Sustainabilty – from rivers to reforestation

In today’s conference, speaker Rafael Gallo outlined his challenges and successes with protecting Costa Rica’s rivers and his evolving environmental activism.

Beginning as a white water river rafting operation, Gallo began with local tourists. In 1985, Gallo and his brother began a campaign to save Costa Rica’s rivers.

“We had to protect the rivers that gave us income,” he said.

In 1986, the brothers were able to delay the building of a dam on one of the rivers for six weeks. Ultimately this forced the corporation to do an Environmental Impact Review, a step they’d ignored.

From there, Gallo bought land along the river, with plans to restore land that had been deforested. He even hired a farmer to help reforest who’d originally cleared the land of trees!

Gallo worked with the surrounding communities. Recognizing the importance of providing financial benefits that empower local people, he has helped turn them into eco-preneurs, some with franchises of this river rafting company, helping them become self-sufficient.

His eco-activism continued to evolve and grow, creating a foundation to successful lobby against another river dam.

Always ahead of the environmental game, Gallo was the winner of the 1st National Geographic Eco-Tourism award. His re-forestation projects include planting over 10,000 trees on land that had been deforested.

Gallo is currently working with the country of Bhutan to help them establish river rafting as a viable sustainable recreational tourist service.

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