Sustainability Development and Eco-tourism

Costa Rica beachDuring her detailed presentation at today’s conference, Gina Guillen – senior advisor to the Costa Rican Minister of Tourism – discussed the challenges and benefits of eco-tourism.

 Eco-tourism, Guillen said, generated over $1 million in revenues last year. This went to help conservation efforts.

She discussed  the Blue Flag certification program, which helps protect Costa Rica’s oceans, beaches and waterways.

Eco-tourism helps generate social development, she stressed, stating that she believed there has to be a balance between sustainability and development.

Adopting "green"- peer pressure works

Four SeasonsDuring one presentation at today’s conference, it was revealed that famed hotel chain, Four Seasons, had adopted green practices  in Costa Rica.

And only here.

Why? Peer pressure apparantly. With the concerted efforts of Costa Rica’s tourist board, CANAECO, along with the support of the Costa Rican government, Four Seasons realized that it was in their best interest – and would help attract more tourists – if they embraced sustainable practices.

So what would it take for them to implement them company wide,  wonder?  Just a thought.

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.

Sustainable architecture's impact


Bruno StagnoYesterday, renowned architect Bruno Stagno spoke during the sustainable tourism confrerence about the importance of creating sustainable architecture that adapts to the local climate.

Stagno, winner of numerous international awards including from the Dominican Republic and Holland, stressed the need to recognize and incorporate Nature in architectural design, or, as he calls it, bioclimatic architecture.

Stagno said that 50 percent of the world’s existing forests are located in tropical areas. Of the UN’s membership, 108 countries in are in these areas.

“We have to develop guidelines foe eco-development,” Stagno said.

Stagno is currently working on projects to bring forests to urban settings, particularly in San Jose, Costa Rica.

More soon.

UN indicates lowered expectations from environmental summit in Copenhagen

Indications that this December’s  Copenhagen summit might not achieve its environmental goals came yesterday when Janos Pasztor, Director of the UN Secretary-general’s Climate Change Support Team, said he doesn’t expect any solid agreement to emerge, based on the lack of a comprehensive climate bill from the U.S. Congress and a lack of consensus from industrialized nations.

The UN still plans to push governments toward forging the content of an agreement, he said, even though the talks may not produce a binding treaty.

This is a discouraging prediction that, if true, hold serious global ramifications.