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Who Rules the Earth?How Social Rules Shape Our Planet and Our Lives$
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Paul F. Steinberg

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199896615

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199896615.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 20 June 2021

Scaling Down

Scaling Down

8 (p.183) Scaling Down
Who Rules the Earth?

Paul F. Steinberg

Oxford University Press

Dominical is a small town nestled on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, where tropical forests spill onto the sandy shores of its world-renowned beaches. Dominical has a laid-back atmosphere of surf shops, open-air restaurants, and children in school uniforms weaving between the puddles and rocks on their way to class. But behind the scenes, something else is going on in Dominical. A clue can be found alongside the dirt road that runs through the center of town, where a billboard for Century 21 Real Estate depicts a happy couple overlooking their oceanfront property, accompanied by the English-language caption “Your Piece of Paradise!” The sign provides a glimpse of the larger forces at play in this remote corner of Central America. A frenzy of speculative real estate development is underway, led by foreigners vying for their own piece of paradise before the remaining lots are all sold by the local farmers whose families have inhabited the land for generations. One such farmer is Juan Carlos Madrigal. I visited Juan Carlos with a group of students in 2008 during one of my annual trips to Costa Rica, to learn more about how local landowners are coping with these pressures. This land has been in his family for a long time, its towering tropical forest encompassing tree plantations, bean, and cocoa crops, and sweeping views of the ocean. After a hike across the property, we cooled off in a swimming hole below a large waterfall, one of many in the area, which thundered down from the lush jungle above, the water volume swollen by seasonal rains. After toweling off we sat down and began the interview, discussing his vision for the future of this land. A humble yet dignified man with wrinkles deepened from decades of farming, Madrigal reported that a group of Americans had recently approached him with an offer to buy his property for a million dollars. Shaking his head, he said that of course he refused.

Keywords:   Federalist Papers, Mexican government, bicycle lanes, cattle ranching, dams, greenhouse gases, overfishing, public opinion, race-to-the-bottom hypothesis, think vertically, tragedy of the commons

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