Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Biodiversity’ tag

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

Biodiversity is an essential and overlooked factor in human and environmental health

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It may not seem to be related to energy, but especially in my work with plant-based biofuels, biodiversity is highly impacted in the agricultural processes, often harmed by monoculture from feedstocks such as corn and sugarcane. Biodiversity contributes to ecosystems’ ability to respond to shocks, be they natural or induced by humans; it is essential to human and environmental health; and it is necessary to ensure productive ecosystems if for no other reason than a strong economy, but it is almost completely overlooked in media and public discussions.

Trying to Lace Together a Consensus on Biodiversity Across a Global Landscape

Published: September 29, 2010

UNITED NATIONS — Amid the howling motorcades, the scrums of burly security guards and the buzz of countless meetings around the United Nations in recent days, the Venerable Bun Saluth, a Cambodian Buddhist monk with a shaved head, stood out with his vivid saffron robes, his unassuming manner — and for taking what some might call tree


As global issues go, biodiversity exists in the shadow of climate change, facing similar problems but attracting a fraction of the attention despite concerted efforts. (In case you had not noticed, the United Nations declared 2010 the Year of Biodiversity.)

Almost every United Nations member state is party to the 1992 Convention on Biodiversity, the holdouts being the United States, Andorra and the Vatican, United Nations officials said.


The debate is so entrenched that a group of 17 nations, including heavyweights like Brazil, India and China, have formed an alliance with an unwieldy name, the Group of Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries, to combat what they call “biopiracy.”

“Countries like Brazil and India are victims of biopiracy over many decades, and we have to protect our bioresources, we have to protect our traditional knowledge,” said Jairam Ramesh, India’s environment minister.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

September 30th, 2010 at 8:33 am