Distributor:  Global Environmental Justice
Length:  7 minutes
Date:  2015
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English; Spanish / English subtitles
Color/BW:  Color
Closed captioning available


Curator imageLaura Miller, Applied ethicist and instructor, Southwestern Illinois College, St. Louis Community College, Fontbonne University, and Webster University

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Sustainable Forests in Costa Rica

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* New title added January 2023 *

If Not Us Then Who?  Film 5 of 7

Costa Rica works with Indigenous communities to monitor, protect and restore forests.

Sustainable Forests in Costa Rica

If Not Us Then Who?  Film 5 of 7 (6:30) 2015
A Sustainable Solution: Environmental Tax to Maintain Forests in Costa Rica

This is one of seven short films about sustainable living in the forests of Indonesia, Costa Rica and Brazil. Taken together, they tell a story of oppression, resistance, accomplishments, and confidence for the future.

Laura Miller
Applied ethicist and instructor, Southwestern Illinois College, St. Louis Community College, Fontbonne University, and Webster University

Please download the teacher's guide for maps, background information, suggested subjects, questions and activities.

"We are a seed that was planted here and grew up here."

Through the efforts of the Indigenous people, Costa Rica is the only country that has been able to reduce illegal logging in the past 20 years. It has done so through a fuel tax program designed to protect the forest, provide incentives for maintaining standing forests, and require permits for tree removal.

The benefits of the tax include investment in schools, colleges, housing, food purchases, and health care expenses. Transnational industries remain a threat as they continue to search for minerals and farmland, build dams, and seek oil. Yet from 1997 to 2009, the Indigenous people reclaimed over 4,200 hectares of land actively returned to forest.


Other titles in the If Not Us Then Who? Collection:
5. Sustainable Solution: Costa Rica

Download the Teacher's Guide


00:00:01.347 --> 00:00:05.168
A Sustainable Solution

00:00:12.774 --> 00:00:20.587
Costa Rica is the only tropical country in the world to consistently reduce illegal logging over the last 20 years.

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Indigenous peoples have lead this remarkable transformation.

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For the attention of the Cabécar Association, this letter is to inform you I have donated two fallen trees to my neighbor

00:00:40.244 --> 00:00:46.214
the trees damaged his banana crop, I hope this donation helps cover the loss.

00:00:46.834 --> 00:00:54.338
The letters are from local people, which are handled through the association.

00:00:55.103 --> 00:01:00.612
They are requests for felling standing trees or the use of trees that have fallen naturally.

00:01:01.292 --> 00:01:05.970
When the permits are ready I go to the field to conduct the marking.

00:01:12.072 --> 00:01:19.395
We mark the tree with paint and record its diameter and height.

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This control is very important and we keep a record so we know what people have which permit.

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A tree that is cut with no markings is illegal.

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If people arrived and cut everything then this would not be conserving nature.

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Communities are supported in their work by a government program called Payment for Environmental Services (PSA)

00:02:00.302 --> 00:02:09.102
The PSA is a government program using a tax charged on all fuels.

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This gives an incentive for forest owners to maintain standing forest and we include certain areas of our forest to the program.

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This has contributed to the territories, for example in my community, it brings in roughly $235,000 a year.

00:02:32.275 --> 00:02:42.411
The board has invested resources in building schools and colleges.

00:02:43.076 --> 00:02:53.330
From the money we can purchase food, we can contribute to health care expenses and the costs of education.

00:02:53.744 --> 00:02:58.491
Today there are between 300-400 new houses built in the territory.

00:02:59.153 --> 00:03:06.292
So we see the State's money has been invested well, it's not in vain and it is benefiting the population.

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Despite this Costa Rican indigenous land continues to be threatened by large corporations.

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The land that belonged to the indigenous had become the prey to outsiders.

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This became the land of the company of the banana.

00:03:38.922 --> 00:03:48.553
The effect of the interests of transnational corporations, the effect from the search for mineral resources.

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The impact is always felt here in the communities and this pressure experienced by indigenous peoples is constant.

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We do not agree with extraction through mining, oil, dams or any others.

00:04:12.636 --> 00:04:19.583
Our vision is to recover some of that, which is held by non-indigenous.

00:04:21.546 --> 00:04:27.299
The association started in 1997 with an area of three hundred acres

00:04:27.636 --> 00:04:35.413
up to 2009 we have reclaimed approximately 4,200 hectares.

00:04:36.579 --> 00:04:42.216
Families who had little or no land to grow food to produce an income

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now have their own land and produce their own food, already they are restoring pasture back to forest.

00:05:00.671 --> 00:05:10.227
The most important change is that the land is now ours, it was divided before, now it belongs to our own people.

00:05:11.286 --> 00:05:20.664
We have a relationship with nature. And for us you do not harm nature, you live with it.

00:05:23.533 --> 00:05:35.086
Now there are many changes there is hope that more young people are taking up the culture, they are thinking about defending this.

00:05:42.789 --> 00:05:46.168
We are a seed that was born here and grew up here.

00:05:46.886 --> 00:05:52.868
It is like watching a plant that you see being born, it is original and it belongs only there.

00:05:54.268 --> 00:06:01.523
You can see the water, you can see the woods, you can see the land

00:06:01.953 --> 00:06:04.350
and it looks good, right?

00:06:05.340 --> 00:06:10.211
And little by little we will continue recovering more of our land.

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Main credits

Redman, Paul (film director)
Redman, Paul (director of photography)
Redman, Paul (editor of moving image work)
Lewis, Tim (film producer)
Lewis, Tim (editor of moving image work)

Other credits

Music, Jayme.

Distributor credits

Tim Lewis

Paul Redman

Docuseek subjects

Costa Rica
Government Policy
Forests and Rainforests
Resource Planning and Management
Indigenous Studies

Distributor subjects

No distributor subjects provided.


Costa Rica,Talamanca; Cabécar Association, Payments; for Environmental Services, If Not Us then Who?,; "Sustainable Forests in Costa Rica "; Government Policy; Forests and Rainforests; Forestry; Resource Planning and Management; Sustainability; Indigenous Studies;

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