About halfway through our Costa Rica trip, the group I traveled with visited the cloud forest to see a rare but beautiful bird called the quetzal. The “quetzal” is a tropical bird that lives in cloud forests in Central America. The quetzal is threatened for extinction because in many countries, like Guatemala, quetzals are hunted for their beautiful feathers.
The program my group traveled to Costa Rica with is called Sustainable Summer, whose mission is to develop young environmental leaders by giving them hands on experience in a variety of areas relating to sustainability. On that day, our group stood in silence in a pasture along the edge of the cloud forest, looking for quetzals in the wild avocado trees. Quetzals eat wild avocados and in the morning, can be sighted feeding in the trees. We waited on the hillside while our guide carefully searched the trees for the rare bird. Standing under the avocado tree on the the edge of the cloud forest, I realized searching for the this rare bird is like searching for a way to make the global community more sustainable.
Finding the quetzal takes patience. Since quetzals are a threatened species, they are quite rare and many people never get to see the quetzal. It takes time and patience to carefully search the avocado trees for signs the quetzals are present, like the of the bird dropping the seed.
Being patient is important for living sustainably. Many environmentalists stress how little time there is to fix the world before we completely destroy it. These environmentalists need to be patient because the results they are looking for will take time to be effective and instead need to focus on smaller steps to a larger goal. One of the workers on the farm Rancho Margot, an organic farm in Costa Rica, told us that most companies are concerned about making money. For most large corporations “time is money” and they try to produce as much as they can as quick as they can. The worker said patience and passion are most important when impacting the global community. All good things take time, whether you are waiting for a tree to bear fruit or waiting to launch your new company.
In order to find the quetzal our tour guide’s lodge has an agreement with the local farmers. The farmers agree to preserve the wild avocado trees on their property and then report to the lodge if they see the quetzal in their trees so the guides know where to take the bird watchers. The ecolodge in turn compensates the farmers for their help preserving the birds and buying produce from the local farms. Without this cooperation, the farms wouldn’t be as profitable, and the guides wouldn’t be able to find the quetzal making their business unprofitable as well.
Sustainability isn’t just one person’s job. Everyone needs to take part because one of the aspects of sustainability is social equality. In the lodge’s agreement with the farmers, if the community thrives then the individual thrives. We saw many examples of the community working together to thrive in Costa Rica like a coffee cooperative owned by the farmers who grew the coffee beans. Since all the coffee bean farmers in the area owned the cooperative, they received all the profits from the cooperative improving the local economy as well as their individual status.
Seeing the Quetzal for the first time is an amazing sight. The males are green birds but have red chests. Their long blue tail feathers extend to over two feet long depending on the age of the male. After a few moments the quetzal spread its wings, soared away, and flew back into the rainforest.
Becoming more sustainable as a global community will be a very gratifying feeling for everyone because of the way individuals treat each other. Patience will bring more understanding between different cultures because of the willingness to work for the common goal. Through patience, a sense of interdependence will develop. The global community will work together instead of fight each other in order to protect the earth as well as their own well being. Like the Quetzal, the world will be beautiful thanks to the patience and interdependence of the global community.