Heroes

How Costa Rica went without fossil fuels for 76 days and what we can learn from it.

While we were all playing Pokémon Go, Costa Rica helped save the planet.

How Costa Rica went without fossil fuels for 76 days and what we can learn from it.

If Costa Rica were a kid going back to school, it would have a pretty awesome story to tell when asked what it did over its summer vacation.

Image via iStock.

"Oh nothing. I just ran entirely on renewable energy for 76 days. BOOYAH!" Costa Rica would say proudly.

OK, so this is the Costa Rican women's volleyball team celebrating their own victory at the Rio Olympics, but they'd probably be pretty pumped about renewable energy too. Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/Getty Images.


According to the Costa Rica Electricity Institute (ICE), from June 17 through Aug. 31, 100% of Costa Rica's energy needs were met by renewable energy, predominantly from hydropower.

Cayuita, Costa Rica. Photo by Armando Maynez/Flickr.

This makes  considering the small country is overflowing with various bodies of water.

Costa Rican waterfall. Photo by Luke H. Gordon/Flickr.

Hydropower supplied 80% of the country's energy requirements, followed by geothermal at 12%, and wind at 7%. Solar only contributed 0.01%, but that was to be expected considering how often it rains there.

As exciting as this news is, it's only about half of Costa Rica's environmentally conscious accomplishments concerning energy production over the past year.

Even more impressive, the country has accumulated over 150 days of 100% clean electricity this year to date, according to the National Center of Energy Control.

One of Costa Rica's hydroelectric dams. Photo by Ezequiel Becerra/Getty Images.

"We are a small country with great goals!" ICE wrote on its Facebook page. "We remain committed to the goal of carbon neutrality by 2021."

They're well on their way, too. In 2015, the country managed to produce 99% of its energy through renewables.

It should be noted, of course, that Costa Rica is a small country and therefore doesn't need to generate as much power as, say, America.

And, as mentioned, Costa Rica has a ton of water power from which to pull energy.

Hydroelectric power plant. Photo by Ezequiel Becerra/Getty Images.

But that doesn't mean its achievement should be discounted. If anything, it's a shining example of what a country can do with the natural resources it has.

Costa Rica joins a number of other smaller countries making the deliberate shift toward complete reliance on renewable energy.

On Aug. 7, 2016, Scotland, which boasts the largest oil reserve in the European Union, produced enough energy from wind turbines to power the country for an entire day.

Wind turbines in Scotland. Photo by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images.

While that may not sound like a lot compared to Costa Rica's two-month renewable power feat, when you consider that Scotland is one-third larger than Costa Rica and that wind power typically produces less energy than hydropower, it's still a pretty impressive achievement.

Meanwhile, Germany is sprinting ahead when it comes to production of solar energy. On June 25, 2015, 78% of the country's electricity demands were met by solar power.

Electrician at Gehrlicher Solar company checking panels. Photo via AFP/Getty Images.

These countries' renewable energy models may be difficult for larger countries to emulate exactly, but their efforts are inspiring nonetheless.

In order for renewable energy to really make an impact worldwide, there's a lot that will need to be done in terms of city planning, allocating costs, etc. But these small models prove it can be done with a little ingenuity and concerted effort.  

In fact the United States, Mexico, and Canada are taking a lesson from these star student countries and have already pledged to have 50% of their power come from renewable energy by 2025.

Renewable energy classes are officially in session. Take a seat, rest of the world.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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