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Costa Rica: opposition to stone container transforms environmental campaigning

From 1992-1994, Friends of the Earth Costa Rica, together with communities and local organisations from the Osa peninsula in southern Costa Rica, developed a strong campaign to denounce and oppose transnational company Stone Container’s plans to grow 20,000 hectares of Gmelina arborea monoculture tree plantations.
Costa Rica: opposition to stone containerA local family on the Osa peninsula, Costa RicaThe plantations were intended to supply industrial quantities of wood chips for export to the US. The planned industrial complex and port were to be located in the heart of the Golfo Dulce, a major biodiversity spot and one of the country’s best preserved coastal areas.

 

The campaign successfully terminated the company’s plans, which were poorly planned, insensitive to local conditions and social characteristics, and likely to have huge social-environmental impacts.

 

The strength of the campaign was that it was organised by local communities, and included many protests and resistance actions. It also allowed local communities to consider and develop a political perspective on the importance and use of their territories, and it created political spaces for discussion with the government and others actors. Significantly, it also alerted the population to the need to discuss the current model of development, sustainability and local communities’ rights more generally.


The environmental sector then began to transform itself into a peoples’ movement, drawing increasingly on the concepts of social ecology and environmental economics, whilst building alliances with other people’s movements. The campaign also contributed to identifying the peasant and indigenous sectors as natural allies for proposals and discussions around environmental issues, and generated increased international solidarity.

 

The campaign against Stone Container also has a symbolic meaning since three young environmental activists that had participated actively in the campaign were killed in a fire in their home at exactly the same time that the campaign reached a successful conclusion. In addition, seven months and seven days later, another young environmentalist died mysteriously, and his body was found in a park in San Jose, located just in front of the headquarters of Stone Container.

 

In memory of María del Mar Cordero, Oscar Fallas, David Maradiaga and Jaime Bustamante, Friends of the Earth Costa Rica

 

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