A mammoth metadata study of 111 different papers concludes that “biodiversity matters”. Well, duh. But it is good to have data. The study is published in Nature (press release here) for 25 October. To demonstrate the value of biodiversity, the study’s author Bradley Cardinale chose a paper that shows that the presence of three aphid predators has a greater impact on pests than one would expect from each of the three alone. In a single state — Wisconsin — this pesticidal service was worth millions of dollars, Cardinale said. Not to dismiss all the other services that biodiversity performs, but it seems that one way to get decision makers to understand its importance is to turn those nebulous “services” into something they do understand: cold hard cash.
An interesting juxtaposition of articles: from India, one of the cradles of the Green Revolution, the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) says that the government should now focus on â€œfaces before figures” (net income of the farm families rather than tonnes of farm commodities produced), while from Africa, which was largely bypassed by said revolution, a call for a new, uniquely African Green Revolution with a focus on nutrition andÂ the environment as well as markets and policies.
The latest Nature has a paper on mapping endangered animal species in a couple of different groups and relating what might be called “extinction threat hotspots” to “biodiversity hotspots.” The paper is getting a lot of media attention, for example here and here. Perhaps not surprisingly, the two types of hotspots do not match up, so a focus solely on protecting biodiversity in the well-known global hotspots is perhaps not going to be as effective as one might wish. No word on whether someone is doing similar work on plants, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the results were to turn out similar. But what about crops? I can think up theoretical arguments why centres of genetic diversity of crops might also be at particular risk from genetic erosion, but as for empirical data the problem is that information on genetic erosion tends to be anecdotal and patchy.
The world is awash with millennial beer traditions, but this frothy cornucopia is increasingly under threat as the Big 5 Brewers globalize their way to domination, according to Chris O’Brien, author of Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World and of this article, from which I borrowed the title of this post. The disappearance of home-brewing would adversely affect social bonds, community identity, women’s position in society and their income, and rural people’s health and nutrition. What to do? Here’s a taste:
“Domestic policies that favor small-scale, local production, just like the ones that now support the American craft-brewing renaissance, must be applied to foreign policy as well. Policies that burden small brewers with regulations must be reduced or removed, while tax incentives and public giveaways to industrial brewers are halted. Proven strategies can be used for promoting small business, such as low-interest loans and other community investments tools. Small-scale technology and structures must be prioritized in order to benefit the greatest number of domestic brewers, while subsidies favoring large-scale production and distribution should be eliminated.”
Surely promoting the local crops and landraces which form the raw materials of local homebrews also needs to be in the mix?
The question is: would Ethiopia trademarking its Sidano and Harar coffee result in a better return to local farmers through increased leverage or in a worse return through higher prices. Read about it here. I’d be tempted to bet on the former, or Starbucks wouldn’t be protesting so much. Or is that too cynical?