Jason Barton

Professional Information and Energy News

Biodiversity’s Value to Humans and the Energy Matrix

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I’ve written before on the relationship between biodiversity and energy, mainly pointing out that if more land is converted to monoculture for biofuels feedstocks–be they corn, sugarcane, or grasses such as switchgrass or miscanthus–we threaten the long term viability of biofuels as a clean, renewable energy resource.

As the article below points out, biodiversity is essential for basic processes such as soil renewal and health, as well as water quality. Regardless of climate change or esoteric claims on the intrinsic value of nature, soil and water health have very tangible impacts on humans. It’s not to say that the former factors are irrelevant, but for most people there need to be more practical and immediate motivations to preserve biodiversity.

We find an excellent example of this in the surprising recent success of Brazil’s Green Party in last month’s presidential elections. In a country that, despite its meteoric economic growth of the last several years, continues to face serious poverty, nearly 20% of the votes in the national election went to the Green Party’s Marina Silva. As I have found in my own doctoral research on stakeholders’ priorities regarding sugarcane and ethanol production, the Brazilian people are finding that while continued economic prosperity is a necessity, so is the environmental health required to keep its population thriving, and this environmental health is not mutually exclusive to the health of an economy largely based on natural resources.

Convention on Biological Diversity

The least of God’s creatures has value

Global discussions on biodiversity are all very well, but most good conservation is done locally

Oct 21st 2010 | From The Economist print edition

SINCE the birth of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, there has been a welcome transformation in the language of global conservation. Policymakers and even some businesses have started to express a view of nature as a store of wealth—or “natural capital”. Talk of “ecosystem services” now draws attention to the helpful things that nature does unbidden, such as providing fresh soil and clean water.

This approach not only has the advantage of moving conservation from the domain of lofty morality down to earth, reflecting a pragmatism more likely to support and sustain action. It also serves to highlight the interests of the people who have most to gain from the recognition of natural capital’s value, and the most to lose by its squandering: poor people living close to nature in the developing world.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

October 22nd, 2010 at 10:09 pm