Persistance over Perfection



Looking back at our time in Costa Rica for the 2019 Earth Expedition trip, the theme that most stands out for me is Persistence over Perfection. I think often we become frustrated and give up on conservation efforts far too easily.

For instance how many times have we heard someone give up on trying to use reusable bags because “half the time {they} forget to bring their bags to the store”. The message is: I can’t be perfect why keep trying?

Similarly, people disparage the effort of the individual. What good can one house with solar panels, or one electric or hybrid car do when so many won’t even consider the switch.

But the conservation efforts we experienced in Costa Rica seem to have overcome the obstacle of perfection and instead plunged forward with persistence.


Yorkin Village

In Yorkin, the BriBri Village, the women of Stibrawpa are the very essence of persistence. It took Bernarda, the founder, years to convince the elder men of the village that the women’s plan for a community-based ecotourism community projects was the best opportunity to revive their culture and teach their children the old sustainable traditions. Even today their cultural preservation is not perfect. Cell phones can be seen all over their little village. This and other forms of technology have caused a great deal of concern as leaders wonder how they fit into their culture. The villagers are aware that there are benefits to the technology and problems caused by technology (Gibian, 2015). But, technology seems to have come to stay. However, they have not given up on persistently preserving the parts of their culture that they can hold on to: their stories, their language, their knowledge of the plants, animals, and ecosystem.


Estacion Las Tortugas

Our second destination was an equally inspiring example of the importance of persistence over expectations of perfection. At the turtle station, biologists and dedicated guides and volunteers work tirelessly through the night, patrolling the beaches to protect the eggs of sea turtles. Our group was blessed with the opportunity to see a beautiful leatherback turtle lay her eggs in the sand our first night out. Some of the people in our group were able to help with taking measurements and other data as she lay her egg into a sack so they could be moved to a safer location. I had the amazing experience of getting to help rebury the eggs in what we all hoped would be a safer location. I remember being near tears as I touched and gently placed the soft-shelled, fragile eggs into the deep hole, hoping they would one day emerge as tiny miniature turtles.

But, the next day we were all once again near tears; this time for a much less joyful moment. As we watched the biologist dig up a nest that had been incubating for too long, the slow realization that the nest had been poached wrenched the hearts of everyone there. The biologist, too, was heartbroken. She understood the imperfection of their efforts. But she persisted. And in their persistence, the organization has saved thousands of baby turtles over the years, and have reduced the poaching of the beach from 100% to 5% ( seeturtle.org, 2019).



Our third field site was the cloud rain forest of Monteverde. Here we experienced first hand the effects of climate change. The clouds that create the unique ecosystem of this special type of rain forest have gradually moved up in elevation. The effects of this one change have left viable changes. The trees at the slightly lower elevation no longer have as much moss and epiphyte  cover as they once did. Seeing these effects can be a powerful reminder of the importance of working to combat climate change.

It can also make a person feel small and ineffective in their own carbon footprint reduction efforts. After all, even at our best, we know that our actions are never perfect. But according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, there are individual choices we can make such as more fuel-efficient cars, eating less meat and insulating our homes more . If we are persistent in our choices, we can reduce our personal carbon output by 20% or more, despite our cultures current highly imperfect system of dealing with the threat of climate change. And in our persistence, perhaps we can influence others as well.

Gibian, (2015) Why aren’t Costa Rica’s Indigenous Students Graduating? https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/12/costa-ricas-indigenous-students/421335/

SeeTurtles (n.d.) Las Tortugas Research Station. https://www.seeturtles.org/costa-rica-las-tortugas-station

Union of Concerned Scientists (n.d) what can I do about climate change? https://www.ucsusa.org/what-can-i-do-about-climate-change

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