Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” has countries around the world talking about global warming and the fate of the planet Earth, and Costa Rica hasn’t been left out of the discussion.
The former U.S. Vice-President’s documentary, which spells out scientific evidence of global warming by following Gore on his lectures around the United States, arrived last month to Cine Magaly, in San José, and is making its way to theaters around the country.
Special screenings have brought together representatives from the tourism industry, nonprofits and politicians to hear Gore’s hard-hitting message: greenhouse gas emissions are heating up the earth at an alarming rate, and if we don’t curb the damage now, we’ll soon pay a painful price (TT, Oct. 6).
Approximately 500 representatives from the tourism industry and nonprofit organizations nearly filled the theater at Cine Magaly Wednesday.
Ana Baez, president of the company Tourism and Conservation Consulters, said this high turnout on a workday morning impressed her.
“This shows that people are willing to make changes,” Baez said, pointing out that the tourism industry has a particular responsibility in using practices that are environmentally sustainable.
After the movie, attendees took in a presentation by Amos Bien, international program director of the nonprofit International Ecotourism Society. Bien shed light on how Costa Rica fares in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
“Costa Rica has been a model and we can continue to be a model,” Bien said, explaining that Costa Rica creates most (90%) of its energy from renewable sources.
However, the country’s citizens lag behind in doing their part, he said.
“In our homes, we don’t practice what we practice as a country. This is a country with renewable energy sources, but it is also a country that is full of trash,” Bien said.
He offered a list of changes people can make in their everyday lives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (see box).
Another screening last month, also at Cine Magaly, was attended by Ottón Solís, president of the Citizen Action Party (PAC), along with a few other PAC members, head of Paramount Pictures Costa Rica Luis Carcheri and friends.
As would be expected, the post-movie discussion turned political as the small audience asked what global warming means for Costa Rica and whether the country is doing enough.
“We have to create a model of development that is based on green markets,” Solís said, criticizing Costa Rica’s lack of environmental standards for foreign companies to set up shop here.
“We should absolutely require that foreign countries who come to Costa Rica pledge to protect the environment,” Solís said. “Instead of saying that every dollar is a good dollar, we should look at the environmental policies these companies are bringing with them. This is a way to make ourselves more competitive internationally.”
Creating these requirements is crucial in light of the Central American-Free Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA), which Costa Rica is the only signatory country not to ratify. The agreement, which is being debated in the Legislative Assembly, would mean more foreign companies coming to Costa Rica, Solís said.
Unlike Bien, Solís said Costa Rican citizens are ahead of the government in doing their part to help the environment.
“People here have advanced a lot in keeping their communities clean … voluntarily separating their trash to recycle and protecting farms in rural communities,” Solís said.
The handful of guests at the screening agreed Costa Ricans are willing to do more to protect the planet.
At the end of “An Inconvenient Truth,” a list of things viewers can do to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions rolls along with the credits.Viewers who spoke with The Tico Times seemed to be taking them to heart. Fernando León, 22, said he plans to start a recycling habit. “Recycling is something that’s not hard to do, and we have to make a commitment to do this and other small things step by step like turning off the lights and using public transportation instead of cars.”
His brother Carlos León, 24, agreed the movie’s message is clear. “We have to get into action to do something now. People think that because we’re a small country it doesn’t really matter, but really it’s all about attitude.”
Solís said the movie’s “educational value” can provide a launching point for citizens to make these changes.
“I hope everyone comes to see it,” he said.
See the “Weekend” section for schedule information.
What You Can Do
In Your Home: In the shower, use water heaters that attach to the showerhead rather than water heater tanks. Hang clothes to dry rather than using clothes dryers. If you buy a clothes dryer, buy one that is energy efficient. Replace standard light bulbs with florescent or compact, energy-efficient light bulbs. Turn off computers, TVs, cell phone chargers and lights when they’re not in use. Reduce, recycle and reuse your trash.
On the Road: Use public transportation or carpool rather than driving alone. When traveling by bus, encourage the driver to turn off the bus while waiting for passengers and at stops. Keep your car well tuned and in good condition and avoid using air conditioning in the car. When buying or renting a vehicle, get one that is hybrid or energyefficient. When flying, choose airlines that have pledged to strive for low carbon emissions.
When Shopping for Food: Buy less meat. Buy organic foods. Buy fewer frozen foods. Buy foods with less packaging. Buy local products. Bring your own grocery bags when you shop. Shop at your local farmers’ market.
Visit www.climatecrisis.net to read more about how you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Source: Amos Bien, director of international programs, The Ecotourism Society.