Genetic Biodiversity in the Era of Genetic Engineering

Given my past involvement with Greenpeace, the fact that I have changed my mind about genetically engineered crops (GMOs) makes me an apostate. Continuing my heretic writings, I will try to show today that biotechnology, specifically genetic engineering, can be good for biodiversity, specifically genetic diversity. Continue reading

What’s So Good About Biodiversity?

Sometimes, there are books you wish you wouldn’t have read. Mostly, these are bad books. Recently, I read a quite good book that I nevertheless first wished had escaped my attention. It’s Donald S. Maier’s What’s So Good About Biodiversity: A Call for Better Reasoning About Nature’s Value. It’s shaken up my view of why biodiversity is valuable (although not as much as initially thought). As I had to think a lot about Maier’s provocative and very polemic argumentation, for it has posed a challenge to the core of my PhD thesis, I would like to attempt a “self-therapeutic” review of his book’s first part, in which he attacks the status of biodiversity as carrier of nature’s value (I haven’t yet read his exposition of an own account why nature is valuable). Continue reading

Biodiversity, my favourite buzzword

In the discussions and debates covered in my blog, buzzwords abound. Sustainability, capitalism, developed countries, consumer society, biodiversity… Because of the subject of my PhD thesis, I have had to deal with biodiversity the most recently. It is a great word, invoked by many in many different contexts and… lacking a specific, agreed upon definition. We love buzzwords, so we love biodiversity. The problem, however, with such words is that they hinder discussions, since everyone assumes that others understand it as one oneself does – which is not always the case. What is biodiversity? Continue reading

Want to Save the World? Start in China

Within a few days, Yale e360 published two extremely interesting analyses of China’s recent environmental and social problems: China’s Great Dam Boom by Charlton Lewis and China at Crossroads by Ed Grumbine. Both fascinating in their own right, these articles show that if you want to save the world from a looming environmental catastrophe, you have to start in China. Continue reading

The Economics of Endangered Species Rescues

Anthropocene. The era of human dominance. Many commentators agree that anthropocene is a proper name for the current geological era (formally we still live in the Holocene). Human activities are the all-dominant factor influencing natural systems all over the Earth. Climate change, mass extinction of species, biodiversity loss, peak everything, widespread soil degradation and, as a result, erosion and desertification… There are many phenomena caused, at least partly, by human activities, especially over the last 2 centuries, that are critical for the state of the Earth ecosystem. A phenomenon of particular “media potential” is the continued loss of species across the world. Just think of the media buzz around Lonesome George. Extinction of whole species mobilizes many people to action. The question, however, is whether the actions finally undertaken are always sensible. One may call this the economics (and ethics) of endangered species rescue. Continue reading

Yasuní – A Model for the Future?

How much is a pristine ecosystem worth to us? And a stable climate? These are questions that are very controversial among many environmentalists, as I recently discussed. However, economic valuation of Nature and its “services” is not just a theoretical possibility, it is a fact. A particularly interesting example of an (implicit) valuation of an ecosystem is the Ecuadorian Yasuní-ITT Initiative. Continue reading

Yasuní-ITT vs. Dirk Niebel

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the Yasuní-ITT initiative as an attempt to attach a value to ecosystems. The initiative’s goal is to set up a fund assisting the development of Ecuador in return for the country’s government not exploiting the oil reserves lying under the Yasuní-ITT rainforest. Owing mainly to the refusal of the German development minister Dirk Niebel, the fund has not been set up so far. Thus it was interesting to read his commentary on that subject in a newspaper the day before yesterday. In the following I would like to present his arguments and comment on them. Continue reading

Yasuní – Attaching Value to Ecosystems

Many will have heard about the Yasuní-ITT Initiative. It is a proposal made by the Ecuadorian government – it offered not to drill for oil in the Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha (a part of the Yasuní National Park) if the international community were to compensate Ecuador for at least half of the foregone revenues. This initiative could become a milestone towards the attaching of value to ecosystems and biodiversity. Furthermore, although not every Western politician seems able to recognize this fact, saving Yasuní by paying Ecuador would be a win-win situation. Continue reading

New Paradigms Needed

Through all its history humanity has been facing challanges which often seemed unsolvable. Nevertheless, we have been able to achieve a solution every time so far – sometimes better, sometimes worse, but we’ve done it. Today again we face a whole spectrum of huge challanges: the climate change with all its facettes. Biodiversity reduction due to general damages to ecosystems all over the world. Poverty and undernourishment. There are many proposals how to solve these problems, many of them of a rather technological nature. But these won’t do. More is needed: new value systems. New paradigms. Continue reading