Published on December 23rd, 2018 | by Cynthia Shahan0
Horse Whispering, Car Exhaust, & Emissions Regulations In Costa Rica
December 23rd, 2018 by Cynthia Shahan
I was recently invited along for an exploration of horse whispering in Costa Rica. I made plans to stay at a horse ranch with 11 horses, 2 goats, countless roosters crowing all night long (no, not cock-a-doodle-doo, but “You woke me up“), 4 cats, 1 dog, birds, iguanas, cows (peeking into the wide open bathroom windows — as my traveling companion said, “The neighbors are spying on me”), and so many critters.
Like many of our CleanTechnica readers and writers, I’ve read that Costa Rica is tops for renewable energy. So I was thinking of clean air on the way there. Well, on the ranch that was true, as we were remote and mountainside with steep horse trails and free-roaming horses (and we did learn oh so much more about horses).
What we hear from the outside is always subject to question. If we want the authentic perspective of the inside of a situation or place, we really have to experience it for ourselves. So, I can’t convey to you the experience you would have, but a few things did surprise me.
Google Maps in the Mountains of Costa Rica
Besides the horse whispering in Costa Rica, I planned to look into the EV infrastructure. Things changed at the start. Google maps dangerously misled us in the mountains and set off our trip with a situation from which we barely escaped.
Long before daylight, way up on a ranch in the mountains, we waded through a stream, up a steep incline, to the horses’ home. I thought, “Wonder if the car is still stuck on the mountain or washed away, sliding into the stream that ran across the so-called road.” (The rainy season was not yet over.) I will say, for a grandma to walk through a forest (near midnight), wade a stream, and climb a stiff incline in the dead of night is a great story — but only after safe arrival and then recovery of the car. We were in a remote area. Later, we found that others have lost cars stuck on that mountainous path when the rains come, thanks to poor routes (recommended by Google Maps) in that part of the mountains of Costa Rica. The ranchers reported the problem on Google Maps, but nothing changed.
The next morning, I asked our ranch host if there was a tow truck he could recommend to help unstick my car so that I could attempt to drive out of the path. He smiled — I was showing my gringo nature. No, no such help in this part of the mountains. He said he would help us move it.
The mountain folks were kind and came out to watch as what seemed like muscle, angels, and magic moved countless boulders of immense weights so that I could drive through the shallow stream to another unpaved mountain path that eventually led to a driveway.
After that, I wondered if they have any EVs or charging stations in these mountains, naively thinking that if there is renewable energy, they are also concerned about toxic emissions, particulates, and air pollution from cars.
A few days later, I drove the rental car we rescued to the nearest town. I was meeting with a health professional there on another investigation for another piece of work.
Exhaust, Particulates, Emissions
Immediately, as I came near the town, I pulled my shirt up to cover my mouth and nose. The smell of exhaust was so extreme. I started having triggered memories from the smell of a small town in West Virginia in the 1960s. The emissions hit me hard, too hard. That town I was remembering harbored one of the largest steel mills in the country at that time. My grandparents lived near an immense train station.
I always remembered the smell from that steel mill. Apparently, this time it was more related to the old cars, cars that lack the emissions standards of the US today. Suddenly, I realized gas and diesel cars have improved quite a bit in the US, and emissions standards are significantly better than in the 1960s. In this small town, not far from San Jose, I was remembering the drive to grandpa’s and the smell of particulates invading my head and lungs in a hurtful way. That happened every week going to visit my grandparents in the 1960s. Life before the EPA.
So, here, inside a village in a country of rainforests, I was hurtfully shocked by the emissions. On a lighter side, the health professional I meet held higher standards of expertise in her field than I have found before — and she had a healing personality like an energy healer, even though her work was western-based medicine and she also held a most professional exterior.
So, Costa Rica was a mixture of extremes. The emissions would have to be tolerated many times as I came and went from town to visit her and gather more of her knowledge and work.
I sat eating dinner with my horse ranch companions later that night and asked the ranchers about emissions locally. The answer was, yes, poor regulations, but also that politicians who padded their pockets played into the problem. Another one of the interns was a 24-year-old German horse lady. We were talking electric cars, mass transit, and cobalt, among the most wonderfully diverse topics after a day of horses.
She looked up at me in a kind of wonder and disbelief with her fine English and spirited German expressions, and I paraphrase: “You have only one person sometimes in these large cars and trucks — in the US?'” She was struggling to grasp as I do why on earth such big SUVs and trucks are taking up so much space, using so much fuel, and often carrying only one or two people. Perhaps it is fearless travelers and horsewomen, but it turned out that none of us really cared for cars. Among our other companions were two Americans with good jobs who also choose to live a car-free life.
On each drive into town, each time, I pulled my clothes over my face to stop at least some of the particulates. Wild boy, as he was called, often whizzed by me on his motorcycle — dangerously. Lots of motorcycles and cars seemed to be putting out some pretty dark smoke.
I pulled up PlugShare and ChargePoint. No, not a charging spot in any direction. There was a complete lack of infrastructure for electric cars as far as I could tell. I looked at major cities in Costa Rica, such as San Jose. There would be one, maybe two. I did not see one EV my whole stay in Costa Rica — and I looked for them. I drove into San Jose twice.
“A chemical composition of 50% of the protein in our bodies. 80% nitrogen in our bodies indirectly comes from the chemical signature of this fossil sunlight that we are mining. So we are different than our ancestors. They were made of sunlight, we are made of fossil fuels.”
We learned of an incredible need for EV education, EV incentives, EV infrastructure, and solutions for the emissions problems. We met particulates and exhaust as I remember from steel mill towns of the US in the 1960s, and found not one sighting of an electric car.
On the ranch in Central America, we found kind support. We enjoyed a diverse group of ranchers and horse people in the mountains leading us to understand more of the profound relationship between horse and human — and person to person as well. We learned we could walk through unknown forests in the dark, move boulders, and manage problems without an app to call for help. But we missed better emissions controls and signs of EV life.
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