Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Meeting with Costa Rican Leaders

This morning we met with Dr Pedro Leon who is a professor of medicine at Costa Rica University, was a presidential science adviser in the previous administration and spearheaded the country's Paz con la Naturaleza (peace with nature) program which includes developing the national park system initiative SINAC, and is working to implement the current national challenge of becoming Carbon Neutral by the end of the decade.

His talk included some very interesting ideas such as we are wasting our precious fossil fuels, which are so important for synthesizing materials like plastics and medicine, by simply burning them.  The three main thrusts of the Paz con la Naturaleza for Costa Ricfa are Carbon Neutrality by the end of the decade, Marine environmental protection and comprehensive land use planning for the entire country.  In 1961, 53% of Costa Rica was forest and by 1987 only 21% of the country was forest.  In the year 2000, Costa Rica is 43% forest thanks to environmental stewardship practices enacted by the government.

Costa Rica is pursuing a national strategy of Energy Sovereignty that will give CR a competitive advantage in the marketplace and is a unifying national focus.

His theory is using fossil fuels is like paying rent, year after year, never making any financial headway, never building up any equity.  We need to make the investment to buy a house (invest in long term, energy saving strategies that will pay for themselves in the long run) and start creating equity with the money we spend.

It was a very interesting talk.

Next we went to the US Embassy where we listened to several presentations about the kinds of things our US Embassy in CR is doing.  Especially interesting was the back and forth session we had with the person in charge of Environmental Issues and Initiatives partnering with Costa Rica.  This guy was the front lines of making environmental planning and policy a reality.  He was a wealth of primary information.  It was awesome.

The best talk of the day by far though was the Minister of Education for Costa Rica, Dr Leonardo Garnier who is the current Minister of Education (the highest ranking educator in all of Costa Rica).  His talk was inspiring considering how close he was to my own feelings about education reform and he is actually IN CHARGE of a major governmental educational effort.  I'll do a separate post on his ideas next.  Right now I need to get ready for our 5:30 call on our way to school visits.

Here are some shots on the way to the Embassy.

More tomorrow!  Buenos noches!

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