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Tropical forests suffer with increased food exports

Sustainability / -

Carne e soia
© Barbara Walton/epa/Corbis

A third of deforestation in tropical countries is caused by the production and export of beef, soybeans, palm oil and timber products: all data that should prompt us to think about what kind of diet we should follow to reduce our environmental impact.

Deforestation in the tropics is mainly caused by production, by the increase in global demand and by the export of four types of product: beef, soy, palm oil and timber. It is the contention of a report entitled Trading forests: quantifying the contribution of global commodity markets to emissions from tropical deforestation published by one of the leading American think-tanks, the Center for Global Development, a non-profit organization that researches the best strategies for development economies as a whole.
 
The research, carried out between 2000 and 2009, focuses on eight tropical countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. It takes into account the four commodities which pose a risk to deforestation and therefore cause an increase in emissions of greenhouse gases (CO2) into the atmosphere, causing global warming.
 
The causes of tropical deforestation
The research argues that one-third of recent deforestation has been caused by increased production of beef, soy, palm oil and timber exports to international trade. With a few exceptions, the countries studied represent a large proportion of the volumes of the export products studied. The trade of timber accounts for about half of the world’s trade, while 83 percent of beef and 99 percent of soybeans come from Latin America. Indonesia and Malaysia produce 82 percent of all palm oil present in the world, accounting for 97 percent of global exports.
 
These figures also impact on climate change, one of the most serious threats that the international community is trying to address with little success. The production and trade of these products were responsible for the deforestation of 3.9 million hectares and the emission of 1.7 billion tons of CO2 in 2009 alone.
 
Meat, soy and more
Beef is the worst product for the climate and the environment. Beef alone was responsible for 739 million tons of CO2 (about half of the total), of which 645 million in Brazil alone, causing two-thirds of deforestation (2.6 million hectares). Wood products, pulp and paper included, are the second largest source of emissions producing 481 million metric tons of CO2, while the cultivation of soybeans was the second leading cause of deforestation, with half a million acres burned to the ground.
 
Exports and therefore the globalization of consumption cannot be analyzed separately because about one third of all deforestation has become necessary to meet the rise in demand for agricultural products, particularly from China and the countries that are part of the European Union. Exports, therefore, have been the driving force behind deforestation in almost all the countries covered by the research with the exception of Brazil and Bolivia: a worrying number given that exports have risen in six of the eight countries.
 
At a time in history when the fight against global warming, protecting biodiversity and the phenomenon of land grabbing are among the most serious issues that our generation faces, we must keep in mind these data when choosing the type of diet to follow. For example by reducing meat, increasing your intake of in-season and local fruits and vegetables, avoiding products with certain components (palm oil is now ubiquitous) or checking geographical origins, can all make a difference.
 

We Mexicans want to sow the seeds of a better world.

Economy / -

Enrique Peña Nieto, presidente del Messico

It is an honor for me to visit Expo Milano 2015. I want to thank Italy for inviting Mexico and allowing us to take part in this world event.

I am sure that the exposition will raise awareness on one of the most important challenges for humanity: nutrition.
 
With the participation of 142 countries, this event is without a doubt, the most successful worldwide on this issue. The theme ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for life’ encourages us to explore challenges and solutions for nutrition, food and sustainable development. The goal is a delicate yet an important one: to provide healthy, safe and sufficient foods for all, in full respect of the environment.
 
With this future in mind, Mexico has built a pavilion focused on the theme ‘The Seed for a New World: Food, Diversity and Heritage’. The wonderful design by Architect Francisco López Guerra and the high level of the installations inside the Pavilion will allow the visitors to enjoy the cultural, environmental and culinary richness that my Country can offer.
 
Mexican gastronomy, like that of Italy, stands out with its intense flavors and wide variety, and it was also acknowledged by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Expo Milano 2015 will allow visitors to share experiences, sensations and healthy, balanced combinations that our culinary cultures offer.
 
The Mexico Pavilion is actually inspired by corn, not only as a basic food for the Mexican peoples, but also because it is an essential part of our indigenous populations’ cosmogony. In the same way, we hope that this experience can emphasize the Mexican interest in the development of innovative technologies with the goal to confront the future in a sustainable way.
 
In this context of awareness, traditions and innovations, we Mexicans want to sow the seeds of a better world. 
 
 
 
 
 

February 4, 1906. Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, the father of bioeconomy

Economy / -

Nicholas Georgescu- Roegen
© Marianne Lee/AgStock Images/Corbis

Starting in 1970, Georgescu-Roegen developed a new approach, called bio-economy, based on the analysis of the economic system as an integral part of the environment, and therefore subject to the principles of physics and biology.

Born in Romania, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1906-1994) received his PhD in statistics at the Sorbonne University. From France he moved to London and then moved to Harvard as a researcher. He returned to his country, where in addition to conducting research activities (particularly in the field of agricultural economics), he also held important political and institutional positions, until leaving Romania in 1948. He emigrated  to the United States, where he became professor of economics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He remained there until the end of his career, becoming the founder of bioeconomy and degrowth. His main area of work was with The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, 1971.


"The economy ignores the concept of entropy, or the non-reversibility of the transformations of energy and matter".
At the base of Georgescu-Roegen's elaboration  is the intuition  having brought the economic processes of production and consumption within the  realm of biophysics. He created what would become a discipline, or perhaps a vision of the world, known as'"ecological economics" or "bio-economy".

Georgescu-Roegen developed the thesis that the agricultural and industrial production, as it is practiced according to the current economic "laws”, can not last long for physical reasons. These types of production depend on the transformation of matter into energy and the use of  energy, from anywhere it is taken, and during each step of the process the quality of energy worsens and becomes less and less available to produce useful work. This was stated by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that at the end of each process, the quality of the energy (i.e. the possibility that energy can still be used by someone else) is always worse than at the start.

In the new "bio-economic vision" both economics and biology are therefore governed by the law of entropy. Drawing on the terminology and concepts of thermodynamics, Georgescu-Roegen states that, from a purely physical point of view, the economic process   does not use mater-energy in a state of low entropy, returning it in a state of high entropy, thus decreasing the opportunity to be "re-used" in the future. 

"The second law of thermodynamics tells us that the entire universe is subject to a qualitative degradation  that is continuous, as   entropy increases, this increase is irreversible. Consequently, natural resources can pass through the economic process only once: the gap remains irreversibly wasted. Humans cannot defeat this law any more than I can stop the action of the law of gravity; the economic process, such is as biological life itself is unidirectional. "- from Energy and Economic Myths, Boringhieri, 1982

Being  that the biosphere is a closed system (it exchanges energy, but not matter), this irreversible entropic degradation of increasing amounts of matter and energy carried by the unlimited growth of production will inevitably run out of the energy and material foundations on which it is based. The "bio-economy" Georgescu-Roegen, in contrast, offers as a solution the decrease in consumption and production in rich countries.

Conclusions:
Georgescu-Roegen’s main commitment to the arts and science was represented by the continual attempt to explain his views to his fellow economists and also to a wider audience. He believed that economic growth: the increase in the production of automobiles, tomato paste, of cement or any other "merchandise" and the accompanying economic growth that this implies, is a total depletion of the planet’s resources, and a decrease in the amount of material goods that the planet Earth will be able to provide in the future. This is not a message of despair, but rather a call for hope and change: a call for research on new ways to reformulate   the economy. The work for young  scholars (and also those older older) is vast and  grand.

 
 

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