Traveller's Teacup

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Posts Tagged ‘biodiversity’

Have some anthropocene with your weetbix.

There’s a new scientific word, and its about to enter your living room.

Two weeks ago at a fascinating conference at London’s British Geological Society,  leading earth scientists including prominent Nobel prize Laurent Paul Crutzen (know for his ozone depletion research), editors from Science & Nature magazines, BBC, National Geographic, NY Times etc etc,etc were all in the room to listen and mull over  a potentially “new geological epoch – the  Anthopocene “. In a nutshell, new geological layers of the earth are indicating humanity’s activity  and effects across the planet. Geology is indicating  humanity as the main driver of global change.

Since the last ice age 10, 000 years ago, humanity’s fingerprint is increasingly evident in the ground – from  earlier mega-fauna extinction and the use of fire technologies, to agricultural river course changes, dams, explosive population growth, deforestation, industrialization and atomic testing – to name a few case examples. And as  Norwegian International Lawyer, Davor Vidas put it,” If carbon is in the air, its …, if carbon is in the water then its fluid, but if carbon is in the rock, its proof.”

It was a dense day, and whilst listening to the scientists and storytellers sketch this “multi-dimension icon of stratigraphy”, I could not stop Jared Diamond’s case studies of resource depletion and “collapse” entering my mind.

A highlight was a presentation by ANU’s Professor Will Steffen. I recommend his TEDx lecture below. Particularly get your head around “The Great Acceleration” concept which statistically indicates a rapid upward flux of human endeavor over the last 50 years… its phenomenal calculations and is very dangerous (what goes up must come down!).

But whats interesting right now, is the signing of  last week’s Stockholm Memorandum by over 17 Nobel laureates. The Memorandum clearly states we have officially entered a new geological era which is indicating make or break dire consequences.

“We cannot continue on our current path. The time for procrastination is over. We cannot afford the luxury of denial”.

If other epochs are anything to go by, well……. the beginning of our shining new epoch is serious kaka.  Have we finally reached our planetary boundaries?  and Bottisatvas, will we have the balls (and ovaries) to take this signal from geology seriously?

“Entering the snow leopards lair” story

A short story, I wrote about my recent snow leopard horse trek in Russian Altai’s remote Argut Valley was published today on the UNU’s Our World 2.0 site.  Enjoy and please share with friends!!

“The Altai mountain pony below me stumbles on a wobbly rock. I breathe in sharply as loose shale slides off the cliff’s edge and bounces towards the frozen Argut River below. Aduchy, my indigenous Altaian guide, twists around in his saddle and re-counts his travel companions. He motions for me to lean forward. Over the Siberian wind’s howl, my interpreter Irena loudly translates in her thick Russian accent: “Sit forward to help the climbing horse.” … read more here

And a rather wild and woolly shot from the field… here we are in the back country of Argut valley, Siberian Altai, Feb 2010. About -20 and Irena my beautiful Altaian friend and translator, is following on horseback. it was one of those days….the sun was shining and the heart was free and happy.

Mono-crop Madagascar

And in the looking glass today i see… mono-crop palm oil and corn plantations covering half of Madagascar. This small and special country off the coast of Africa is one of the last (and richly biodiverse) rainforest islands left in the planet.

Its hard to be convinced that such neo-colonial feeding frenzies are on the same wavelength as our ratified global responsibility to sustain future generations.

Please everybody, honour the local peoples’ rights and nurture alternative economic options that support the local ecosystems.


Madagascar: South Korean Land Deal Sparks Controversy

by Lova Rakotomalala 23/11.08

South Korea has just leased half of all the arable land in Madagascar according to the Financial Times. This has stirred quite a debate in the Malagasy blogosphere about land sovereignty and economic development. It is still unclear whether the land deal has actually been signed by both parties. Meanwhile, bloggers are arguing whether this sort of deal should be considered “neo-colonialism”.

Here is an overview of what is know so far.

On November 19, the Financial Times reported on the deal between South Korean company Daewoo Logistics and the Malagasy government.

On the Global Dashboard blog, Alex Evans summarizes the findings:

South Korea has just struck a 99 year deal with Madagascar to lease an area half the size of Belgium to grow palm oil and no less than half of South Korea’s corn demands [..] Carl Atkins, of consultants Bidwells Agribusiness, said Daewoo Logistics’ investment in Madagascar was the largest it had seen. “The project does not surprise me, as countries are looking to improve food security but its size it does surprise me.”

A few hours later, a follow-up article in the Financial Times added that Daewoo Logistics would not have to pay fees for the lease, but would instead provide the means to allow exploitation and development of the land.

Alex Evans, quoting from the second article, says it’s even worse news than he thought:

A few hours later, a truly astonishing new angle on the story emerged. Guess how much South Korea had paid for its 99 year lease? Answer: Zip. Zero. Nada. Not a cent. The sum total of the benefits for Madagascar, according to a Daewoo spokesman? “We will provide jobs for them by farming it, which is good for Madagascar.” This in a country where 3.5% of people are on WFP food aid…
The benefits for South Korea, on the other hand:
“We want to plant corn there to ensure our food security. Food can be a weapon in this world,” said Hong Jong-wan, a manager at Daewoo. “We can either export the harvests to other countries or ship them back to Korea in case of a food crisis.”

Photo by Foko-Madagascar

The Malagasy government has yet to release an official statement on the issue. Reuters reports that the deal is far from being finalized. Daewoo Logistics, however, has issued several statements that contest the veracity of the articles.

Robert Koelher, blogging from Seoul at The Marmot’s Hole, explains the points of contentions from the South Korean company:

In another report, the Maeil Gyeongje said experts believe the FT report, with its provocative talk of “neo-colonialism” and “pirates,” was intended as a warning against an increased Asian presence in Africa, long considered Europe’s backyard. The piece did include a quote from a Daewoo Logistics official, however, who said Madagascar was quite sensitive about this issue because when China invests, it only goes after its own profits [..]
The JoongAng Ilbo, meanwhile, released an editorial blasting the FT, asking why the paper was turning a blind eye to British Jatropha farms in Madagascar (used for biodiesel fuel) and French plantations on the island while going after a Korean company only. And besides, the land Daewoo is acquiring is undeveloped, the new farms will provide employment, and the Madagascar government will be taking a 30% cut of the farm profits in taxes.”

Reactions to news of the land deal were heated and diverse in the Malagasy blogosphere:

The Malagasy diaspora website Sobika reported on the deal (Fr) moments after the Financial Times and asked their readers to react. Over 100 comments were posted on the articles within a few days. In a follow-up article, Sokiba speculates that the outrage expressed on the internet has led the company deny the conditions of the deal [Fr].

The outrage is far from being unanimous though. Some bloggers feel that the land deal could benefit Madagascar by increasing productivity on parts of the land. Aiky on the community blog Malagasy Miray adds [Mg]:

Ny tombontsoa indray kosa raha jerena amin’ny saina tsy miangatra dia :
– ny fanomezana asa ireo tantsaha eny ambanivohitra ka miteraka fidiram-bola maharitra ho azy ireo izany.
– ny fanajariana ireo tany izay tsy noeritreretina fa afaka ambolena na ihany koa tany ngazana ka rahatrizay vita ny fifanarahana izany hoe afaka zato taona dia mba ho moramora ho an’ireo taranaka fara aman-dimby ny hampiasa sy hamboly azy (raha tsy lasa fanan’olom-bitsy indray avy eo)
– raha misy fidiram-bola maharitra ireo tantsaha dia mety ho hita ihany koa ny fiatraikan’izany ka mahasoa ho an’ny manodidina na “effet d’entraînement”. […]
-Asa na tafiditra ao anaty fifanarahana fa mety hihatsara ihany koa ireo lalana sy tambanjotra misy any amin’ireo faritra.
– afaka mifehy ny fiakarana an-tanandehibe ny mpitondra raha misy asa eny ambanivohitra (maîtrise de l’exode rural)

The advantages as seen from a less emotional perspective:
– The new employment prospects for the farmers which in turn would lead to additional source of revenues.
– The exploitation of lands that were thought to be of little value and that could be still exploited after the lease.
– the chain reaction from such increase in revenues [..]
– the potential improvement in the status of the national roads and other facilities in that part of the country.
– A possible incentive to stop the exodus from the rural areas

On The Cyber Observer, a lawyer and blogger in Antananarivo, Andrydago, had the the amazing foresight to raise the legal issue of the sovereignty of land and foreign investment in October, a full month before this controversy. It is striking that the laws that make this lease permissible were amended earlier this year:

Recently, the new Malagasy investment law: act 2007-036 of January 14th, 2008, has brought a very key change concerning the possibility for foreigners to own their land in Madagascar. This law provided that foreign companies or foreign investors (individuals who have been granted with investor visa), can buy Malagasy land under the following conditions:

1. the land has to be used exclusively for professional exploitation. Any personal use and exploitation which is different from the nature of exploitation he “promised” to the Malagasy governement, are forbidden. If there is a breach of such condition, the governement can legally withdraw its title of land ownership;

2. the foreign company or investor has to submit its business plan (investment planning in Madagascar) to a public body named EDBM (Economic Development Board Madagascar). Such plan has to describe and detail its intended business and its pertaining investment in Madagascar;

3. the foreign company or investor has to apply for a formal approval named “authorization for land acquisition” before the EDBM in order to be allowed to purchase legally a Malagasy land. Such authorization if granted, gives to the foreign company or investor the same rights as for a Malagasy entity to purchase and to own land in Madagascar.

Posted by Lova Rakotomalala on global voices

Alex Evan’s Global Dashbord post is here