The UCI Program in Public Health presents

"Linking Social and Ecological Determinants to Public Health: Case Studies of Disparities in Conservation and Development in Costa Rica"


Bernardo Aguilar-Gonzalez
Executive Director, Fundacion Neotropica
President, Mesoamerican Society for Ecological Economics
Instructor of the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica,
Universidad para la Cooperacion Internacional and
National University of Costa Rica

Monday, April 4, 2011
12:00-1:00 p.m.
UCI University Club

For decades Costa Rica has enjoyed a "Green Republic" and exemplary democracy reputation with recognitions as the happiest and most sustainable country in the world. This has marked it as an exceptional nation in Mesoamerica, attracting substantial attention from the scientific community and high visitation rates from tourists. Effectively, this reputation is the result of one of the most ambitious attempts to establish a bioregional conservation area system, a progressive approach to environmental regulation and the social results of the welfare state, which prevailed as a development model between 1948 and the early 1980s. This welfare state includes one of the most reputable social medicine systems in our hemisphere. Yet, during the last 30 years it becomes obvious that the efforts of conservation have been focused mostly in rural areas, while poorly planned economic growth concentrates mostly in urban areas in the center of Costa Rica. Further, large-scale foreign investments are favored by government authorities to promote development in rural areas that are close to protected areas. This leads to two realities: One where environmental conflicts abound and development is restricted leading to higher migration rates and lower social and health indicators and another one which has significant urban environmental problems aside higher economic and social/health indicators. Will Costa Rica live up to its enlightened reputation? This question opens very interesting venues of research and work for academics and students interested in areas such as Public Health, Political Ecology, Environmental Sociology, Ecological Economics and Latin American Studies. The presentation will critically describe four case studies that illustrate the diagnosis in the South Pacific, Central Pacific, Central Valley and Northeastern Costa Rica which involve Neotropica Foundation's work, hoping to attract interest for further involvement of University of California-Irvine through the creation of course and research opportunities.

A light lunch will be provided.

For further information about the Program in Public Health Seminar, please email


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