Lykke E. Andersen

Homo rapiens, species extinction and the meaning of life

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

The impacts of Homo sapiens on this planet are enormous.  We have turned about a fifth of the total land area of this planet into agricultural fields and pasture to feed ourselves; we are burning massive amounts of fossil fuels, thus altering the composition of the atmosphere and causing climate change; we are extracting at least 150 million tons of fish from the oceans every year; and we area leaving our trash everywhere. This predatory behavior has prompted John Gray, professor emeritus of London School of Economics, to call us Homo rapiens (1). Guilt over our adverse impacts is widespread, and the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement goes as far as suggesting that humans should stop breeding in order to save the planet (2).

It is true that we are a rather successful and aggressive species, at least so far. But we have only been here for a few hundred thousand years and the 4.5 billion year old planet has been through a lot worse than humans. More than 99% of all the species that have ever lived on this planet went extinct before humans arrived on the scene. Most disappeared simply because they were not adaptive and competitive enough to survive over a long period of time (background extinction), while others disappeared in mass extinction events, such as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs and most other land-based species 65 million years ago. Still, the level of biodiversity is probably higher than it has ever been (see figure 1).

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Transforming problems into opportunities by mimicking nature

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is about to end its 20th annual conference in Lima, Peru, and heads of state and negotiators from every country on Earth are fighting to get other countries to reduce their CO2 emissions as much as possible, in order to keep global warming below catastrophic levels.

This approach to tackling climate change has, as one might have expected, proven depressingly ineffective. Since the Kyoto Protocol was agreed on in 1997, CO2 emissions have increased steadily, with not the slightest hint of a slow-down. The level of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere has now reached 400 ppm (parts per million), which is more than ever before observed in the history of Homo Sapiens.

Fortunately, there are lots of creative, constructive and persistent people working on practical solutions for a happier, healthier, greener and more sustainable future. Of the thousands of inspiring, creative and constructive TED talks, I have selected three that focus on transforming our current climate change problems into opportunities by mimicking nature:

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Day of Spring, Love, Peace and Ice

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

The 21st of September marks the beginning of spring in the southern hemisphere. In Bolivia, it is also the day of Love, Peace, Students, Doctors and Photographers (!!). Most relevant for this article, however, today is usually the day of the year that the extent of sea ice in the northern hemisphere reaches rock bottom, much to the concern of polar bears (or at least people concerned about polar bears). In the southern hemisphere, on the other hand, sea ice usually reaches its maximum extent on this day (possibly to the delight of penguins).

In this satellite era, the extent of sea ice is an easy-to-measure indicator about the state of the global climate (warmer climate -> less ice), but the extent of sea-ice itself also affects the global climate (less ice cover -> lower albedo (reflectance) -> warmer climate). Thus, many people watch this indicator closely, and the availability of several independent web-sites with daily updated data on sea-ice extent makes this possible, and even delightful (at least for data-freaks like me).

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Bolivia’s Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism in the limelight

Thanks to the collaboration of Candido Pastor, Wilberth Tejerina and Edil Tellez, we had a very interesting program centered on the eco-tourism potential of the lowlands of La Paz. Photo credit: GLP films/IDRC
Thanks to the collaboration of Candido Pastor, Wilberth Tejerina and Edil Tellez, we had a very interesting program centered on the eco-tourism potential of the lowlands of La Paz. Photo credit: GLP films/IDRC

During the first week of September 2014, the California-based film company GLP films came to Bolivia to make a video about the Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism for the Integral and Sustainable Management of Forests and Mother Earth, which is Bolivia’s alternative to the international REDD+ mechanism to reduce deforestation (see expedition web-site).

The video project is financed by the Think Tank Initiative managed by the International Development Research Centre in Canada, and the resulting video is expected be featured at a side event at the COP20 in Lima in December 2014.

Under the direction of Lykke Andersen from INESAD, and with the help of many other institutions and individuals, a 6-person film crew, armed to the teeth with gear, visited La Paz, Rurrenabaque, Bella Altura, Pando, Santa Cruz, Concepción, and El Torno.

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Bolivia’s Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism in the limelight

Thanks to the collaboration of Candido Pastor, Wilberth Tejerina and Edil Tellez, we had a very interesting program centered on the eco-tourism potential of the lowlands of La Paz. Photo credit: GLP films/IDRC
Thanks to the collaboration of Candido Pastor, Wilberth Tejerina and Edil Tellez, we had a very interesting program centered on the eco-tourism potential of the lowlands of La Paz. Photo credit: GLP films/IDRC

During the first week of September 2014, the California-based film company GLP films came to Bolivia to make a video about the Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism for the Integral and Sustainable Management of Forests and Mother Earth, which is Bolivia’s alternative to the international REDD+ mechanism to reduce deforestation (see expedition web-site).

The video project is financed by the Think Tank Initiative managed by the International Development Research Centre in Canada, and the resulting video is expected be featured at a side event at the COP20 in Lima in December 2014.

Under the direction of Lykke Andersen from INESAD, and with the help of many other institutions and individuals, a 6-person film crew, armed to the teeth with gear, visited La Paz, Rurrenabaque, Bella Altura, Pando, Santa Cruz, Concepción, and El Torno.

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Deforestation reduced – mission accomplished or too good to be true?

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

During the last decade, Bolivia had one of the highest per capita deforestation rates in the World (1). Apart from this being decidedly unkind to Mother Earth and exacerbating problems of wild fires, droughts and flooding in Bolivia, this also caused Bolivians to be among the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions in the World (approximately 11 t/CO2/person/year – more than almost all European countries and more than twice the global average) (2).

This was obviously a major problem in Bolivia, and at INESAD we have been working for several years on promoting policies to reduce deforestation. Thus, we should be thrilled by the recent news from ABT showing that Bolivia has reduced deforestation by 64% since 2010 (see Figure 1).

Info-niveles-disminucion_LRZIMA20140723_0021_11
Figure 1: ABT reports sharp reductions in deforestation in Bolivia between 2010 and 2013.
Source: La Razon, 23 July 2014 (http://www.la-razon.com/sociedad/ABT-Bolivia-redujo-deforestacion-bosques-anos_0_2093790639.html#.U9I6T0RWunI.facebook).

But it almost seems too good to be true. I suspect that everybody working in this area are asking themselves: Can this really be true?

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Deforestation reduced – mission accomplished or too good to be true?

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

During the last decade, Bolivia had one of the highest per capita deforestation rates in the World (1). Apart from this being decidedly unkind to Mother Earth and exacerbating problems of wild fires, droughts and flooding in Bolivia, this also caused Bolivians to be among the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions in the World (approximately 11 t/CO2/person/year – more than almost all European countries and more than twice the global average) (2).

This was obviously a major problem in Bolivia, and at INESAD we have been working for several years on promoting policies to reduce deforestation. Thus, we should be thrilled by the recent news from ABT showing that Bolivia has reduced deforestation by 64% since 2010 (see Figure 1).

Info-niveles-disminucion_LRZIMA20140723_0021_11
Figure 1: ABT reports sharp reductions in deforestation in Bolivia between 2010 and 2013.
Source: La Razon, 23 July 2014 (http://www.la-razon.com/sociedad/ABT-Bolivia-redujo-deforestacion-bosques-anos_0_2093790639.html#.U9I6T0RWunI.facebook).

But it almost seems too good to be true. I suspect that everybody working in this area are asking themselves: Can this really be true?

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Climate finance: Looking for synergies instead of additionality

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

In an attempt to deal with the threat of climate change, many development banks and development institutions have established considerable budgets in support of climate change mitigation and adaptation projects in addition to their usual development projects. For example, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is aiming for 25% of their lending portfolio to be destined to climate change and sustainable development projects by 2015.

There is a concern, however, that these climate change projects may not be truly additional, compared to the business-as-usual scenario, but may just represent a renaming of already existing projects (compare panels (i) and (ii) of Figure 1), or worse, that the climate change projects are actually diverting funds away from development projects to the detriment of the poor (panel (iii)).

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Earth Hour – why I have decided not to participate

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

You have got to be impressed by anybody who can rally several hundred million people around a cause.  WWF has managed to do that several years in a row by getting people to turn off the lights for one hour every year to highlight the impacts of our energy use on the global climate.

However, there are two important reasons why I have decided not to join this global event.

First, I think electricity is the World’s best poverty-reducing invention ever, and if we wanted to turn it off for an hour, it should be to think very hard about how to bring this crucial invention to the 1.3 billion people who still don’t have it and thus suffer from darkness, low productivity and extreme poverty.

Second, and a lot less obvious, is the fact that symbolic do-good-events like this tend to be counter-productive because they make people feel like they have acquired a license to indulge in self-interested and unethical behaviors (Mazar and Zhong, 2010).

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We live in a dangerous world and not only rural, indigenous, old women are vulnerable

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Even the most affluent and powerful people in the World are exposed to the risk of adverse shocks and stresses: Christopher Reeve (Superman) became a quadriplegic after a riding accident; Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years; Mel Gibson had to pay more than $400 million in his divorce settlement; Steve Jobs got fired from his own company; and Donald trump has declared bankruptcy four times.

We are all at risk of adversity, or even calamity, and the list of threats is endless: Natural disasters, illness, accidents, unemployment, price fluctuations, conflict, vandalism, fire, robbery, pest attacks, technological change, pollution, climate change, etc. Most of these threats are almost entirely outside our control and it is important that we build up resilience against them so that we will be able to overcome the challenges that we are bound to encounter.

Some people and households are more resilient than others, however. They bounce back even after severe adversity. Nelson Mandela, for example, became one of the most famous and respected presidents in the World and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after spending 27 years in prison; Christopher Reeve claimed that the accident, which left him paralyzed from the neck down, helped him appreciate life more and considered himself a very lucky man less paralyzed than many able-bodied men; and Donald Trump evidently rebuilt his fortune between bankruptcies.

While resilience is an integral part of the human psychology, it would be useful if we could measure and compare resilience in a more general way. This is what a new research paper and Policy Brief from INESAD proposes.

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