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Gentle, non-violent, elegant and beautiful Tortilla [#47]
Biofuels are attracting attention alike any new technology which is taking ground. This illustrates the cyclical co-influence of society and technology on one another. Careful considerations of the socio-economic impacts of the introduction of biofuels as an important strategy for the diversification of our energy portfolios should, from the onset, unite policy-oriented and natural-science scholars with philosophers and historians of science and technology.

Many contemporary technological developments generate unnecessary byproducts. This takes the form of industrial pollution, waste and in the case of biofuels, possible impacts on agricultural biodiversity (all components of biological diversity of relevance to food and agriculture including the variety and variability of plants, animals and micro-organisms at genetic, species and ecosystem level which are necessary to sustain, key functions in agro-ecosystems, its structures and processes). The contribution to the forum on the invasiveness of biofuels crops is interesting in this regard.

Societies establish different balances between the value they place on services obtained from a new technology versus associated “disvalues”. Obviously, if biofuels may have an interesting positive impact on greenhouse gases reduction (there is a debate on the extent of this potential); it can also have an impact on a central objective of the Convention; the sustainable use of biodiversity. Properly planed, it may very well be possible to avoid a clash between two regimes which support one another. Yet, before planning with this in mind one must first assess the value placed on each strategy. Are biofuels a thoroughly thought of respond to climate change? How much value do different societies place on this answer? Other considerations for making tons of ethanol out of maize than that of usage as an alternative to gasoline are perhaps at stake here… Obviously there is more to consider here than biophysical considerations. I hope the forum will allow for reflections on this, adverse impacts can also be socio-economic.

The launch of this forum comes at a time when blame is made on the rise of demand for maize to make environmentally-friendly biofuels in the United States and Canada as for the rise in the cost of this important stack-food in Mexico. The latest rise in tortilla price has been the strongest in years… This is considered by some segments of civil society in the context of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. See: “Mexicans stage tortilla protest” (BBC News, 31 January 2007);

This raises fears that some communities could face malnourishment and, as seen yesterday in the streets of the Mexican capital, that this comes along with social unrest. What better examples of the ripple effect of such a technology on society in as much as on different ecosystem functions? Indeed, with additional maize being used for ethanol production, supply is said to be declining for use as foodstuff.

These thoughts called me to find this quote from the revised edition of Schumacher's “Small is Beautiful” which is currently on my bedside (thus the above reflections perhaps)… "Ever bigger machines, entailing ever bigger concentrations of economic power and exerting ever greater violence against the environment, do not represent progress: they are a denial of wisdom. Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful." The wisdom here may be to ask oneself if “violence” to the environment is a fact here. Violence to the Mexican social fabric is probably more potent.
posted on 2007-02-01 12:02 UTC by Mr. Mathieu Régnier, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
RE: Gentle, non-violent, elegant and beautiful Tortilla [#49]
The name of the game is to reduce our energy needs and not to find new ways of supplying our endless growing addiction - biofuels has potential but it could also impact most on the world's most vulberable populations - indigneous communities - the poor - by swapping agricultal lands for fuel production - sort of like a new globalisation e.g. coffee and the developing world - at least they can have a cup of coffee to releive their hunger pains.  Biofeuls could seriously affect achieving the MDGs - it will make the ricch richer and the poor poorwer and even more landless and what of the environment - more and more lands converted to fuel production.
just my thoughts.
posted on 2007-02-01 13:11 UTC by Mr. John Scott, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity

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  • United Nations Environment Programme