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Protecting Forests, Providing Power


The view of Lake Arenal from the Children’s Eternal Rainforest is captivating: bright blue waters flanked by the gray cone of Arenal Volcano and foreground of thousands of deep green treetops. Visitors to San Gerardo can enjoy this view on the way to the field station.

While the beauty of Lake Arenal is undeniable, the lake is in reality a reservoir that was created less than 35 years ago. This engineering project involved the displacement of two towns, the flooding of 33 square miles, and the disruption of a river system by a dam.

These environmental costs are tempered by benefits: the water collected in Lake Arenal runs through turbines that generate a significant portion of Costa Rica’s electricity and reduce the need to burn fossil fuels in order to have basic things such as refrigeration and lighting at night.

As demand for electricity in Costa Rica rises and we become increasingly aware of the environmental costs of hydroelectric dams, it is important for existing hydroelectric projects to be as productive as possible in order to minimize the need for new hydroelectric projects and fossil-fuel-burning power plants.

So where does the Children’s Eternal Rainforest come in? Well, healthy forests help to regulate the water cycle and reduce sedimentation in reservoirs. A drop of water that falls on the roof of the San Gerardo field station may very well end up flowing into Lake Arenal and tumbling through hydroelectric generators.

Costa Rica has set the ambitious goal of becoming carbon neutral by the year 2021. The Children’s Eternal Rainforest is playing a role in this mission by maintaining the effectiveness of existing energy sources. Contributions to Friends of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest help to protect more watersheds and continue safeguarding the rainforest and the services that it gives to society.

Originally published in 2017

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