Oil exploitation in protected areas – a contradiction in terms?

LykkeAndersen2By: Lykke E. Andersen*

During this week’s Climate Change Conference in La Paz, several participants expressed concern about Bolivia’s plans for oil drilling in National Parks following the recent Supreme Decree 2366 of 20 May 2015, which explicitly permits oil drilling in some protected areas in Bolivia in the name of poverty reduction and integral development for the people living in these areas.

In the conference session on Climate Change and Ecosystems, the panelists were asked if it was not contradictory to allow oil exploitation in national parks, and if anybody knew of any examples anywhere in the World where it had been done successfully. One of the panelists, Stanley Arguedas, Co-President of the Commission on Environmental Management of the International Union of Nature Conservation (CGE-IUCN) from Costa Rica, admitted that he did not personally know of any successful examples, but that, in theory, oil exploitation could be done in protected areas without compromising the objectives of the national park.

This tiny theoretical opening, coming from a top conservationist, is what I would like to explore in this blog.

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Tropical glacier loss: Real and fake solutions

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Bernard Francou, a famous glaciologist from the IRD in France, today made a very interesting presentation in La Paz about the loss of tropical glaciers around the World. It was only one of many interesting presentations made at the Climate Change Conference that is taking place these days, but it was so interesting indeed, that it inspired me to write my second blog in one day.

Francou documented the decrease in tropical glacier mass starting roughly in 1976 for the glaciers in the Andes and the Rocky Mountains and about a decade later for most other tropical glaciers in the World. Although tropical glaciers contain only a tiny part of all the ice on the planet, their melting currently contributes to about 26% of global sea level rise.

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Making smarter climate change policies requires us to acknowledge the limits to our knowledge

LykkeAndersen2By: Lykke E. Andersen*

There is little doubt that human greenhouse gas emissions, mainly arising from the burning of fossil fuels and forests, are warming the planet. The physical properties of CO2 in the atmosphere imply that a doubling of CO2 concentrations from the current 400 parts per million (ppm) to 800 ppm would directly cause an increase in the average global temperature of about 1°C, and with that increase in temperatures we would also experience an increase in global precipitation. That much we know with a high degree of certainty.

Anything beyond that, however, is highly uncertain. While most climate models incorporate positive feedback effects that amplify the initial direct warming effect several times, historical data suggests that there are important negative feedbacks that help stabilize global temperatures. Most importantly, Earth’s temperature has oscillated within a relatively narrow band for hundreds of millions of years despite much higher and much lower CO2 concentrations in the past (see Figures 1 and 2). In addition, during the last couple of decades, global temperatures have not increased nearly as much as suggested by the models with strong positive feedbacks. Thus, we should have only low confidence in our knowledge about feedback effects and temperature increases beyond 1°C.

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Pope Francis’ encyclical: A landmark in environmental thinking

By Susana del Granado *

The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.”

Pope Francis, 2015

“I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” is one of the beginning lines of the Pope’s encyclical, released by the Vatican yesterday at noon. Traditionally the encyclical is a letter from the Pope to the Bishops about Catholicism, but it has evolved into an open letter to society discussing the Pope’s insights and concerns on a particular matter. Pope John XXII (1963) was the first, to my knowledge, to address society in general in his efforts to reform the Catholic Church.

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Can you envision a sustainable world? Do you dare to dream today?

By Susana del Granado *

“A vision comes not from the intellect or the mind but from the heart, from the soul”

Donella Meadows

Today, June 5th , we celebrate World Environment Day and, as a celebration, the United Nations Environmental Program has launched a campaign and a contest about “sharing your dream[1]” to move people to imagine a sustainable future and to trigger discussion on the objectives for sustainable development[2].

A vision is a desirable future and, by definition, it is a positive image of what you want to see in the future. Donella Meadows, an environmental scientist and leading author of “The Limits to Growth”, while presenting at an ecological economics conference, inspired and requested her audience to envision a sustainable future. To develop that vision, she asked them to get comfortable, to close their eyes, to take a deep breath, and to dream:[3] Read the rest of this entry »

Time travel and other environmentally friendly pleasures

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

“That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest. ”

Henry David Thoreau

In honor of World Environment Day, I have compiled a list of delightful activities that bring great pleasure at little cost and with very little environmental impact. Consider doing more of the following: Read the rest of this entry »

Deforestation and reforestation in Bolivia: A thought experiment

LykkeAndersen2By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Within the Bolivian government, there are parts that encourage a massive expansion of the agricultural frontier, and other parts that work to control deforestation in order to reduce the local and global impacts of climate change. These are pretty much opposing policies, so consider the following hypothetical question: How large an area would we have to reforest in order to compensate the carbon emissions caused by the expansion of the agricultural frontier by 2.5 million hectares, if we wanted to reach carbon emission neutrality by 2030. Read the rest of this entry »

Father’s Day and teenage pregnancy in Bolivia

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Fertility rates have been going down all over the World much faster than most people realize. Fertility rates in Bolivia, for example, have come down from 6.5 babies per woman in 1971 to 3.2 in 2013, which is typical of developing countries (1).

This evolution made me suspect that the problem of high teenage pregnancy in Bolivia perhaps has already solved itself, and that I don’t really have to worry about becoming a grandmother anytime soon.

However, a quick look at the latest Bolivian population census (2012) indicates that teenage pregnancy is still very common. Seven percent of all 15 year olds already have a child, and this share increases to a whopping 49 percent for the 20 year olds, many of which already have 3 children (see Table 1).

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Anti-feministic musings on International Women’s Day


LykkeAndersen3By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Today is International Women’s Day and you are likely to be bombarded with posts, articles and speeches listing all the ways in which women are wronged and discriminated against. Some of it is true in some places, and there are definitely problems that have to be dealt with, but the concept of Women’s Day still bothers me, for several reasons.

First, designating one day as Women’s Day would seem to imply that the other 364 days of the year are men’s days. That is a very long way from equality. Either we should have one Women’s day and one Men’s day, or neither of the two. Anything else would be discriminating.

Second, Women’s Day tends to perpetuate the perception that women are weak and repressed and unfairly treated. But why is it that in almost every country on Earth (except Botswana, Swaziland and Mali), women live longer than men? (1). Either women are built much tougher or they live easier, less dangerous and less stressful lives than men. Women are a lot smarter and stronger than feminists give them credit for.

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Incredible Internet Inequality

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen & Fabián Soria*

According to the latest Bolivian Population Census (2012), only 9.6% of households have Internet access (either fixed or wireless). Considering that the Bolivian Constitution puts telecommunications (including Internet) on par with water, sanitation and electricity as a basic human right, this coverage is outrageously low.

The main reason for the low coverage is the high cost. Even after nationalizing the telecommunications sector (2008) and investing USD 300 million in our very own telecommunications satellite, Tupac Katari (2013), Internet services in Bolivia remain patchy, expensive and slow compared to other countries in the region. For most Bolivians, having Internet at home is simply unaffordable.

Figure 1 shows that, for an average person in Bolivia, one hour of work would buy less than 1 day of a lousy 1Mbps (Megabits per second) Internet connection, whereas the average person in “developed countries,” such as the Netherlands, South Korea, Denmark, and China could buy several years worth of such a service for just one hour of work.

Figure 1: Internet Purchasing Power (days of 1Mbps Internet service that can be bought for one hour of work), as well as average download speed and average cost per Mbps.


Source: Authors’ elaboration based on a survey among Facebook friends (and friends’ friends) during February 2015 Notes: The calculations are rough and based on a very limited number of observations in each country (often just one). Effective download speed was measured by all participants using http://www.speedtest.net/. The average hourly salary is estimated from the Gross National Income per person. Most friends are located in main cities, which may not be representative of the whole country. In some places, free cable TV is included in the price.

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