Natural Resources

With or without you: Should the international cooperation support reduction of deforestation in Bolivia?

There are some policies that are obviously correct from both environmental and economic viewpoints, but which are nevertheless difficult to implement. The elimination of fossil fuel subsidies is such an example. This year, the Bolivian government expects to spend at least US$750 million on direct subsidies to diesel (62%), gasoline (27%) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) (10%) use (1). Apart from dramatically reducing funds available for public investment, these subsidies also encourage contamination, congestion and deforestation (2), all of which mean substantially higher social costs than the direct costs of the subsidy itself. The beneficiaries of the subsidy are dominated by the agro-industry in Santa Cruz, which profits greatly from the combination of cheap diesel and cheap land. Thus, the subsidy is by no means pro-poor, and a lot of the benefits are even lost to neighboring countries, as their nationals rent cheap land and use subsidized fuel for growing crops in Bolivia. For example, more than 70% of the area dedicated to soy production over the last decade is in the hands of foreigners (3). The Bolivian government realizes all this and has tried, unsuccessfully, to eliminate the fuel subsidy.

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Book Roast: Ecoliterate—A Book Of Inspiration for Practical Action

One of the hardest things to do for anyone interested in issues of environmental sustainability is to translate ideas and complaints into practical, positive, change-making action. For those who try to teach the next generation of environmental and social leaders in schools, in communities, or even online, this is even more important—merely talking about problems is likely to inspire only the students’ depression and frustration at lack of solutions. Luckily, Ecoliterate, a new book by psychologist Daniel Goleman and Lisa Bennett and Zenobia Barlow of the Center of Ecoliteracy—an organization that supports and advances education for sustainable living—is a deep well of ideas for those seeking inspiration.

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Guest Roast: Mining Companies’ Violations In Developing Countries—Who Is Responsible?

By Grahame Russel

Increasingly, over the past few years, information has been published about serious human rights violations and health and environmental harms being caused in Guatemala by (mainly) Canadian mining company operations: Goldcorp Inc., Radius Gold Inc., Tahoe Resources Inc., Hudbay Minerals, and others.

It is not possible to understand how these violations and harms occur, and will continue to occur, without understanding the political context.  Read More »

Guest Roast: A Native Perspective on Gold Mining in Guatemala

By Cathy Gerrior

My name is Cathy Gerrior. My spirit name is white turtle woman and I am a Mi’kmaq Elder and Ceremony Keeper from TurtleIsland.  I was given an opportunity to visit Guatemala by a group called Breaking the Silence, an organization who works towards justice and fair treatment of the Mayan People in Guatemala.

We joined a delegation in Guatemala led by Grahame Russell with the Rights Action group to learn the truth about Canadian mining companies and what they are doing to our Mayan brothers and sisters in Latin America.  Grahame was very thorough in his teachings around this issue.  At one point I asked him if this work was his passion.  He thought about it for a moment and replied Read More »

Graphics: How Much Water Do You Eat?

Meat production is thirsty business. Do you know much water do you eat? INESAD’s latest inforgraphic provides some real food for thought. Did you know, for example that a beef burger takes 2,400 litres of water to produce, compared to 170 litres for a vegetarian burger.

Find out more at www.unwater.org and www.waterfootprint.org.  Read More »

Would REDD work in Bolivia?

In Bolivia, agricultural land generates on average three times as much GDP per hectare as standing forest (1), which is one of the reasons why the Bolivian government largely ignores the quarter million hectares of illegal deforestation that occurs every year.

However, forests provide many valuable functions that are not currently included in GDP (e.g. habitat for thousands of plant and animal species; carbon storage to protect against climate change; water capture, storage and cleansing for a cleaner and more stable water flow; recreational and aesthetic values; etc.). As long as all these benefits are not taken into account, natural forests stand little chance against other land uses.

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Ecosystem Disservices and Poverty


By: Lykke E. Andersen*

“Why is it that a child’s death amounts to a tragedy, but the death of millions is merely a statistic?” Patrick McDonald.

Human beings depend heavily on ecosystem services for their survival and well-being. Basic needs like drinking water, fresh air, food and construction materials are to a large extent provided to us by nature, as are more luxury services like spectacular views for expensive homes and eco-tourism activities.

However, many of the problems that ail humanity also come from nature and might be thought of as ecosystem disservices: Approximately 2 billion people are infected with the hepatitis B virus, making it the most common infectious disease in the world today. Close to a billion persons are infected with tuberculosis, which causes nearly 2 million deaths every year. Several hundred million people suffer from malaria and almost a million children die from it every year. About 50 million cases of dengue fever appear each year, and countless millions suffer horribly from other infectious and parasitic diseases, such as African trypanosomiasis (“sleeping sickness”), cryptosporidiosis, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis (“river blindness”) and schistosomiasis.

In addition, the crops and livestock on which we depend for food are frequently assaulted by insects, fungi, viruses, weeds, bacteria and predators. Rainfall, which is great in the right amounts at the right time, can also cause huge disasters, if it arrives in the wrong amounts or at the wrong time.

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Is Bolivia’s development model sustainable? Insights from Bolivia’s Green National Accounts

Bolivia’s current development model relies heavily on non-renewable natural resource extraction (especially natural gas and minerals) and the mining of nutrients from newly deforested soils for agriculture. This kind of activities clearly cannot be sustained forever. However, if the depleted natural capital is converted into other types of productive capital, it is still possible to leave future generations better off, in the sense of having more productive capacity. The maintenance of total productive capacity is the minimum requirement for weak sustainability.

Is Bolivia converting its natural capital into other types of productive capital? Or is it merely consuming its natural capital, leaving future generations with fewer options?

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