Latin America Green News 2/24 - 3/2/2017

Part of CIATs bean collection in Cali, Colombia
Credit: CIAT

Colombian organization seeks to save seed species, Guatemala and UK Space Agency team up to fight deforestation, jobs in renewable energy sector are on the rise

February 24 – March 2, 2017

Climate Change

Record breaking temperatures during recent years have left much of Mexico in a troubling drought, threatening agricultural areas and water supplies, and sparking forest fires. According to records from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Environment Programme, average temperatures in the country have increased by 0.85 ° C and periods of rain have decreased considerably. For one, the city of Oxaca is currently experiencing the worst droughts in the last 50 years and more than 1,500 cattle have died due to a water scarcity and reduced yields in feed. Lemon plantations have also been damaged by prolonged droughts, worrying officials about the country’s ability to maintain agricultural production and leaving farmers empty handed. Meanwhile, in Huasteca Hidalguense, a lack of rain has left dismal levels in the city’s rivers and streams and failed to recharge aquifers, which hundreds of residents rely on as a primary source of water. (Regeneracion 2/28/2017)   

The future of humanity hinges on the basic task of feeding ourselves, which is why the agricultural sector often comes into the spotlight when rising temperatures and extreme weather hinders our ability to grow food. Scientists predict climate change and its impacts are putting 20 percent of plant species in danger of extinction. In particularly, some global food staples such as beans, maize, potatoes, and wheat are highly compromised. But the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) based in Colombia is working to stave off a global food crisis by preserving genetic heritage seeds and developing species of seeds that resist drought, rising temperatures and disease. In the city of Cali for example, the CIAT currently holds 37,000 varieties of beans, the largest in the world, and 6,000 varieties of cassava. They also use genetic information from seeds with more favorable and tolerant growing conditions to grow crops that can grow under more extreme weather conditions. (La Vanguardia 2/28/2017)


The fast food giant Burger King is in hot water after a report from Might Earth found that they have been purchasing feed produced in soy plantations carved out by the burning of tropical forests in Brazil and Bolivia. According to the group, evidence gathered from drones, satellite imaging, supply-chain mapping and field research shows a systemic pattern of forest burning. Most of that deforestation is concentrated in Bolivia’s lowland forests and the Brazilian Cerrado, areas where deforestation is now surpassing that of the Amazon. More than half of the Cerrado’s natural vegetation has already been cleared, compared to 25 percent of the Amazon’s. The report also calls out the company for failing to adopt policies to protect native ecosystems in the production of its food and urges them to start taking action to consumer’s growing concerns on sustainable agricultural practices. (The Guardian 3/1/2017)

The government of Guatemala and the UK Space Agency signed an MOU this week that will allow the country to use the UK’s state of the art technology to monitor and combat illegal logging through the implementation of a Forest Management and Protection System (FMAP). Thirty-four percent of Guatemala’s land is comprised of forest cover but currently, they are losing approximately 132,137 hectares of forest a year. Through the use of space technology such as remote sensing and the global satellite navigation system, Guatemalan officials are hoping to reduce deforestation rates. The project, which will run for three years, will cost some US$6.7 million and will be funded by the International Space Program of the UK Space Agency. (El Nuevo Diario 2/28/2017)


The 2010 Convention on Biological Diversity requires that ten percent of national coastal areas be protected by 2020. Chile only protects about two percent of these areas, in the country’s Patagonia that number is 0.14 percent. Advocates argue that the government does not go far enough, and often leaves entire ecosystems unprotected. Liesbeth van der Meer, director of Oceana Chile, cited La Higuera as a particularly important location to protect. She claimed this area was “one of 34 global hotspots for biodiversity,” as she listed the chungungo, blue whale, and fin whale as inhabitant species that are in danger of extinction. The area is also home to 80 percent of the world’s population of Humboldt penguins, another vulnerable species. (La Tercera 2/28/2017)



In a sweeping majority, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies approved a reform to the Law of Energy Transition that expands the concept of sustainable energy use that will, hopefully, open the door for better integration of sustainable energy practices in the country. The text adopted serves to include the optimal use of energy in all process and activities, from exploitation and production to distribution and consumption. The change comes from Congresswoman Guadalupe Hernandez Correa who introduced the measure in July of 2016. She raised the need to reduce the negative impacts derived from the generation, distribution, and consumption of energy in order to protect the environment and maintain an ecosystem balance that considers the health of people as well. She acknowledged that law currently includes environmental care but does so in an ambiguous way that does not consider energy in terms of its impact on people’s health and the environment. (Veracruzanos 2/28/2017) 

Global employment in renewable energy sector
Credit: IRENA

The International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) annual employment review released this week shows the number of jobs provided by the renewable energy sector increased by five percent in 2015, reaching 8.1 million people worldwide. According to the report, favorable policy and regulatory frameworks in several countries has been a key driver of employment in this sector. The top five countries currently employing renewable energy workers include: China, Brazil, the U.S., India, and Germany. While five percent may not seem like much growth, it is in contrast to the decrease of employment in the conventional energy sector which contracted by 18 percent during the same period. The renewable sector is also a growing source of employment in Chile, where the government and educational institutions have to quickly ramp up efforts to train technicians, installers and operators in order to keep up with the labor demands of the expanding clean energy industry. (Iluminet 2/23/2017; Pulso 3/1/2017) 


This week's blog features contributions from Michael Khayan.