Eat Chocolate and Save the Atlantic Rainforest
Chocolate lovers of the world can have their cake and save Brazil's endangered Atlantic Rainforest too, according to an article in the November/December issue of World Watch.
In "Chocolate Could Bring the Forest Back", Worldwatch researcher Chris Bright proposes that the cocoa plant, which thrives below the forest canopy in this biodiversity hotspot, could be the key to preserving one of the world's most threatened areas, revitalizing a faltering industry and creating new livelihood opportunities for many of Brazil's poor.
"Cocoa is a rainforest crop," says Bright. "If we can create an environmentally-friendly form of production, we can supply an economic rationale for preserving existing fragments of the Atlantic Rainforest, and even extend the forest back into areas from which it has long since vanished."
Bright suggests that Brazilian cocoa growers move towards organic cocoa farming to increase profits, create jobs, and improve Brazilian cocoa's competitive edge and consumer appeal.
There is an opportunity for growers of chocolate and other products coming out of the Atlantic Rainforest to build powerful links with consumers in distant societies," says Bright. "That should help maintain the health of the forest and the people who depend on the forest for their livelihoods."
Today, less than 8 percent of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest's original cover remains. But restoration of the ecosystem is feasible, according to Chris Bright and Ashley Mattoon in "New Hope for a Rainforest."
The fragmentation of forests has probably put more than half of the region's plants and animals in danger of extinction because their populations are not large enough to be genetically viable over the long term. In such circumstances, Bright and Mattoon find that the only sensible strategy is to go beyond simple conservation, and begin to restore large areas of forest.
In general, fragmentation is one of the gravest threats that tropical forests face. Restoration will therefore have to play an increasingly important role in forest conservation. More and more often, preservation of the wild will require restoration of the wild.
The U.S. economy is less than 5 percent efficient, according to the second installment of Robert Ayres' analysis of the country's energy economy. In "The Energy We Have Overlooked," Ayres shows how prevailing misconceptions about energy efficiency have misled policymakers about the potential for energy conservation in the U.S. and other advanced economies. Since the 1970s, policymakers have wrongly assumed that the U.S. economy runs at a fairly high level of efficiency, using 47.5 percent of the energy it produces.
The Bush administration has argued that only massive increases in energy production can ensure continued economic growth. But according to Ayres, our energy efficiency is so low that deep cuts in consumption are possible without jeopardizing current living standards. Ayres predicts that appropriate government policies, fully compatible with a free market energy economy, could reduce energy use by 50 percent or more by mid-century, while reducing carbon emissions by 75 percent.
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