Ecological Developments in Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Central America

peterchristopher's picture

In response to samueljack's question on the marketing angle of green properties, perhaps some people on the site can offer insight about the ecological / green properties that can be found advertised on the internet.  Is this just a marketing ploy, or are these developments actually friendly on the environment and/or more socially constructive?  Also if you have one of these developments for sale, or are taking a look at one in particular, please add a link in the comment section, and we will all take a look at it together.  What is the truth behind ecologically-marketed properties in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, and elsewhere in Central America?

Peter

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interested in moving to an eco village and want your opinion:)

hi my name is jessica and i live on a island in greece. my husband and i are about to start a permaculture farm here in the mountains but have been giving it a second thought since we have looked into eco villages. where are you at now? this blog is pretty old and i just wanted to know how's your eco village doing and could you send me some pics and let me know what day to day life is like for you guys? any info or advice would be greatly appreciated!!!
jess and marco on paros

Eco-communities

Permit me to answer some questions raised in the above comments.
1) Most of the "eco" in so called green developments is BS, often based on marketing opportunism and sometimes as mentioned above on lack of knowledge.
2.) Leaving land alone does not always regenerate land, or certainly not as quickly as if you have some resources to apply to the process. Gully erosion, for instance, proceeds apace in reforested land without specific control measures.
3) Absolute sustainability can be argued about until doomsday, we need concrete examples of "much better" right now. Tradeoffs will have to be made.
4) The accepted litmus test for "green" is attention paid to the hydrological cycle. I'm in the wet-dry tropics where it is critical. A green project should capture and infiltrate as much or more rainfall than the land originally did. Certain projects mentioned above are doing next to nothing to control erosion, along roads, around pads, etc. When you see mud and muddy streams running off site, you know where they have drawn the bottom line. Less water infiltrated means less growth, less CO2 fixation, less food and habitat, and plenty of damage downstream.
5) No project should be considered sustainable if it is isolated from the surrounding communities, if they only exist as a labor pool. The ideal mix is a measure of integration and economic interchange based around sustainable food production.

ecoproperties

A true sustainable community that has some native forest on its land, looks at that as something to protect and defend, not fill up with sales lots and "tree houses".

I am working with some people to start a sustainable ecovillage. We are planing how to rebuild our soils for cultivation. How to supply our energy. How to utilize our "wastes". How to operate our school. How to protect our forest. How to finance and operate our workshops, social hall & village store. How to raise our animals. These are the things we will talk about to attract residents mainly because that's what we want them to be interested in.

I'd like to point out that a defective plan for a sustainable community is more likely the result of good intentions with a lack of knowledge on the part of those planing than a deliberate scam.

I was once in contact with a real estate development broker in the US who was pushing a person to develop a sustainable community. We were told that this person was an expert in truely green operations because he had designed and built three major golf courses! In our group this is still a regularly mentioned thing as a joke!

hi Mateo and Jam

Thanks for taking the time to share your personal perspectives about your projects in Central America.  I think if I remember the expression correctly, something like, "Don't let the best be the enemy of the good."  I am inspired by your visions and by actions you have taken for preservation.  I had a similar vision that I attempted to build in Nicaragua five years ago.  I was proud that we did not cut down the huge, old trees and planted many thousands of trees.  Eventually after I sold the property the next owner (Nicaraguan) immediately cut down all those large trees and even the 1-year-old forestry planting, to have fenceposts and pasture.

Anyone who can overcome the formidable obstacles to protect nature for a time is a hero.

For me part of the question that inspired the discussion topic, and that remains open, is whether a development can be both ecologically/socially constructive, and also profitable.

Eco-dreams to eco-realities

I'd have to agree to a degree that the idea of any development is not entirely eco. Land is most eco if left as is.

However, we have to realize here that land is land and if I don't buy it and use it ecologically, then perhaps someone else will buy it up, log it, slash it, burn it, and build a parking lot.

The fact of the matter is that if we are to take positive action to help preserve that land ecologically, then as much as it sounds good to buy it and just leave it as is, that will rarely happen.

I've been living in Belize, and if land is accessible by roads, then squatters will move in, slash and burn rainforest, then farm it in an unsustainable manner and move on when they need another area to farm in. Letting it sit as is, does not help, and the Belize government doesn't have the funding to police their jungles for illegal milpa farmers.

So what incentive does the average human have to help save some rainforest.

Well we all need a place to live, right?

So my incentive, that actually sparks the passion within me to take action, is to work with a team of eco-developers and build a sustainable ecovillage in the jungle.

I for one, don't have the time nor money to spend on simply preserving some rainforest, making it untouchable by human developers. However, I do have time and what money I have to work on a project to build my own home in a ecovillage community of like-minded individuals that want to develop in a manner that considers the environment and ecosystem in part of the bottom-up structuring of such a place.

To me, the environmental concern being a priority is what entices me to invest my time and money to such a project, and my being a steward of the land by living on it is the key to making it work that way.

I don't doubt that there are many "Eco-frauds" out there, but even the "Eco-frauds" are at least considering the environment more-so than other developers, and if they aren't then they won't be able to attract the right buyers, because eco-investors will see through it.

Thanks for letting me speak my view on the situation. If you're interested in the development I'm a part of in Belize, check out http://BetterInBelize.com

P.S.- I've been living in Central America for a little over a year now, and I've seen wild Tapir's twice (They only ran from me once because I startled them by getting about 15 ft away from them). The howlers don't seem to mind humans either as I see them so often.

Finca Bellavista

Dearest Mr. Lent;

While I appreciate your stance on BS marketing strategies for trying to peddle real estate as a "green" concept, I take great offense to your attack on our character and that of our project at Finca Bellavista.  I generally do not respond to bloggers as I feel that armchair critics offer little hands-on real-world experience in their opinions.  Given the context and focus of this website, I felt obliged to respond. 

To touch briefly on your comments, my wife, Erica, and I founded Finca Bellavista to preserve 350 acres of secondary growth rainforest that was slated as a timber harvest site and was actually being marketed as such through the website where we discovered this amazing property.  I think that if you take the time to do a little bit of research prior to formulating your opinion, you will find that your comments are way off base.  And, FYI, we had to remove the directions to our location due to the incredible amount of interest people the world over have had in the project.  We have a very special place here, it is not a tourist-trap, and we would like to preserve its peaceful locale and natural beauty.  If you would take thirty seconds to have a look at the photos on our website, you will also note that the treehouse(s) on the property are definitely arboreal, and quite stable (largely due to our in-house botanists determining safe, secure, and ecologically-sound host trees for our arboreal dwellings).

Please take the time to read our Guidelines found on our website, and if you have further questions, please feel free to contact us via email in a more objective manner and we will be happy to answer any questions you might have...  In the meantime, I encourage you to get out and explore the fact that there are, in fact, people out there trying to make a difference in the world.  Also, FYI, we see and hear Tapir, peccaries, monkeys and many other wonderful critters here all the time. 

 

Respectfully,

Matt Hogan

Co-Founder

Finca Bellavista

www.fincabellavista.net

 

I just looked over the Bellavista web site

I just looked over the Bellavista web site. They are  pushing land almost totally covered with rainforest and rather big lots where they promise to build "treehouses".  Real treehouses up in the canopy is a dangerous idea since rainforest trees are shallow rooted and very subject to blow downs.These people are really talking about houses up on stilts close to trees or with a tree built into their construction. Same problem when a tree falls. Many big rainforest trees have large limbs covered in tons of epiphytes, some big tank plants with gallons of water in them. When one of these limbs gets too heavy and breaks off, woe be to anything underneath.

Costa Rica has a concept now built into law to allow residences in forest areas. It is seriously defective. You are allowed big lots of various acres but only one house per lot and most of the land untouched. This works to protect the plants but much of the animal life leaves, scared by human habitation everywhere.

I have lived in Costa Rica for 43 years and spent a lot of time in the forest. Only once in that time have I ever seen a tapir in the wild and it ran as fast as it could. Generally, wildlife is frightened of humans and with good reason.

Real ecocommunities would tell you about exactly where they are, how far above sea level, how they will be run, how their food and energy will be produced, etc., without BS about solar panels in dense rainforest!

Roy Lent

Finca Vellavista

Yet another glamorous website with an otherworldly eco concept: Finca Bellavista.  Also see this review of Finca Bellavista.

heard of this "eco" subdivision?

Here's another one, Vida Natural del Diamante - near me in the southern pacific close to Platanillo

http://www.vidanatural.info/index.html

finca las brisas

I originally found this site for a project of this type on ic.org listed as an intentional community.  It does look presented in a similar way to Gaia Vista's presentation, from what I can tell.  This project is supposedly starting construction this month in Guanacaste.  It's Finca Las Brisas.  Anybody heard of this one?

"The Real TRUTH"

Listen people ...the more I think about everything ..including the current debacle of the US financial system and the betrayal by all those who profited from it..there is NO ONE or ANYTHING you can trust anymore .....(I sort of knew that when I first started asking my questions...).

No one  knows what's going on. Current unprecedented times are a game changer.....

Find your "home" where your heart is...(wherever that may be)...because it is there that you will find your real profits, your sunsets, and if you look closely your million dollar views .........

(The best things in life are almost free..are they not?)

Happy New Year

Gaia Vista

These people are a good example of a common type of "green" operation. They claim to be a eco-village but obviously lack knowledge or experience to do what they claim they are going to do. One of their features is a hot tub by a waterfall. This tub is heated by propane gas! Eco-village indeed-

http://www.abisource.com. -->

Costa Rica has a number of pseudo green operations that are presented as eco-villages. They often say they will be growing most their own food but the land area is barely enough for the housing. Or they scatter little ecotheme decorations about such as an organic herb garden or such. Sort of like a tiny Dutch windmill in a miniature golf course, not where you would take grain to be milled.

 

Then there are the little one house villages built around a alternate living theme like a yoga retreat, a group organized around some religious cult or a raw food center. These are well intentioned but rarely become villages that seem welcoming to the average seeker.

 

A growing number of people involved in the organization of sustainable eco-villages in Costa Rica are leaning more and more away from the sale of lots and toward long term leasing of lots inside a land trust. The resident builds his home and owns the building and other improvements but not the land. The land trust can be overseen by a board of stewards as to ecological questions. As soon as you offer land in lots for sale in Costa Rica, a whole series of laws kick in that make the whole project more difficult, especially more expensive.

eco properties

Hmmmmmm......Interesting outlook.

So you are saying that the following buz words....
green tourism, green properties, off grid, environmentally conscious, good for the earth, ecobroker(definitly new)living green, etc etc....are sales gimmick.s.............??????

Why not put up a tent on the beach???????

above "Ojochal"

 They should be far enough away since, technically, my finca is in Punta Mala.

eco properties

ECO = a marketing ploy to overcome the backlash/bad press received from the so called environmentalists who have a certain disgust for speculator developers wanting to fill their coffers with (their real capitalist agenda) of exploiting the resources of poor countries ie. cheap land,cheap labor, cheap food, cheap views, cheap cheap cheap......= $$$$$$$$$$ profits from unsuspecting dreamer buyers..... Lets call a spade a spade..shall we....

location: "above Ojochal"

I haven't been there but did have a short email conversation in which the location was described as "above Ojochal" for what that's worth.

Gaia Vista

 I have heard of them but don't know exactly where they are located. Do you? The web site does not mention the exact place. I presume in Ojochal area. 

Those seem like good questions

I recently ran across this website - it seems to be close to your property, Jimmy.  Have you heard of them?

http://gaiavista.com/

eco properties

What constitutes eco "real estate"?  If I sub-divide my finca then stick a for sale sign in front advertising eco-friendly, does that mean I am a defender of the environment. Any of us could do that. How do these "eco" developers separate themselves for "normal" developers? Are they self-appointed?

eco properties

Thanks for clarifying my question and opening up a separate "topic of discussion".

The idea of buying land and then scraping up the hillsides and selling the land to attract people to build and inhabit these lands is in itself a "non green " concept....

What do you all think????? Isn't the whole concept hypocrytical.??.......

In my humble opinion man is a creature of habit who lives for massive consumption and making life easier for himself. Living "green" is hard and requires a lot of adjustments and personal sacrifice.

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