The Bioeconomy Is Bad for Biodiversity
As U.S. President Obama announced his new "National Bioeconomy Blueprint" today, the Global Forest Coalition—a worldwide coalition of 53 Indigenous Peoples' Organisations and NGOs in 39 different countries, that promotes rights-based, socially just and effective forest conservation policies—unveiled its report, Bio-economy versus Biodiversity. The report’s conclusions differ sharply from the president’s “Blueprint,” alerting policy-makers to the serious negative impacts the so-called bioeconomy will have on forests, forest-dependent peoples, and biodiversity.
The ‘bioeconomy’ promotes speculative markets for ecosystem-based products and services, which are increasingly promoted as a ‘green’ alternative to the fossil fuel economy. Trading in ‘ecosystem services’ such as forest carbon offsets is accompanied by a massive expansion of wood-based bioenergy and other biomass-based products.
The Global Forest Coalition report concludes that these markets are a dead end.
"The divergent elements of the bioeconomy are at cross-purposes,” warns Rachel Smolker of Biofuelwatch, a lead author of the report. “On the one hand, we’ll extract biomass from forests and farmlands to produce energy and materials at a scale comparable to our current fossil fuel extraction. And on the other hand we’ll create new financial instruments based on the protection of ecosystems. We can't have it both ways,” said Smolker.
“We have a wealth of evidence that these approaches are misguided, but that evidence is ignored. Why? Because the bioeconomy is about generating profits for the top 1%, regardless of the consequences."
The new report is based on years of research by civil society groups working directly with communities impacted by biomass extraction, carbon offset projects and other elements of the bioeconomy. The report concludes that the bioeconomy approach could be no better than our current reliance on climate-wrecking fossil fuels. The massive increase in production and use of biomass will trigger a cascade of problems including hunger, land grabs and ecosystem collapse, the report warns.
Simone Lovera, executive director of the Global Forest Coalition, said, "The bioeconomy is a massive effort to privatize nature for corporate profit. The record of forest carbon offset schemes like REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation and enhancing Forest Carbon Stocks) make it clear that market-based approaches to conservation inflict serious harm on Indigenous Peoples, women, peasant farmers and biodiversity itself.”
“Further,” said Lovera, “high-risk technologies like synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and genetically engineered trees will only drive the planetary ecosystem further into crisis.”
Harm to both ecosystems and human health from these technologies, the report points out, are both inevitable and irreversible.
The report’s conclusions challenge the Obama administration and other global leaders to abandon the green sheen of biotechnology and market-based conservation schemes, and to affirm the kinds of biocultural approaches demonstrated by Indigenous Peoples and social movements in the Global South that eschew infinite economic growth for sustainable livelihoods, local living economies and integration with the natural world.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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