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Surfing and Sustainability: Political Ecology in Costa Rica • Summer

Surfers with boards

Surfing is simultaneously a sport, a lifestyle, and an iconic part of American and global popular culture.  It is also an ideal lens for analyzing a range of contemporary cultural processes associated with commodification and globalization, histories of colonialism, gender, tourism, and sustainability. The Surfing & Sustainability program introduces students to surfing as a globalizing cultural phenomenon as it is manifested in communities on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, a country widely recognized as an icon of successful conservation. As a magnet for global surf tourism, Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast is being rapidly transformed as communities face the complex challenges of promoting sustainability and conserving nature while catering to increasing demands for development and economic growth.

During the program students visit a number of national parks and reserves as well as sites of rapid development – resorts, large housing tracts and gated communities.  In the process we will meet with people representing different viewpoints on conservation, development, and sustainability. The program emphasizes an ethnographic approach and includes learning to surf as an experiential component of observation and analysis.

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