Why Environmental Education?

This past weekend we were invited by Osa Conservation to to a training session for instructors of Detective de Aves in Rancho Quemado on the Osa Peninsula. The participants came from several communities in the zone; Rancho Quemado, Puerto Jiménez and Drake Bay. There were many river crossings along the way.

It was a real privilege to be able to work with people who have shown a real commitment to developing responsible tourism and businesses for decades, while protecting and improving the abundant plants and wildlife in the area. Carla and Marco did an impressive job, as always, teaching how to teach the course. We learned a lot from the attendees as well, especially the really impressive story about how in Rancho Quemado they have managed to completely turn around the drastic drop in the Chancho de Monte (White-lipped Peccary) population through a long-term, community effort. I hope we can emulate their example here in Coto Brus.

I originally intended to only write a simple post about this training, but I decided to take advantage of this platform, and of Independence Day number 200, to share some of my thoughts on why these activities are important. I shared these with the group over the weekend and they seemed to resonate, so I thought I would try here as well.

Although there are many excellent reasons to teach kids to value and care for the Natural World, and provide them with opportunities to know it better, and, hopefully, come to love it, for me there is one simple and profoundly terrifying reason to do so. The path we are on as a species is leading us towards a final showdown with the Natural World in which our demands for food, water, land and less obvious “necessities” will lead us to use every resource until there are none left. If it comes to a choice between clearing the last forest so we can feed our families today, even if we know that tomorrow we will have nothing, we will clear the forest. This has and is happening on increasingly large scales throughout the world: from Borneo to Madagascar, vast swaths of India, to Honduras and the Amazon. In my opinion there is no new “green” technology that will save us — that will allow us to continue more or less as we are without utterly depleting the resources we depend on. Believing there is is simply partying while the City burns. So, what are we to do?

There are many who believe that finally there is nothing we can do because that is simply the way Homo sapiens is wired — that we will always, inevitably choose our own immediate interests over the future, collective good. Perhaps they are right. There is ample historical evidence to show that when push-comes-to-shove we’ll almost always shove the the other guy in front of the train to save our own skin, if only for the briefest instant.

However, we also must be honest with ourselves and admit that this fatalistic perspective is very convenient for the privileged, since it preserves a system that gives us advantages and relieves us of the obligation to act. It is a comfortable despair, especially for those of us like me who will most likely have lived out our due before the worst happens. In my opinion, we must demand more of ourselves.

This “comfortable despair” also ignores two very obvious of facts. First of all that we do, every single day, choose the common good over our own selfish interest in small, yet critical ways. I don’t think I really need to give examples because they are obvious. This quotidian virtue is often dismissed as unimportant or facile, but that completely misses the point. We are wired for cooperation as well as for selfishness, and perhaps more so. That is obvious. Why we ignore it and often act as if it isn’t the case may be less obvious and worth more than a few minutes of quiet thought.

Second of all, we can change and we have: as a species, as societies and as individuals. The way we imagine our Human Nature to be now, and how we see our relationship as individuals to the communities we inhabit and how these communities envision their relationships to other communities and the World that sustains us has changed countless times throughout the millennia. It is time for us to change again, but this time by will and hope, and very hard work, and not by necessity and desperation. If we wait for the latter, I fear it will be too late.

I do not believe that one person, or one people, can save the World. I believe that all we can do is love our neighbors as best we can, and receive love in return with an open heart — and even that most basic thing is often incredibly hard. The simple fact is that when Carla, Marco, Paula, Randall, Yadira, Yolanda, Emily, Kelly, and Ronnie have gotten in front of a classroom full of kids to teach Detectives de Aves it was and is an act of love first and foremost — an attempt to grow the hope that we will all need to look beyond our own selves and towards our neighbors and the Natural World. We work with the kids and the adults so that somehow together we can figure out how to become better here and now in this small place, and then share what we learn with others, who share with us in turn so that, somehow, we will learn to turn away from the precipice and avoid cutting the last forest to feed our families today, even if tomorrow they will surely starve.

I don’t have a clue how to avoid disaster, and if I think about it in those terms in my day to day life I despair, but thankfully there are many smarter, wiser, more compassionate, courageous, hard-working, creative and loving people than I. So I/we do what we can to help each other out of love and hope for future generations, and for our own peace of mind and joy for the time we we have left. That’s all we can do, and we have to do it in the best way each one of us knows how.

May this Bicentennial find each one of you and your families well and happy.

Peter. Coto Brus September 15, 2021

Detectives in the Pandemic

Class from escuela Santa Rita on the Observation Tower at the Garden

I hope everyone reading this, wherever in the world they are, is healthy, happy and living without fear! It has been too long since I have posted here. I have been meaning to do it for a while, but well, good intentions and all that…

After an academic year 2020 without classes at all, I was frankly feeling rather pessimistic about our chances of offering Detectives de Aves in the local schools this academic year. Luckily, many of my neighbors had a lot more sense than I did. Marco Mora, our principal teacher this year, and I began visiting schools in mid-februrary, a couple of weeks after classes resumed after nearly a year, expecting to merely stop by, say, “Hola, we’re still here!” and move on. Much to our surprise, however, we were welcomed with open arms at four schools; Santa Rita, Las Mellizas, San Francisco (de La Lucha) and San Miguel. We were very excited to begin again, and the kids were happy to have us back, too. The year off had been very hard on everyone, especially the kids. The directora of Santa Rita, to whom I will always be grateful for NOT going on strike for 3 months in 2018, told me that during the first week back the kids hardly even talked to each other. They’d apparently forgotten how to socialize, which is very strange for young Homo sapiens. In any case, by the time we started up in early March, any shyness they had once had was long gone, and we were rather bombarded with questions, observations, and just crazy stuff — which is how it should be.

We got off to a running start in Santa Rita, San Francisco and Las Mellizas, by giving lessons for 3 plus hours each week during a day when the kids were not normally in school — because of the continuing COVID situation, most kids don’t go to school every day — and we were, fortunately, able to finish Detectives in Santa Rita and Las Mellizas before school was halted again for 2 months in May. We had only one lesson left to give in San Francisco when we had to stop. In San Miguel, Carla was a little farther behind due to (inevitable) scheduling conflicts. Being able to bring the kids from Santa Rita to the Gardens once again after more than a year was a real pleasure. A big thanks to CAFROSA, or Finca La Amistad, for letting us bring the kids from Las Mellizas there for their graduation bird walk and lunch. It was an exceptional day!

In San Francisco de La Lucha, which is a school with a very large Ngöbe population, we had the luck and pleasure of meeting up with don Alexis “Unchi” Rodríguez, who is a rather famous musician who has traveled the world performing his songs written in Ngäbere — the language of the Ngöbe people. Nowadays he is a teacher of Ngäbere in the local schools. With a two month pause in lessons on the horizon, don Alexis invited Marco and myself to use his finca with a small classroom in La Casona to offer Detectives de Aves to some of the local kids during the “vacation”. We were thrilled, of course. This was a singular experience. We met some great kids, a couple of whom I will never forget, and parents, too. Some walked 2 hours each time from Copey, which is muy montaña arriba (“Way the heck up the mountain”). After several weeks of driving on days on which I wasn’t supposed to — I did write myself a letter which should have been sufficient to make me legal — we finished up there two weeks ago with a lovely bird walk, graduation, music by Unchi and his band, and a wonderful lunch. A big thank you once again to don Alexis, his wife, don Rafael and Luciano for making this possible!

Don Rafeal Bejerano, who helped us at Unchi’s place, is a person of some stature in the community and offered to setup a meeting for us with the principal of the school in La Casona to see if we could offer Detectives there. This was an opportunity I have been trying to get for years. I met with the principal and the head of the junta educativa (school oversight board) last Wednesday (Marco couldn’t come because he was busy teaching in La Lucha), and after a nice conversation we have committed to offering Detectives to 27 6th graders starting this Wednesday! Even, or especially, in times of pandemia it is super important to get out in the community, show your face, press the flesh (even if only metaphorically) and make the personal connection that is required to build trust and a foundation for future collaboration. This is even more true here, in Coto Brus, which is one big small town, and where, even though WhatsApp is ubiquitous, a cafecito and conversation is still how things get done in the end.

So, everything is back at full speed once again after the two month “Pause”. We have finished in San Francisco and San Miguel. We have begun in La Lucha and Piedra Pintada already. La Casona starts on Wednesday, Gonzalo Acuña on Thursday and San Marcos very soon. We have two new teachers in training: Yolanda Morales, who will be working with Marco in La Casona for the next several weeks, and a very bright and interesting young man named Luciano, who is from La Casona and who helped us out at don Alexis’ finca.

I have a couple of more articles planned for the near future (I can hear you thinking, “Yeah, we’ve heard that one before.”) about other exciting, well at least to me, things we have been up to.

Thank all of you for your support over the years! None of this would have been possible this year without the trust we have built, the friends we have made and the experience we have have gained over the last several years thanks to you all!

Please take care of yourselves, and your neighbors too!

Bird Walk This Sunday!/¡Caminata para ver aves este domingo!

Please join us for a bird walk at the Wilson Botanical Gardens this Sunday at 7 AM. The entrance will be free thanks to the generous donation of a Club member. The female White-crested Coquette has been seen hanging around the pollinator garden, and maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see her. The comedor will be open for those who would like coffee and conversation afterwards. Binoculares and guides will be available as always.

Por favor venga al jardín botánico Wilson este domingo al las 7 AM para una caminata para ver aves. Las entradas serán gratis por una donación muy amable de un miembro del Club. La hembra Coqueta crestiblanca se vea actualmente en el jardín de los polinizadores. ¡Tal vez tendríamos la suerte de verla! El comedor estará abierto para los que ocuparán un cafecito y conversación después de la caminata. Habrá binoculares y guías disponibles como siempre.

Bird Walk This Sunday! / ¡Caminata para ver aves el próximo domingo!

I hope every had a great weekend! We are still planning to have our first public bird walk for a long time this Sunday at the La Reserva Biológica de Sabalito. In order to make sure that everyone remains well, we will be following these protocols:

  1. Everyone will need to have a mask.
  2. Each group of birders will be limited to 10 plus a guide. We can have more than one group.
  3. Handwashing/alcohol will be required on arrival and departure.
  4. Everyone who wishes to attend must let us know before hand by filling out this FORM, or going to the FaceBook of the Reserva and following the instructions.
  5. This time there will not be an opportunity to socialize and drink coffee after the walk, but we hope that changes soon.

Remember that the walk is free, and that binoculars will be available. However, we ask that a voluntary contribution to the Reserva of at least 1 mil be made for each parked car. I hope to see you there!

Here is a map to the entrance of the Reserva / Aquí es la ubicación de la Reserva:

Espero que todas disfrutaran de un fin de semana excelente. Tendremos nuestra primera caminata para ver aves abierta al público en mucho tiempo el próximo domingo 28 de febrero en la Reserva Biológica de Sabalito. Para mantener todas saludables, debemos de cumplir los protocolos siguientes:

  1. Todas las personas deben de utilizar la mascarilla.
  2. Cada grupo de pajareros es limitado a 10 personas y la guía. Podremos acomodar más que un grupo.
  3. El lavado de las manos y/o alcohol es requisito al llegar y salir.
  4. Cada persona que quisiera asistir tiene que llenar este FORMULARIO o ver el FaceBook de la Reserva y sigue las instrucciones.
  5. Después de la caminata no podríamos tomar café y chistear, pero ojalá que se pueda en el futuro cercano.

La caminata es gratis y binoculares están disponibles para prestar. Sin embargo pedimos que para carro que viene se hace una donación voluntaria de 1 mil a la Reserva.

¡Espero verlas todas el domingo!

Bird Walk on Sunday the 28th!

We will be having a bird walk on Sunday the 28th of February at 7 AM at the beautiful Reserva Biológica de Sabalito. There will be guides, binoculars and good company, or so we hope! I will be posting more details next week, but I wanted to announce it today so that you all can mark it on your calendars. We currently have no limit on the number of attendees, but we will be limiting the number of people per guide to 10, and we ask that everyone who intends to come fill out this form. People who don’t fill out the form in advance won’t be able to participate.

More next week, including maps, etc. I hope you all are as excited as I am!

Hay más información en español en el Facebook de la reserva aquí.

Special Online Event Tomorrow!

The Detectives de Aves team is hosting a special online class tomorrow afternoon at 4PM as a part of the Finca Cántaros Festival de Bienvenida a las Aves Migratorias. If you would like to get a look at some of our teachers and get an idea about what happens in a Detectives class, please tune in to the Finca Cántaros Facebook page tomorrow at 4PM!

How Should We Handle Bird Walks Now?

I hope everyone is healthy, sane (as much as is normal anyhow), and keeping busy during these strange times.

We would really like your input on the best way to start having Bird Club events and walks again. We know that there are variety of opinions on the best ways to deal with Covid and to stay healthy, so we really need you to share your thoughts and feeling on the subject!

Below you will find a link to brief survey on Google forms where you can share with us your willingness, or lack thereof, to participate in Club activities under the current conditions. Please be assured, however, that we will always be committed to complying with the directives of the Ministerio de Salud regarding all required protocols for public gatherings and outdoor activities!

Thank You!


Las caminatas para ver aves están suspendidas.

Para colaborar en los esfuerzos para limitar los casos de COVID-19 y par no poner en riesgo a las poblaciones vulnerables, hemos decidido suspender las caminatas para ver aves hasta que el estado de emergencia termine. ¡Ojalá que sea pronto!

Pero uno todavía podría disfrutar de las aves y la naturaleza durante estos tiempos difíciles. Por dicha, siempre hay oportunidades para ver aves en el cantón de Coto Brus, incluyendo desde su propia casa. Si quisiera salir y caminar por la calle pública para bajar el estrés, hacer ejercicio y ver aves, sugerimos que explore los siguientes lugares de acceso fácil:

  • La antigua Ruta de la mulas or Ruta de los Conquistadores que anda desde el lado norte de la finca El Tangaral hasta el rio Java. La entrada es unos cientos metros norte del restaurante Cascata del Bosco y entre El Tangaral y la casa azul. ¡Ojo, es un camino pequeño! Puede ver y escuchar muchas especies de aves por allá.
  • La ruta de los Pinos que va desde el rótulo de la Chiminea a la par de la Finca Cántaros hasta el aeropuerto. Allá, además de aves, se puede ver muchos árboles actualmente en flor.
  • El camino que va desde en frente del hospital y anda al lado del río Java hasta Santa Clara. Es un camino largo y inclinando, pero vale la pena. Si tiene mucha suerte podría ver los zopilotes blancos (sí, blancos) y unos nidos de los Oropéndolas.

¡Que todos y todas quedan sano y salvo y que salgamos de esta emergencia más fuerte y unificada que nunca! Nos vemos pronto.

El Bosque de los Niños de Coto Brus — Video

I just wanted to share this really impressive video about the Children’s Forest project at Finca Cántaros. It is a wonderful project that all of the members of the Club can feel proud for having supported. The San Vito Bird Club, through the Detectives de Aves program was, is and will continue to be a key collaborator in this project, and a supporter of environmental education in the cantón. Please enjoy! https://vimeo.com/396319999

Yo quisiera compartir con todos ustedes este vídeo muy impresionante sobre el proyecto del Bosque de los Niños de Coto Brus en la Finca Cántaros. Es un esfuerzo maravilloso, y todos los miembros del Club pueden tener mucho orgullo por lo haber apoyado. El Club de Aves de San Vito, por medio del programa Detectives de Aves fue, es y será un colaborador muy importante en el Bosque de los Niños, y un patroncinador de la educación ambiental en el cantón. ¡Por favor disfrútelo! https://vimeo.com/387577297

Update and Apologies / Actualización y disculpas

I realized that I forgot to mention several people who contributed to the binocular campaign. I am really sorry. Every single contribution is important and deserves recognition. I have updated the Year in Review post, but I also want to mention these people here so that everyone will know who they are:

  • Steve and Liz Allen
  • Gail and Harry Hull
  • JP Thelliez

Again, I am really sorry. Thank you for your support.

Desgraciadamente olvidé mencionar unos patrocinadores que nos ayudaron conseguir binoculares. Les pido mis disculpas más sinceras.Cada contribución es importantísimo y debe ser mencionado. Ya actualicé la noticia del Año en Retrospectiva, pero quiero también mencionar estas personas aquí para que todos puedan saber quienes son:

  • Steve and Liz Allen
  • Gail and Harry Hull
  • JP Thelliez

Muchas gracias por su apoyo, y por favor acepten mis disculpas.