September 9, 2016
Since 1847, when Costa Rica declared sovereignty from the United Provinces of Central America, it has remained among the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. In 1949 it became (and remains) one of sixteen sovereign nations without a standing army.
- It has been cited by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as having a better record on human development and inequality than the median of the region.
- Its rapidly developing economy has diversified to include sectors such as finance, pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism.
- It is the only country to meet all five UNDP criteria established to measure environmental sustainability.
- It ranked third in the Americas in the 2016 Environmental Performance Index.
- It was twice ranked the best performing country in New Economics Foundation’s (NEF) Happy Planet Index and identified as the greenest country in the world in 2009.
- According to UNDP in 2010 the life expectancy at birth for Costa Ricans was 79.3 years, second highest in the Americas and higher than the United States.
- Its healthcare system is ranked higher than that of the United States, despite its incomparably smaller GDP.
- Since 1941 it has provided universal health care to its wage-earning residents. By the year 2000, social health insurance coverage was available to 82% of the population. Notably (take note, U.S. Congress and presidential candidates), the government funds over 70% of it at a cost of about 7% of GDP.
Now the country has been powered entirely by a mix of hydroelectric (80.27%), geothermal (12.6%), wind (7.1%), and solar energy (0.01 %, there’s room for growth) for 76 days straight, from June 16, 2016 through September 2, and it’s not a fluke. In 2015 Costa Rica spent 299 days using renewable energy alone, and it’s going to get better. Later this month the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE, in Spanish) will unveil the largest public infrastructure project in Central America after the Panama Canal, enough to power around 525,000 homes, Mashable reported.
If enlightened Costa Rica can achieve so much with so little for so many, certainly the rest of the world can too. For that however, humans will have to redefine “great” not on a country’s ability to destroy the planet but on its contributions to making life better for all, while we have one.