Before coming here, I was prepared and excited to learn a lot about the natural world around me. Living in an environment of such dense biodiversity, you see incredible clips of nature that send your mind into a state of childlike wonder. What I couldn’t have anticipated, however, was the incredible amount of information I pick up from the people I am living with day in and day out at our campsite. Staff and volunteers all come from a variety of different backgrounds, enabling me to meet people from all over the world with a range of interests and levels of experience. Almost every conversation I have with someone brings about new knowledge or shows me a new perspective on an issue that I have never yet considered.
One of my favorite activities that highlights this concept better than anything is debating. Every week or so a staff or volunteer will lead a debate on a topic of their choosing. The liberty that debate hosts are given in their choice of topic is perhaps what makes these debates so interesting. Sometimes the topic will be very relevant to our project, such as: what are the pros and cons of having a hatchery? This debate was an excellent opportunity for us as a group to reflect upon what characteristics a hatchery must have to be successful, and how we can implement those qualities into our own local hatchery to make it as effective as possible.
Other debates topics, however, have forced us to step out of Costa Rica entirely and discuss difficult conservation questions in other parts of the world. For example, one week we debated the legalization of the rhino horn trade in South Africa for the purpose of controlling the market flow away from criminal poachers. Another week we discussed the ethical considerations behind pet breeding in the UK, and how the desire for certain “fashionable” dog and cat breeds can discourage owners from adopting rescue dogs, which are currently overpopulating shelters.
And then some debates we have are not directed at any particular location or animal. One week we had a very general debate on the question “why conserve biodiversity,” leading to an interesting and productive discussion about our role and responsibility to protect the planet, not only as conservationists but also as human beings in general.
These debates, along with the many stimulating and educational conversations I have had since arriving, have allowed me to learn and reflect on a variety of topics, some of which I had never even considered before coming to this beautiful country and meeting so many smart and interesting people!