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Bill Clinton to speak at Environment Forum

From the print edition

Organizers hinted that the keynote speaker for the second annual Sustainability and Happiness Business Forum would be “of an even higher level” than the presenter in 2011, ex-U.S. Vice President Al Gore. 

That statement proved true when former U.S. President Bill Clinton was named the final speaker of the two-day summit.

Javier del Campo, director of forum organizer Terra Partners, announced Clinton’s attendance during a press conference Tuesday morning at Hotel InterContinental in Escazú, southwest of San José. 

Clinton, who was the U.S. president from 1993 to 2001 and had Al Gore as his vice president, highlights a forum that takes place May 8-9 at the Hotel InterContinental. Clinton will speak on the final day at 7 p.m., giving a presentation called “Embracing our Common Humanity.” The speech will go for an hour to an hour and 20 minutes. 

Registration for the two-day summit costs $750, with discounts offered for groups. Capacity for Clinton’s forum is 650 guests. 

Del Campo said the goal for the forum was to bring in “high-level” speakers “to represent the world’s different regions, cultures and ideas.”

“I think we succeeded,” he said.

A presentation by Brazil’s former environment minister and presidential candidate, Marina Silva, is scheduled for May 8. Bhutan’s director of the Center for Bhutanese Studies, Dasho Karma Ura, will speak the morning of May 9. Moderated roundtable discussions are a new addition to the 2012 forum. Topics for chats include sustainable tourism, sustainable agriculture and energy. 

Costa Rica-based business leaders will speak, too. John Murphy, president of Coca-Cola Interamericana, Rodrigo Gámez, president of National Biodiversity Institute, and Teófilo del la Torre, president of the Costa Rican Electricity Institute will give talks before Clinton takes the spotlight.

Clinton’s commitment to the forum attaches a major name for the second consecutive year to an event designed for local business owners.

Last year, Gore gave an hour-long presentation on climate change, often praising Costa Rica’s role in fighting global warming (TT, March 18, 2011).

“I am filled with admiration for your country and I hope that you know I am not saying so just to flatter my hosts or all of you here,” Gore said at last year’s event. “But I hope you fully understand and accept that the rest of the world has an image of this country as a true leader in the community of nations. It is in pursuit of peace and peacemaking, the elevation of universal human values, the prioritization of education over violence and warfare, and the commitment to sustainable development and the Earth’s ecological system. Costa Rica truly is a hero among nations.”

Gore won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 and an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2006 for the climate change film “An Inconvenient Truth.” 

Clinton’s environmentalism credentials might be less honed, but his prestige is unmatched in the public speaking circuit. 

“Clinton is a more integral speaker,” del Campo said. “He not only talks about climate change but also about poverty, health issues and the commitment that corporations and governments have to establish to really make a difference and to make a change on the planet.” 

Del Campo said the international backgrounds of the speakers also give Costa Rican entrepreneurs an outsider’s perspective on sustainable development and on what needs to be improved.

Karma Ura will define his country’s National Happiness Index, and what it means to study cheerfulness in Bhutan.

Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Thimley spoke last week at a United Nations forum in New York City, where Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla also talked on the topic of happiness.

Thimley launched the National Happiness Index in the small Himalayan kingdom in 2008. The policy describes development in the country in terms of the population’s well-being and environmental sustainability. Karma Ura is one of the main authorities on the policy.

“It’s an issue that has a direct link to Costa Rica, which is considered one of the happiest countries in the world and also has a recognized expertise for sustainable development,” del Campo said.

Silva will give a presentation on sustainable development in emerging economies that will close out the first night of the forum. The former Brazilian presidential candidate, who received 19 percent of the vote as a member of the Green Party, served as the environment minister under popular former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for five years. Colleagues have given Silva the nickname the “the voice of the Amazon.” 

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