After researching the island of El Cocal it was difficult to know exactly what to expect. Considering the poor reputation and lack of acknowledgement from the Costa Rican government my assumptions of the community were that it may not be inviting to foreigners. Thankfully I couldn’t have been more wrong, not only was the environment breathtaking but the locals were open and friendly. As we walked through El Cocal there was an astounding feeling as though we were truly welcomed from the people we experienced. Whether it was the school children engaging with us unprompted, waving, laughing, playing or the people walking past flashing a simple smile.
With this said, although the locals seemed happy from first impressions the state of the community was worse than I expected. You didn’t need to look far to find wrappers, plastic, bottles, cans, clothing and organic waste such as palm leaves, wood scraps and coconut shells. The main road and fronts of houses seemed relatively maintained, although the mangroves and backs of houses were clearly neglected. Piles of previously burnt garbage were apparent every few houses or so. I noticed some houses bagging their garbage but it wasn’t as common.
As discussed today there will need to be a drastic behaviour change amongst the community and their relationship to garbage/environment. For generations throwing waste on the ground has not been destructive as it was almost entirely biodegradable. This same practice continues but with most indestructible material known to man, plastic. Something as simple as a plastic bag can take as long as 1000 years to decompose. Although with education and time to implement a sustainable solution that is simple for locals I believe this could drastically improve the state of the environment.