January 15, 2018

I often pass around a bag full of international coins to my students at Iowa State University. They should keep the coin and put on their bucket list to some day visit that country. Because I grew up in Colombia there are lost of “centavos” in that bag. Almost invariably students who get a Colombian coin say, “Why would I want to go to a country of drug dealers, kidnappers, and poor people?”

The reason is that according to the Nature Conservancy Colombia is the second most biologically diverse country on Earth.  It is home to one of every 10 species of plants and animals on the planet and has 1,870 bird species the largest diversity of birds of any nation.

“Why would I want to go to a country of drug dealers, kidnappers, and poor people?”

Colombia is a stunning example of multiple innovative conservation policies that set the example for the rest of the world. One I remember from my childhood was the Páramo de Sumapaz, one of several high mountain spongy ecosystems that are unique in holding, filtering, and releasing massive amounts of clean water.  These Páramos supply several of Colombians largest cities with potable water.  There has been a concerted effort to preserve and protect these remarkable natural assets.

This is only one example of a complex system of conservation initiatives that Colombia has put in place including protection of three of Latin America’s largest rivers the Magdalena, Orinoco, and Colombian Amazon River basins.

It’s too bad that Carlos Escobar, the FARC guerillas, kidnappings, and other negatives are well known but these remarkable efforts remain-under reported.



Introduction to this Under-reported series.

Summary guide to all under-reported articles in this series.