineapple case is the most severe. Some of the concerns “include soil erosion, pesticide contamination of natural areas and water supplies, lowering of water tables, worker exposure to agrochemicals, and impacts of organic wastes, among others.” But pineapples are the second most exported good from Costa Rica, after bananas and recently surpassing coffee exports. Just last year, in 2015, Costa Rica exported 1,858,899 tons of fresh pineapple. Being such an important product for the country’s economy, it is not beneficial to fight against the production of pineapple. As Walter Mora explains in a news interview, the people living in communities near pineapple production are asking for a moratorium on intensive pineapple monoculture plantations, which he explains does not mean they are against the production of pineapple, they are against the way in which pineapple is being produced in Costa Rica.

Pineapple production generate many environmental and health problems, mostly induced by the high use of pesticides. Fernando Ramirez, an agrochemical expert at the University of Costa Rica explains that when the pineapple is ripe, they proceed to apply a high quantity of pesticide—pineapples use about 10 to 15 times more pesticide than other crops. Costa Rica has banned many pesticides because they have been found to cause cancer, disrupt hormone systems, and are acutely toxic. But the ban of these pesticides does not mean that they are not used. It has been documented that pineapple industries are using illegal pesticides.

People living in areas close to pineapple industry asked the government to analyze the water that is consumed by the community. The analysis found the water to be unacceptable for human consumption: considering the analysis found 22 agrochemicals in the water. This should not be all that surprising since Costa Rica is the world’s heaviest agrochemical user . In fact, Costa Rica uses more than seven times the amount of pesticides used in the US. While the US manages to only use 2.5 Kilograms of Pesticide per cultivated hectare, since 2013, Costa Rica uses 18.2 Kilograms—which is actually an improvement from 2010, when an average of 23 Kilograms of Pesticide were being used per cultivated hectare. Although not surprising, it is alarming that a country so centered around environmental awareness still uses the most amount of pesticides.  e pineapple industry in Costa Rica does bring many job opportunities to the country-most of which are filled by Nicaraguan migrant workers that in many cases do not have legal standing in Costa Rica. This means that they are not able to seek legal help, nor join a worker’s union. Pineapple industries, especially the big multi national ones, play dirty with unions anyways—in some cases they have fired all workers with promises of rehiring everyone, but anyone that was in a union never gets rehired. The price of pineapple abroad affects how much the pineapple workers get payed in Costa Rica. So when prices drop in Europe or in the US, people in Costa Rica get lower wages: “The less people pay in Europe, the higher the price they have to pay in CR.”

pineapple

Division of pineapple profits per pound: 41 Retailers, 38 Multinational traders, 17 plantation owners, 4 workers.

In conclusion, before buying a pineapple and enjoying its sweet juicy content think of all the impacts that producing each one has on people and the environment. The heavy use of pesticides is both deteriorating the health of people who live near or work in plantations, and the environment.

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Permaculture as a means to reconnect with nature

Permaculture is a holistic design system that emulates systems that exist in Nature to create sustainable human settlements and food production systems which integrate harmoniously with the natural environment.

(Eliades, 2016)
PlanetEarth

Fig 1: A picture of Planet Earth in space. (As a Planet Earth, 2016)

This is planet Earth. As far as we know it is the only place we can live. Somewhere along the way though, it seems we—humans—have detached from it in an unsustainable way. Unsustainable in that it cannot sustain us forever—or even for too much longer—or, as the Brundtland Report defines it formally “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Our Common Future, 1987). The fact that, as a species, humans are not sustainable is reflected in almost every step of most people’s everyday life’s. Even in the smallest things, our whole day is mostly dictated by the systems that surround us. For example, how many times a week do you drive, or even take a bus that runs on petroleum? How many times a day do you throw trash in the landfill bin, or even in the recycling bin? How many times a day do you eat? These are very basic every-day activities: we need to drive to get to work, or school; we do not want to see trash surrounding our immediate environments, so we use trash cans; and we need to eat to survive. But how we approach these every-day activities is, many times, in our hands. I have one more set of questions for you, do you think of yourself as a part of nature…or separate from nature? How many times have you acted as if you were NOT part of nature?

Many of our day-to-day activities prevent us from interacting with questions like these. But there are some people that believe in and carry a life that is not as impactful on our natural environment and even taking it a step further and helping the environment regenerate. What I am talking about is permaculture: as a friend quickly explained to me: “it’s a lifestyle”. Permaculture takes sustainability to the next level, considering the system in a more holistic manner. Because, as Christopher J. Rhodes explains: “that which is sustainable maintains what already exists, but does not restore (eco)systems that have been lost” (p403, 2015). Sustainability, then, tries to keep things going for as long as humans can last, while permaculture, in the other hand, interweaves microsystems so that they work together in the most ecological and efficient process. With permaculture we still want to be sustainable, but not be so anthropocentric about it. It’s a lifestyle, as my friend said, because it takes into consideration the whole spectrum of systems that run the natural world. Permaculture is mainly “guided by three principal ethics, often described as Earth care, People care and Fair shares” (Rhodes, 405, 2015). When one of these principles is out of balance the whole system suffers. The Earth has to be healthy to properly sustain people, who should only get their fair share of materials in order for everyone to have what they need—and by everyone I do not only mean people, but every part of Earth’s system.

BeePolinating

Fig2: Bee pollinating blossoming flowers–depicting a microsystem (plant pollination) within a bigger system (food production). (Eliades, 2016)

 

Rhodes wrote that “All sustainable solutions are unsustainable over the longer term, if they are not also intrinsically regenerative” (Rhodes, p403, 2015). And that is one of the keys to permaculture: it is regenerative. It is not only sustainable, but also restores natural lost systems to some degree. Most people in modern times think in a linear way (meaning there is a beginning a middle and an end), while in permaculture we want to think of the environment in a circular way. The Helix of sustainability shown in FIG 3 gives an example of what a circular way of thinking of the environment works.

 

Fig 3: The Helix of Sustainability shows the circularity of a sustainable system where there is a minimum environmental impact in the lifecycle (manufacturing and product use) of materials. Rhodes also explains here that for this to be a “regenerative” system, and not only a “sustainable” one, this helix needs further elements to be added.

Credit: Design: Lynn Tucker; Graphic art: Astrid Erasmuson –The New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food Research.
(Rhodes, p.408, 2015)

 

Angelo Eliades, offers a list of Permaculture Design Principles in his blog, in which he explains in detail all about permaculture and even offers a do-it-yourself (DIY) section in which he gives step by step instructions on how to make a sustainable garden. The principles of design for permaculture lists: relative location, each element performs many functions, each important function is supported by many elements, efficient energy planning, using biological resources, energy cycling, small scale intensive systems, accelerating succession and evolution, diversity, edge effect, and attitudinal principles” (Eliades, 2016). Every single one of these principles is crucial to the harmonious functioning of the system. These are by no means the only ones, nor the most effective in every situation, but are definitely important elements to keep in mind. These principles are all interconnected. Each element of the system should be placed where it will be the most beneficial in performing many functions and where it is supported by other elements.

Another benefit of permaculture is that it brings us closer in a different way to nature. As Rhodes puts it, permaculture can and should “Reconnect humans with nature to bring forth abundance by regenerative means” (Rhodes, p405, 2015). Part of that reconnection includes understanding that nature is not only about hiking, camping and being in the wild, it is also inherently about food. For permaculture, it is imperative to understand how each system works with each other and how we can harness these natural partnerships in an undisruptive, regenerative way.


Fig 4: Photography by A. Odoul of hands holding healthy soil. (FAO, 2016)

Permaculture tries to mimic and learn from nature’s natural ways of cycling through material. Composting, for example, is an important part of a permaculture system because it recycles plant base wastes by putting nutrients back into the soil system for the new generation of plants to use. In nature, when a tree “loses” a leaf to the wind, it falls on the ground right beneath it. As time passes, the leaf decomposes, and returns the nutrients that the tree used to produce it, to the earth. Thus, the tree can access these nutrients again to make more leafs. This is a simple example, but when many of these micro-systems are put to work together they can become very productive without much energy input.

Permaculture reminds me that we should work with nature, not against it, nor ignoring its cycles. To be abundant, in a sustainable, holistic, and regenerative way, can be helpful in restoring the balance between humans and the natural cycle of material in the world. Think of trash. Is there such thing as “waste” in this world? The straightforward answer is: no. Remember the law of conservation of mass, from chemistry class? —mass can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed.  It, more or less, is the same with the entire Earth’s system. So in reality there is no such thing as “trash”. So this, at least to me, proves that in the Earth’s system nothing is linear, a permaculture system can help us see our other systems in a more natural and circular way, while in the process: reconnecting us with nature.

 

Citations:

As a Planet Earth – Pics about space. (2016). Retrieved from http://pics-about-space.com/as-a-planet-earth?p=1#img294452223830327544

Eliades, A. (2016). Permaculture Design Principles. Deep Green: Permaculture. Retrieved from https://deepgreenpermaculture.com/permaculture/permaculture-design-principles/1-relative-location/

Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. (1987). Retrieved from http://www.un-documents.net/our-common-future.pdf

Rhodes, C. (2015). Permaculture: regenerative – not merely sustainable.Sci Prog98(4), 403-412. http://dx.doi.org/10.3184/003685015×14467291596242

FAO. Soils and Biodiversity. (2016). Rome. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4551e.pdf

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