USA Road Trip

We arrived in California for a 10 days road trip in Southern California and Arizona.

Our journey started today with the visit of the Grand Canyon… Rarely have we been so moved by nature’s raw beauty. This place is incredible and a delight for sight & soul.

Tomorrow, we will start a journey full of surprises for the kids who will discover many different facets of America!

    

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Wild Costa Rica – The Video

Our second stay in Costa Rica was definitely the best, probably because we escaped the surf beaches to focus on the natural reserves. From Arenal volcanoes in the north, to Platanillo’s forests in the center, and Corcovado Natural Reserve beautiful hikes and dives deep south, you will find the whole “Wild Costa Rica” experience in this video!

You can also find the full photo album here!

Now we are off to California! Stay tuned;-)

Diving Isla Cana – The Video

Dive with kids in the natural reserve of Isla Cana, the countries top dive site off Drake’s bay with tight usage restrictions to preserve the wildlife… and we did see plenty!

From sharks to turtles and huge schools of fishes, it was a good spot to get back to scuba-diving… Kids could give it a try: that’s the next challenge for them if we find countries that allow kids below 12 yo to dive (it seems you can only do it in France so far)….!

Into the Wild of Osa Peninsula

ENGLISH: After planting trees near Platanillo, we end up to Drake bay, an amazing spot for nature, wildlife and sea.

Most of the people arrive to this place by boat from Sierpe, but we did manage to arrive by car although we had to cross 3 rivers. Hopefully it was still the dry season, and the rivers had little water allowing to cross them easily: it is always fun to cross rivers by car!

We took a boat up to the Sierpe river among the mangrove and we saw slots, hurler monkeys, squirrels monkeys, a boa really big and impressive, iguanas and different kinds of birds. Amongst this variety we particularly loved to see the Scarlet macaw (Aras).
His huge and colorful plumes are amazing! Adults stay in couple their whole life, up to 70 years old!
Then we went diving on the Isla Cana natural reserve where we saw a lot of wildlife including some sharks that impressed the kids.
Finally, we hiked the Corcovado natural reserve that is an amazing place to observe wildlife. This national park protects varied tropical ecosystems, and this is really we saw the most animals, including rare ones.

Drake bay was a great place to stop by and enjoy preserved wildlife. We really enjoyed walking around desert beaches, swimming and hiking in the jungle. We hope it will stay untouched for the years to come.

FRANCAIS: Après avoir planté des arbres et retrouvé un peu de fraicheur dans les hauteurs de Platanillo, nous avons roulé jusqu’à la péninsule d’Osa.

Notre Guest House se trouvait à Drake bay, entre la mer et la réserve naturelle du Corcovado. Magnifique endroit très bien préservé où la grande majorité des personnes arrivent par bateau depuis Sierpe.

Nous avons pris la voiture et avons dû passer trois rivières qui à cette saison ont un niveau d’eau bas et que nous avons donc franchis facilement mais toujours avec plaisir!

Le parc naturel du Corcovado préserve un écosystème tropical. Les environs regorgent d’endroits pour observer la faune qui y est abondante, aussi bien terrestre que marine.

En bateau, nous avons remonté la rivière Sierpe, où nous avons pu observer les habitants des rives de la mangrove.
Nous avons pu observer : paresseux à trois doigts, singes hurleurs, singes capucins ou singes écureuils, un boa vraiment très bien caché mais impressionnant par sa taille, des iguanes, un basilic vert (ils courent sur l’eau grâce à sa rapidité) et même un crocodile de 3 mètres ça ne donne pas du tout envie de se baigner!!!

Nous ne nous sommes pas lassés d’observer les aras, magnifiques perroquets aux plumes longues et colorées de rouge, bleu, jaune et d’un peu de vert!

Nous avons profité de ce lieu aussi pour se promener le long des plages désertiques et découvrir la faune au cours de longues marches dans la jungle. Nous avons eu la chance d’observer le fourmilier et les enfants ont observé une sorte de loutre ou putois… nous n’avons pas réussi à trouver l’étrange animal!

Ballades, baignades, bateau, découverte de la faune…nous avons bien profité de ce lieu tranquille et magique!

La mauvaise foi

«Parce qu’ils n’aiment personne, ils croient qu’ils aiment Dieu»
Charles Péguy
En hommage aux victimes des attentats de Bruxelles, Paris, Abidjan, Bamako, Ankara, Istanbul, Beirut, Baghdad, Damas… et toutes les autres villes et peuples qui souffrent d’une violence aveugle, sans objet ni avenir.

La Vie sacrée

“Un jour, il nous faudra bien répondre à notre véritable vocation, qui n’est pas de produire et de consommer sans fin, mais d’aimer, admirer et prendre soin de la Vie sous toutes ses formes.”

Pierre Rabhi

Carbon sequestration = Planting trees

Costa Rica: Nature’s heaven, for now…

Costa Rica is one of the few countries on Earth that has a real policy regarding nature protection, like the ability for any citizen to take defense for endangered ecosystems. After more than 6 weeks in the country, we could tell that this attention towards nature is most of the time true and visible, even if in some cases it gets close to « green-washing » or fake « eco-friendly » businesses…

Costa Rica has numerous natural reserves and parks, more wildlife than most countries have, lots of forests now fairly well protected, close to 95% sustainable energy production for electricity (making it the first country in the world to become « carbon neutral » in the next few years), and a progressive « Earth University » that is looking at the many challenges of ecosystems’ preservation and sustainable development, including carbon sequestration.

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Beware of the “Green Washing”

Still, many ecological corridors are broken, some areas are suffering some « el Nino » drought that revealed the scale of the too many forest cuttings in the 70’s to favor cattle breeding (sponsored by the government at that time), and the whole country seems « for sale » with lots of semi-controlled « ocean view » real estate programs that are for sure challenging the nature’s protection laws (with apparently a lot of corruption of the authorities by the large land owners and promoters). Furthermore, in many “eco” places, especially along the coast, recycling is an hoax (no recycling capabilities beyond the trash containers), people dump trash all over the place, while Gringos (USA and other western countries’ tourists) turn the aircon at full power the windows opened in their hotels rooms or 4WD, all under the “eco-friendly” label…
Costa Rica and visitors can improve to really live-up to the “eco” promise!

Looking for true Carbon Sequestration… in Costa Rica!

Those were interesting facts and thoughts as we were looking to go further with our Carbon Footprint reduction program, and through our research we found that Costa Rica was probably the right place to live the experience with different public and private initiatives.

As we explained in a previous post, having already compensated 2,5x times our world tour emissions, we were looking at compensating 5 tons of CO2 a year for the next 10 years to get closer to COP21 objectives ahead of time…

We therefore looked for a grass root NGO that would help us to do real Carbon Sequestration. Not just preventing future emissions (like we did with other programs), but really taking C02 from the atmosphere in the form of… trees!
Trees are indeed the only real Carbon Sequestration system that is working for now (even some industrial projects are starting to show some efficiency like CO2 injection into former geologic pockets of oil and gaz). That’s why it’s so important to protect forests wherever possible, but also plant trees and rebuild an ecosystem where it has been destroyed.

18-IMG_1005As we wanted to do and understand by ourselves, we contacted Jenny from Association Community Carbon Trees (ACCT) here in Costa Rica.
Jenny has been working in non-profit in Costa Rica for 15 years, and launched ACCT in 2008 with the triple ambition to :
1) Help companies and individuals sequestrate Carbon based on their emissions
2) Restore natural ecosystems and corridors through carefully selected tree species (not monoculture) and locations
3) Provide a positive social impact by employing locals and supporting sustainable economic development of rural areas.

We spent 2 days with the kids going through the whole process. Here is the story.

From ecosystem destruction to ecosystem restauration

Jenny took us to one of the association base-camps in a small village. On the way, we crossed several landscape that went from original Rain Forest, fairly humid and fresh, to completely dry and almost desertic pasture that did not retain any water and barely fed the skinny cattle.


The contrast was shocking, but some restored parcels also showed us that what had been destroyed in a few years can also be restored in a few years. Nature is extremely resilient, but it needs the help of humans to return from desert to rain forest.

Reforesting means planting small species first to cast shadow on the ground, bring the temperature down, allow for the soil to regenerate a bit, and then only start replanting carefully selected species that can survive, play a specific role (like holding the ground), and bring back diversity that is needed to grow healthy forest that can sustain and host the wildlife.

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Forest protected and restored: nicer, isn’t it?

Education and local sustainable economy

In this small village, the Association organized a game to let adults and kids learn about the different tree species of the region, the same ones that are being replanted. It was wonderful to see how knowledgeable the kids were !
It was also great to see locals trading products that come from the ecosystem restauration, like certain foods…

OK, should we plant trees ?

Well before doing so, Jenny wanted us to understand the whole process.
At her place, we had a passionate debate about the true efficiency of Carbon Sequestration through trees.
How do you mesure it ?
How do you assess the real impact of each species ?
What is the methodology to get to 100% reliable certification (not green washing) ?
How do you mesure the whole impact beyond carbon sequestration, like ecosystem rehabilitation (something you can not do through monoculture plantations) and positive social impact ?

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Debate about the magic formula to calculate the CO2 sequestration per tree…

Many questions that have partial answers for now due to our current state of knowledge, but Jenny had a clear roadmap to get those questions answered with the help of the Earth University (where she got trained) and a certification program robust enough (e.g. statistically significant and accurate) to assess the actual CO2 sequestration of the different reforestation programs.

For now, Community Carbon Trees (ACCT) guarantees 1 ton of CO2 per tree after a guaranteed lifetime of 25 years, the optimal time to reach maximum sequestration potential under the tropics. Which is certainly largely underestimated as it’s a « lower average » not accounting for all the CO2 sequestered in the soil for instance…

First things first : the seeds

Restoring diversity goes through collecting diverse seeds. Jenny did show us a bunch of different seeds that each required a different treatment to imitate the way Nature would do. We had fun breaking dozens of Guava shells that contained « marshmallow like » sweet texture that monkeys love, and of course the precious seeds (that’s why the monkeys swallow those seeds, offering them free transportation across the jungle). To imitate monkeys contribution, we had to soak the seeds overnight…

Once the different kinds of seeds were extracted and prepared, we had to plant them in the nursery in humid and fertilized dirt.

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Now planting those seeds!

Collecting the baby plants

The next step was to collet the baby trees that were a few weeks old and replant them into plastic containers that had also fertilized dirt and enough space to grow for at least a year. The kids were super-active filling the bags with dirt and compost, digging a hole and replanting the baby tree, organizing the space, and watering it all.
In the nursery, we could see several generations of trees, and after lots of efforts and love (with some mortality though), trees reached the good age of 3 years old, ready for some action.

 

The real thing : replanting the trees into the wild!

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Jenny and a 3 yo tree ready to go!

This is the part we could not do ourselves as we were still in the dry season. But this is where the real job starts as it needs science and efforts !
Indeed, as explained earlier, you don’t just plant 3 yo trees randomly in nature, or you are guaranteed to reach 100% mortality within a year.

You need to walk long distance in the jungle (or the « desert »), prepare the ground by planting small species first to bring the temperature down and allow the soil to regenerate, start replanting the selected tree species that can survive, do some control testing a year after together with some cleaning of the lianas to avoid the teenager trees to die…

After 3 years, only then do you know the survival rate of the trees, and that the survivors will grow adult and do their job of sucking CO2 from the air to make beautiful organic construction that retain water, welcome the animals, and makes the air much fresher and breathable for humans…

We committed to « sponsor » 50 of those trees, and some of the seeds we planted will make their way to the mountain in the hands of the volunteers and workers of the villages. Hopefully, they will help to restore an ecological corridor and sequestrate those 50 tons that we want to offset, or even more;-)

Thanks Jenny

20-IMG_1027The 2 days with ACCT and Jenny were a wonderful experience. Challenging for the mind and the bodies, but delighting for the soul.

We met several likeminded people sharing the same aspiration to think and act differently in our everyday lives, hopefully giving a positive contribution for what it slowly but surely becoming mankind’s biggest collective challenge: Global Warming.

A big thank to Jenny for her contagious energy and for pioneering the « sustainable carbon sequestration » adventure as it will become increasingly important in a near future. We will all need it !

We will follow-up to see how our “Beautiful World Tour” trees are doing!

If you want to plan trees for yourself, you can sponsor trees here!

You can also watch the video here:

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THE DREAM (PLANTING) TEAM!

Mountains of Costa Rica

Back from Nicaragua, we headed to Lago Arenal, a lake surrounded by volcanoes, included the Arenal volcano that was still spitting lava in 2010…

It was a complete change, switching from dry landscapes to a tropical alpine climate with beautiful flowers everywhere.

Arenal is a fantastic playground for nature lovers with numerous hikes, dozens of canyoning and rafting opportunities, and a wonderful spot for observing wildlife and birds. So we did a bit of all of that, carefully sequencing our daily “nature and adrenaline dose” after the morning classes, as yes, kids had to go back to school one more time (and we could complete Jade’s full year maths program, yahooooo).

One hike, the “Cerro Chato” volcano, was particularly challenging has I decided to run it… 8K and 500 meters positive elevation in 1h30’… It took me a few days to recover;-)

For the kids, the rafting experience was probably the most memorable with 20 kms down a level 3-4 river!

Overall, Arenal was a great experience, even if it’s another kind of Costa Rica with european prices and wealthy tourists, it’s certainly a “must-have” for nature lovers.

Here are a few pictures of the experience there with the final sunset picture taken in beautiful Playa Dominical back on the coast.

Now heading back to the jungle south of the country to sequestrate some more carbon (plant trees)!

And the Rafting Adventure photo gallery!

 

rafting