Synthetic grass: Bolivia’s gift to the masses gone wrong

One of the wonderful things about economic science is that it is the science of incentives. It analyzes how humans respond to incentives and, despite evidence from other social sciences, how these responses tend to be rational. There is a lot of well documented circumstantial evidence that illustrates this rational behavior. Perhaps the best known collections of references are the books Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics and their associated blog, which present everyday life situations where people act according to incentives and behave rationally.

Not surprisingly, Bolivia is no exception. Bolivians have also proven themselves to be economically rational beings who act according to the incentives they face. A friend of mine, Mario Duran, recently wrote an article about the synthetic grass courts that Bolivia’s President, Evo Morales, is giving throughout the country as part of the “Evo Cumple” program. Interestingly, the article pointed out that even though these courts are given and built by the government, most of them have become private property. Throughout Bolivia, Neighborhood Councils, Sportive Leagues and other kinds of social organization now charge between 100 to 250 Bolivianos per game for the use of the fields.

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Culture or Law? What counts more in social-environmental change?

Last night I tagged along to a dinner in Bangkok where I met a couple of executives of Thailand’s national energy company. Needless to say that, as someone with environmentalist proclivities, I was deeply interested in their ‘insider’ views of the industry, as I have learnt from experience that these can be revealing. Although, like taking a ring road bypass to dodge rush hour city traffic, all questions of the environmental impacts of such processes as fracking were skillfully avoided, several things struck me as the conversation turned to the company’s ambitions in the United States.

Fracking is a process of hydraulic fracturing that uses up to 300 tons of chemicals and injects large amounts of explosives and water to crack rock and release natural gases from deep wells. It presents an opportunity to get at previously untouchable gas and every oil and gas explorer wants a piece of the pie. However, according to the executives, the confidence with which the non-renewable industry operates is somewhat geographically determined. Read More »

Does Biological Preservation Prevail Over Cultural Sustainability? The Struggle of the Maya Center Community in a Modernizing World

With the highest concentration of jaguars in the world and an incredibly rich tropical biodiversity, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize is an invaluable area not only for its scientific potential, but also due to the economic advantages of eco-tourism. Unfortunately, the installment of the wildlife sanctuary 25 years ago also meant that the inhabitants of Maya Center—a small Mopan Mayan village with a population of some 300 people located in the Stann Creek District in southern Belize—was subsequently prohibited from entering an area historically sacred to their culture. Does this mean that the new economic and scientific “necessities” prevail over the livelihoods and traditions of populations already living in the area?

In the early 1980’s, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the International Division of the New York Zoological Society began studying jaguar populations in the Cockscomb Basin after citrus farmers and hunting magazines reported sightings of jaguars in the area. Soon after the initial reports, scientific inquiries into the population of jaguars within the area resulted in the highest concentration ever recorded with estimates as high as 11 animals per 100 km². With eastern Belize dominated largely by a few wealthy citrus farmers, the establishment of a reserve was seen as a vital step to impeding and preserving the land from the increasing deforestation spawned by the citrus industry. More commonly known today as the Jaguar Reserve, the original 3,600 acres set aside in 1987 has expanded to encompass over 128,000 acres. Read More »

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 and  Read More »

What Would You Buy if You Had Much More Information Than Just the Price?

Last week Development Roast asked you what you would pay for a beautiful purple butterfly silk shawl if you received positive information about the social and environmental conditions under which it was produced.

Now how would you view products of lesser credentials if you received more relevant information about them?

Would you buy this gorgeous Thai silk pashmina if its tag said this: Read More »

What Would You Pay if You Didn’t Have a Price?

Imagine yourself in a different world. You wake up on an ordinary sunny weekend morning like any other and go shopping for a birthday gift for your mum. You go to her favourite high street retailer and find the perfect looking present, a beautiful silk shawl. You look for the price, but instead of a normal price tag indicator, you find a fold out label like THIS. What would you pay?

Do you think that changing our shopping environments would encourage more ethics, responsibility and sustainability? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Ioulia Fenton leads the food and agriculture research stream at the Center for Economic and Environmental Modeling and Analysis (CEEMA) at INESAD. 

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