An example of a new kind of leader in the world

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

The kind of leader I would like right now – Carlos Alvarado Quesada, 39-year-old president of Costa Rica – is actually concerned about climate change.

Along with citizens of his country, he is figuring out how to do something about it.

Among other interesting assets, he has written three novels, been a singer in a rock band and chose an Afro-Latina, Epsy Cambell, as his vice president.

The night he was elected, April 1, 2018, he said, “We have seen a country with inequality, a country that needs to work to bring bigger opportunities to its various regions…to reduce the inequality between men and women. A country that must provide opportunities for people with disabilities, for the elderly, for our children.”*

In a world of oldster leaders hanging on like leeches to governments in trouble, Quesada is young, forward-looking and has a positive attitude at a time of increasing worry about our planet.

Even in rich countries where economies are doing well, anxiety flares into discontent at constant news about touchy and belligerent leaders, despots killing, or at least dissing, their own citizens, politicians frozen in place unable to make decisions, religious jihads and monumental acquisitiveness on the part of 1 percent of the world. Deep unease across the globe increases each time we learn of serious weather attacks (fire, wind, water, heat, cold); as well as what it is we’re not doing about loss of habitat for critters, shocking rates of extinction of insects that pollinate everything we grow, continued pollution of ocean and air….

Costa Rica is in the middle Latin America, a historic hotbed of revolution, poverty, greed and anger from leaders against their own people. In the midst of neighboring country fighting neighboring country, Costa Rica has been working on the welfare of its citizens for more than half a century. Current president Quesada continues the work of social justice begun by his predecessors who in 1948 banned a military in the country.

What a concept.

Quesada supports same-sex marriage, among other live-and-let-live progressions of this frightened and frightening era. “We believe in strong human rights,” he says, “Strong institutions, free press, gender equality.”

Be still my heart.

“The best way to lead is by example,” he says. “To show what’s possible and what’s good.”

Oh, dream on, USA. Our example of “leadership” has shoved us on a coal-burning train speeding backward to mean times; in other words, the politics of getting even; uncivilized language; a feudal wall; and fear of strangers and those who think differently from us.

Quesada’s country has worked on economic and political stability for decades. In a region of the world known for its neglected citizens, high poverty and corruption, this little country of nearly 6 million has worked steadily for half a century to get out of that trap, and it now has one of the lowest poverty rates in Latin America.

As in the rest of the world over the last half of the 20th century, Costa Rica lost forest. From a tree cover of 70 percent of the land the cover declined to 20 percent. In the 1990s, the government began a save and restore program, protecting existing rain forests and paying landowners to allow their land to regenerate. Now, more than 50 percent of the land is forested.

“People at the time said it was impossible,” Quesada said. “But we want to show that it’s not only possible, but that sustainability and growth can go hand in hand.”

Alvarado Quesada is taking on sainthood in my eyes.

Of the incompatibility of growth and sustainability, he said: “This is a false argument. Sustainability triggers new innovations, new developments, new jobs. It’s our job to show examples that this is possible.”

President Alvarado Quesada believes in young leaders to shift governments to face up to the world’s environmental ill health.
“We are going to live longer in this world and see the most devastating effects of climate change,” he said.

Quesada believes there is already a generational shift in how governments address environmental responsibility.

“When we grow old, people are going to ask us–did you do enough about it? So, we need to start answering that question today, now.”

He finds in his own younger constituents an educated willingness to do something, not sit around attacking environmentalists and pretending nothing’s wrong. Quesada understands because he is young that young people are closer to the problem and will use their ideas to stem the downward spiral toward global disaster.

Republican leaders in the U.S. are unelectable if they are environmentalists because they can’t get money from their big money backers who lobby for deregulation of their corporations. The oldsters of the R party would abolish the EPA (Newt Gingrich mentioned this); wannabes from the 2016 election talked about “reign of environmental terror” (Rick Santorum) and an “EPA [that] will have doors locked and lights turned off” (Michele Bachmann).

These are members of the GOP working for our health and the health of our country.

Corporate money talks (because corporate money is a person, according to a Supreme Court ruling). As we slide down fire ravaged hills turned to mud into warmer oceans rising to meet us, the least capable of saving themselves – the poor – will suffer the most.

The CEOs of oil companies and plastics, cement and combustion engines who are agin regulation that can still turn things around? I’m sure they’ll help out.

*Quotes taken from>/World 2.7.19; The Guardian 9/2/18; and BBC News 5/2/18.

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