Ecological-economic studies of gender and forest governance in India and Nepal show that women's presence make a clear difference and improve forest conservation. This was the message from the leading development economist Bina Agarwal when visiting Stockholm recently.
Bina Agarwal, Professor of Development Economics and Environment, at the University of Manchester, gave an interesting Stockholm Seminar, Friday September 27. In her talk she concentrated on the findings of her most recent book “Gender and Green Governance” (Oxford University Press, 2013).
Rural women's relationship with forests is complex, Professor Agarwal explained. Unfortunately, economists researching environmental collective action have paid little attention to gender and scholars from other disciplines focussing on gender and governance have been concerned mainly with women's near absence from governance institutions.
In these latter studies, scholars have tended to presume that once women are present all good things will follow, but things tend to be more complicated.
Everyday dependence on forests for fuel, fodder, and food can indeed create a strong stake in conservation, but the same dependence can also compel the women to extract heavily from forests.
- One landless woman once told me: 'Of course, it hurts me to cut a green branch but what do I do if my children are hungry?'
A couple of weeks ago in Rome, a new book called: Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security was launched at the conference, Forests for Food Security and Nutrition. The book stresses not just the nutritional value of insects, but also the benefits that insect farming could potentially have on the environment and on addressing the rapidly increasing demand for food worldwide.
Besides the ecosystem services that insects provide – pollination, biological control and the decomposition of organic litter, insects are part of the staple diet of approximately 2 billion people around the world.
More than 1900 edible insect species are consumed, the most common ones being beetles (Coleoptera), caterpillars (Lepidoptera) and bees, wasps and ants (Hymenoptera). Consumer disgust remains one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of insects as a viable source of protein in many Western countries. In countries where the diet is becoming more westernized, the practice of consuming insects might be looked down upon. In cities like Bangkok and Kinshasa where eating insects is popular feelings of nostalgia for the rural countryside are awakened.
The majority of insect collection occurs through wild gathering, mainly in forests. Rearing insects would contribute to feed and food security in a world with ever growing food needs. Insects are everywhere, reproduce quickly, and have a high growth and feed conversion rate and a low environmental footprint over their entire life cycle. They are nutritious, with high protein, fat and mineral contents. They can be reared on waste streams like food waste. Moreover, they can be eaten whole or ground into a powder or paste, and incorporated into other foods. Already there are companies leading the way in this regard. Insects as feedstock for aquaculture and poultry feed are likely to become more prevalent within the next decade.
Much research is still needed such as how to maintain genetic resilience in order to inhibit colony collapse, the potential for transmitting parasitoids and the allergy risks of ingesting exoskeletons.
Contemporary forestry is largely based on monocultures – in Sweden usually pine or spruce – mainly because it is considered more rational. But well managed forests also generate other ecosystem services than timber production, such as biodiversity, carbon storage and berry production. Now a new study shows that mixed forests compared to monocultures provide higher levels of multiple ecosystem services, including timber production.
- Many have suggested that a high diversity of tree species has a positive influence on a number of ecosystem processes, but so far this correlation has mainly been analyzed for one process or ecosystem service at a time, says Lars Gamfeldt (see photo to the right) from University of Gothenburg, lead author of the new study. The study, carried out by an international research team from Sweden, UK, Switzerland and Panama, is based on data from the Swedish National Forest Inventory and the Swedish Forest Soil Inventory. By looking at the significance of the presence and biomass of different tree species for six different ecosystem services (tree growth, carbon storage, berry production, food for wildlife, presence of dead wood and biodiversity in the understory vegetation) the study shows that all six services were positively related to the number of tree species.
Reading in the Guardian about an interesting new study by Geoffrey Beattie and Laura McGuire from Manchester University. It suggests that the views that people express in opinion polls may not actually be the best guide to what they really think about climate change and sustainability. This may not come as a surprise, but the way they investigated this phenomenon is quite intriguing:
"Beattie's previous research found that people's explicit and implicit attitudes towards climate change and low-carbon products do not always match, suggesting that some people may not be as green as they say they are. But in their new study, Beattie and McGuire took this argument one step further.
Participants were asked to rate how much they agreed with statements such as: "I prefer a product with a low carbon footprint". But they also completed an Implicit Association Test where they had to assign a series of positive or negative terms to the target category of "low carbon footprint". The researchers then showed them a series of images, some of which were iconic negative images of climate change (for example, a stranded polar bear), some of which were positive images of nature (for example, a field of sunflowers), and some of which were everyday household objects. Intermingled across a series of slides, participants could choose which images to look at."
The rationale of these so-called IATs is that if two concepts are strongly associated in a person's mind, then they will be able to quickly and correctly categorise them in a computer task (whereas concepts that are less strongly associated will take longer to process).
Using this test Beattie and McGuire's study come to the conclusion that we cannot necessarily trust surveys to tell the full story about people's views on climate change and sustainability. But although implicit attitudes may paint a more complex picture about public perceptions of climate change and sustainability, psychological research is also starting to reveal what influences people at the implicit level.
In a recent paper in Nature, Anthony Barnosky from the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues, say that human actions are rapidly forcing the Earth into a new, irreversible planetary state. Predicting when such a critical transition will occur is very difficult and the conditions of a new planetary state will thrust humanity into uncharted waters.
Past major planet state transitions: causes and effects
The paper begins by reviewing past major planet state changes. While these events are rare, they have happened in the past. The shift from the latest ice-age to our current interglacial state, around 14,000 years ago, is one example. The 5 major mass extinctions are other examples. Despite their different timescales, these past critical transitions occur very quickly relative to their bracketing states: for the examples discussed in the paper (ice-age to interglacial transition, mass extinction events) the transitions took less than 5% of the time the previous state had lasted. So what happened on Earth during these past state changes? Some of the key changes identified in the paper are mass species extinctions and large changes in species assemblages. Another critical change is that evolutionary pathways are dramatically altered by these planetary state changes. A striking example is how the mass extinction event of 65 million years ago, helped switch dominance from dinosaurs to mammals on Earth. The causes of all these past global state shifts are identified as global-scale forcings (such as climate change) that changed the way the atmosphere, oceans and climate functioned. For example, 14,000 years ago changes in the solar insolation caused rapid global warming that shifted the planet from ice-age to interglacial conditions. In all instances, these global-scale forcings are so strong that they quickly override local controls against local changes.
Professor Gretchen Daily, at Stanford University in California and one of the world's foremost experts on the valuation of natural capital is awarded the 2012 Volvo Environment Prize. She is convinced that the only way to create long-term welfare is to quantify the value of ecosystems.
Current environmental policy is not having any real impact in Colombia. While the concept of sustainable development and ecosystem services are often being thrown around, they're rarely being embedded into the social processes designed to manage the environment. In other words these concepts have not been operationalized in a proper manner, and this is by no means a problem specific to Colombia. However, in a move to tackle this, the Government of Colombia has been assessing its approach to biodiversity management over the last four years, seeking to reach higher impacts for its conservation and sustainable use. Brigitte Baptiste, founder and general director of the Humboldt Institute in Colombia, held a Stockholm Seminar recently highlighting the long and difficult road to reaching a new policy that encompasses a social-ecological resilience approach to ecosystem service governance.
"Parke Troutman tells us that “Carrots are not enough” in a compelling piece challenging the framing and potential of local food, and urging a nuanced but still forward-looking and positive vision of the movement.
Humans have never eaten “all locally”, he points out, which is quite certainly correct. Indeed, in a book chapter to be published next year, I call one of the goals of Brazil’s Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (o MST) a “brazen and historically accurate” revival of the concept of subsistence:"