Monday, August 15, 2011

Stewards of the Earth

On GMOs, Roman Catholic bishops in Kenya are credited with "taking a new stance," and though it's only a small switch it's surprising to me how many people are against it. What's the new stance? If you're going to starve to death because of famine, it's really much better to eat genetically modified food than to die. ... I know, what was the policy before? Death before GMO? And there are people against this!? I think we need to call in Jon Stewart for this one.

On "over"population, I wish there were far more people arguing that babies are not the problem. Here is one argument from Yglesias:
It’s especially mistaken, I think, to try to look at children as a negative environmental externality. The beginning of wisdom here is to note that pollution isn’t “bad for the planet.” The planet is a gigantic roughly spherical chunk of rocks that can easily survive whatever level of greenhouse gas emissions or whatever else we care to pump into the atmosphere. The big picture ecological threat is a threat to human beings, and to the continued existence of ecological conditions that are conducive to human flourishing. Radical population reduction would sharply reduce the quantity of anthropogenic ecological impacts, but to what end? The goal needs to be to reconfigure human activity in order to make it sustainable over a longer time horizon. But sustained human flourishing requires both acceptable levels of ecological impact and also the continued production of new human beings.
On the lowered and falling prospects for jatropha, a new report by Wu and Kant addresses the Indian and Chinese largely failed plans:
It appears to be an extreme case of a well intentioned top down climate mitigation approach, undertaken without adequate preparation and ignoring conflict of interest, and adopted in good faith by other countries, gone awry bringing misery to millions of poorest people across the world. And it happened because the principle of “due diligence” before taking up large ventures was ignored everywhere. As climate mitigation and adaptation activities intensify attracting large investments there is danger of such lapses becoming more frequent ...
On the land grab, there is a new film out attacking the primary banana corporation in Cameroon. Among the interesting political economy issues:
"If you look at the congressman of the region, he is also the director of public relations of the company, the minister of trade of Cameroon is also president of the board of directors of the company."
An interesting paper showcases informal seed exchange between farmers for preserving seed diversity in Mozambique following a disaster. They argue food aid should include local seed varieties as part of the package to speed diversity recovery following a disaster.
The research established that nearly 90% of the farmers in the affected areas received cowpea relief seed immediately after the back-to-back calamities. Two years after, only one-fifth of the recipient farmers were still growing the seeds, while more than half sourced their seeds from markets. However, this did little in restoring cowpea diversity in the affected communities as the seeds bought by farmers from the market were mostly uniform, coming from other districts that grew just one or a few select varieties. 
On the other hand, about one-third of the affected farmers obtained seeds from friends and relatives living within the same or neighbouring localities to restock their farms – the same people that they have been exchanging seeds with prior to the disasters. This practice was the main reason why cowpea diversity was restored in these areas, the study showed.

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