MY VIEWS 1998 : January-June


January/08/1998/ELAN: Environmental protection, the

rich and the poor.

Dear friends. Since the Kyoto meeting, the expected boom of environmental

protection polices seems to be taking shape given the sudden interest in

Bioenergy and other less CO2 intensive source of energy than traditional

sources judging by the increased of seminar, conferences,...and so on on

these topics. Before this meeting, the implementation of environmental

protection policies in less developed countries was practically

politically unfeasible due to that it was against the choices of both the

rich and the poor. After the Kyoto meeting, environmental protection

policies no longer limit the development choices of the rich, but expand

them. Therefore, under current conditions, the implementation of

environmental protection policies will only have one enemy: The poor; and

therefore, they will be more than feasible now even in the short term.

This is a move on the right direction, but I would like to remind

everybody that development under these conditions is still sustained

development and not sustainable development. The way to include social

contraints(the poor) must be found to acheive sustainability for the

homework to be fully done. However, since it took a process of almost

full conversion of forest land to other uses to create the conditions for

environmental concerns to be recognized and included in the decision

making process, it will take a process of full reversion of land in

non-forest uses to forest uses to create the conditions necessary now to

fully include social concerns in the decision making process and finally

acheive stages closer to sustainability. Under this circunstances, an

accelaration of the widdening of the gap between the rich and the poor in

less developed countries can be predicted, at least in theory, which will

undermine these environmental protection polices back only by economic

and environental concerns.

My greatings to all.

Comments are welcome.



January/15/1998/ELAN: Sostenibilidad/democracia y


Estimados Amigos. La dinamica que llevo la discusion con respecto

asostenibilidad y las diferentes posiciones expuestas me llevo areflecionar

con respecto a la relacion entre sostenibilidad, democracia ylibertad, lo

cual esta expresado en el siguiente poema. Parte I, II, Y

III estan en practica y parte IV es el ideal que se busca. Cada parte

refleja diferentes puntos de vista relacionados al tema sostenibilidad y

desarrollo sostenido.

Comentarios son bienvenidos.



Democracia y libertad


Cuando no hay democracia

ni libertad

se vive en la desgracia

y en falsedad.


Cuando hay democracia representativa

sin participacion social

se vive a la luz del dia

pero sin responsabilidad personal.


Cuando hay democracia representativa

sin libertades individuales

se vive a escondida

como animales;


Cuando hay libertad

y democracia

se vive en sostenibilidad

y con justicia.

Escrito por: Picardia Jan/12/98.


Februray/15/1998/ELAN: Food for thoughts

Dear friends. Scientist always try to avoid Re-inventing the wheel,

butwhat about rolling the scientific wheel backwards?. Is it possible

thatby doing that the scientific method can become consistent with system

theory and stop being fragmented?. For example, instead of developing

"theories" that match reality and then use reality to validate the

theory(or a part of it) we can use reality to develop the "ideal theory"

and then test if the ideal theory fits the reality. This way traditional

scientific thinking can become non-traditional and still be scientific.

Comments are welcome.




February/25/1998/ELAN: Re: Article on shrimp farming

in The Economist

Dear Dr. Stonich. I totally agree with your assessment of the situation.

I would like to poin out a paralell situation:

1) Shrimp farming claims to produced social benefits in

developing countries(jobs,...), but in the process it destroys the local

environment and the local economies;

2) Economic development claims to produce social benefits in

developing countries(Jobs...), but in the process it destroys the local

environment and the local economies.

3) both of them use "science" to avoid sustainability concerns and are

controlled by external factors.

4) the situation in developing countries is so that they may know that the

costs of these activities outweight the benefits, but they also know that

if they do not accept these costs they may not have benefits at all. It

is a sad situation, which is known to outsiders.



On Wed, 25 Feb 1998, Dr. Stonich wrote:

> Dear elaneros: I'd like to draw your attention to an article on industrial

> shrimp farming in the current issue of the Economist (Feb 21, 1998, "Going

> Swimmingly," pp. 80-81). The article reports on the recent session on

> shrimp farming held at the AAAS meetings. The article is heavily biased in

> favor of the industry. The article points to Ecuador and Honduras as places

> that have benefited from the industry. I was driven to respond with a

> letter to the editor that I am including here for your information. Please

> take a look at the article and tell me what you think.


February/26/1998/ELAN: Shrimp farming statistics/consequences

There is a discusion paper by Solon Barraclough and AndreaFinger-Stich/

1996/DP 74 called "Some Ecological and Social Im plications of Commercial

Shrimp Farming in Asia" which deals with thenature of existing statistics

and consequences related to this commercial activity. When you read it you

can see if the situation could be better in Latino America. They seek to

find ways to make this activity sustainable because it is not right now.



On Wed, 25 Feb 1998, JC W. wrote:

> I wholeheartedly support Tom's comments. I'm sure there is a good amount

> of sound statistics and other scientifically supported facts which would

> transform the case from a mere informal protest to a soundly and

> scientifically supported claim.


> On Wed, 25 Feb 1998, Tom wrote:


> > I see two posting that make claims without pointing to evidence. Each one

> > points to consequences opposed by political movements. For those of us not

> > familiar with the issues:

> >

> > (1)Where are the facts that back up the claims that shrimp farming: "Has

> > serious social and environmental justice concerns. . .raised. . .by

> > coastal peoples in the developing world?"

> >

> > (2) Where are the facts that "thousands of poor fisher folk and farmers in

> > tropical coastal zones have been deprived of access to vital coastal

> > resources that, in turn, has negatively affected rural livelihoods?"

> >

> > (3) Where is the evidence that there are adverse economic or "human

> > nutritional consequences" to cultured shrimp?

> >

> > (4) How and where does shrimp farming "destroys the local

> > environment and the local economies"?

> >

> > (5) Demonstrate how "science" is used to "to avoid sustainability concerns"?

> >

> > (6) Where is there information that shows that "costs of these activities

> > outweight the benefits"?

> >

> > (7) Do environmental regulations exist for shrimp farming.? If so, why is

> > it not enforced? Are these not activities permitted and promoted by Ecuador

> > and Honduras?

> >

> > Point the Economist to these sources and I'm sure that you will find a

> > thoughtful and probably sympathetic article and a more sympathetic audience.

> >

> > Are there some WWW links that might be useful?

> >

> > Regards,

> > Tom



Dear Friends, just before the kyoto agreement when there were

not "environmentally based" market incentives, environmentalist were onlyconcern about documenting high rates of resource use and degradation

specially in developing countries. Now with environmentally based

market incentives like Carbon Trading in the making, the rational for

action has to change, but it seems it is not clear. Just as

economic based market incentives provide the rational to maximize

potential benefits, Carbon Trading Incentives will do the same thing.

In the past, it was expected to see that methodologies that

support the case of economic based market incentives be used and prefered.

Therefore, we should not be surprised now to see that the tendency will be

to used and prefer methodologies that maximize potencial benefits from

pursuing environmentally based market incentives. Once I made some

comments that we are perhaps now in a different "development" model, yet

we seem to be looking at it from the old perspective. More controversies

like this will come as incentives other than economics are brought into

the same market. "If there were not carbon trading incentives and Costa

Rica make the same claim, it seems then there would not be any




On Sat, 28 Mar 1998, Julio Cesar Centeno wrote:

> San José, Costa Rica, March 27, 1998

> The Tico Times




> By Guillermo Escofet

> Tico Times Staff


> Before a distinguished audience of 150 scientists from 135 countries

> gathered in San José this week for the latest round of climate-change

> talks, Environment Minister René Castro boasted of Costa Rica's alleged

> success in reversing her rapid rate of forest loss, claiming the country

> conserves more than 40 percent of its rainforests.


> Castro's words during an opening address at the conference dismayed

> local environmentalists and experts alike, who saw them as a cynical

> distortion of a recent satellite-image survey that does not distinguish

> between the tree-cover of virgin forests and that of tree plantations,

> secondary-growth forests and shrub land (TT, Mar. 13, 20).


> Conservation activists and people close to the survey called the

> Minister's remarks "absurd".


April/22/1998/ELAN: Re: Earth_Day_Celebration?

Queridos Amigos. Es triste pero es cierto: la majoria de veces se

necesita que algo catastrofico pase para que se tomen las decisiones de

accion y prevencion que deberian estar en pie en caso de emergencia

causadas por el comportamiento humano o de la naturaleza. Aparentemente

medidas de accion y prevencion han sido enfocadas a controlar el

comportamiento humano, no el natural a pesar de recientes experiencias

desastrosas debido a incendios en otros paises.

Si en verdad es cierto que hay preocupacion

sobre las pocas zonas boscosas de centro america y otros paises

desarrollados, esta experiencia en Guatemala se debe de tomar como

justificacion para un programa de prevencion and combatimiento de

incendios a nivel regional. Se necesita proteccion contral las fuerzas

naturales and contra las fuerzas humanas ya que el resultado es el mismo

la perdida de recursos naturales. La organizacion o preparacion or

fortalecimiento de un projecto regional para minimizar danos debido a

incendios puede ser un buen regalo para la tierra en un futuro cercano.



On Sun, 22 Mar 1998, congreso regional de medio ambiente y desarrollo



> SOS Guatemala ! 10,000 hectareas de las areas protegidas han sido totalmente

> Ciudadanos preocupados por la Tierra

> Guatemala.


May/01/1998/ELAN: Ley de sostenibilidad o de el

medio ambiente

Estimado Ron. Revisando informacion relacionadas a aspectos

ambientales and leyes de medio ambiente en Centro America, incluyendo la

ley de el medio ambiente en El Salvador algunas dudas relacionadas a

comentarios hechos anteriormente con respecto a el uso de el concepto de

desarrollo sostenido/sostenibilidad. Pase estas inquietudes a amigos en

la lista REDLAT pero nadie a proporcionado opiniones todavia. Talves

amigos en ELAN quieran comentar algo asi es que me voy a permiter enviar

el mismo e-mail que envie a REDLAT.



---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Fri, 24 Apr 1998 11:41:12 -0700 (PDT)

Subject: Ley de sostenibilidad o de el medio ambiente

Estimada Isabel. Envio esto comentario a usted con espera que

los otros amigos/amigas en la lista lo encuentren interesante y talves

proporcionen su punto de vista.

Hace unos meses yo trate de hacer una critica constructiva al

resaltar el hecho de que el termino "desarrollo sostenido" es todavia

usado en ves de el concepto de "sostenibilidad" por instituciones de

govierno, privadas y NGOs en centro america, en particular, y en paises

subdesarrollados, en general. Esto a pesar que en paises desarrollados

el termino "sostenibilidad" es mas usado ya que para usar el otro termino

se necesitan paginas de justificacion.

Revisando informacion sobre los diferentes programas y/o las

diferentes leyes de medio ambiente en paises centro americanos, la

confusion desarrollo sostenido/sostenibilidad me parece mas profunda.

Aparentemente el objetivo general de las leyes de medio ambiente es

"sostenibilidad ambiental" y los objetivos especificos son minimizar los

dan~os que la actividad economica causa a los recursos naturales(medio

ambiente) y crear una conciencia social mas amigable con el ambiente. Las

regulaciones parecen dirigidas a regular/controlar las fuerzas economicas

y sociales affectando a el medio ambiente en tal forma que complementa las

politicas economicas y sociales existentes. No creen que es necesario,

para facilitar, planificacion, regulacion y control la busqueda de

promulgar una "ley de sostenibilidad" que integre eficientemente la

leyes economicas, la leyes sociales y la ley del medio ambiente?.

Cual es la opinion de otros en la lista con respecto a esto?




May/04/1998/ELAN: Sostenido o Sostenible o Sustentable

Estimado Federico. Si puede revisar e-mails que yo envie a ELAN mas o

menos en septiembre/97 hagalo. En estos mensajes yo trate de resaltar que

es mejor mirar a la situacion relacionada a desarrollo sostenido/

sostenibilidad desde el punto de vista de tipos/teorias/ideologias de

desarrollo. Al hacer esto, el problema de "terminologia y significado

desaparece" ya que la estructura de el sistema indica el tipo /teoria/

punto de vista de desarrollo.

En mi opinion, el uso de el termino "desarrollo sostenido" es

popular porque permite a diferente tipos/teorias/puntos de vista de

desarrollo penetrar regiones sin necesidad de dar a conocer con claridad o

justificar los objetivos fundamentales de el projecto o la organizacion.

Por ejemplo, desarrollo economico or desarrollo socio-economico o

desarrollo ambiental o desarrollo social pueden ser sistemas

sostenidos/sustentables, pero no son sostenibles. Sostenibilidad

inplica sostenibilidad economica, social y ambiental al mismo tiempo por

lo tanto sostenibilidad implica un sistema sostenible.

Es mas facil por una organizacion local o internacional decir que

van a establecer o financiar projectos consistentes con el concepto de

desarrollo sostenido que con el concepto de sostenibilidad. El concepto

de desarrollo sostenido es consistente con varios modelos de desarrollo

aun cuando tienen puntos de vista opuestos por lo que es dificil de

evaluar y comprender. El concepto de sostenibilidad es consistente

solamente con un modelo y puede indicar el grado de sostenibilidad de

los otros modelos. Por ejemplo, los objetivos de NGOs, locales o no

locales, pueden ser consistentes con "desarrollo sostenido" pero no con

"sostenibilidad" por lo que tendrian un grado de "sostenibilidad".

De aqui mi comentario "ley de sostenibilidad o ley del medio

ambiente". El sistema de cada pais centro americano se esta moviendo hacia

tres leyes: economicas, sociales y ambientales, supuestamente con el

objeto de alcanzar un estado de "sostenibilidad" no de desarrollo

sostenido como aparentemente se indica. Por lo tanto la ley de el medio

ambiente es parte de una ley que todavia no existe "ley de

sostenibilidad", la cual ayudaria a aclarar e integrar las tres leyes par

mejor planificacion, monitoreo y control y accion. Este fue mi comentario




On Fri, 1 May 1998, comades wrote:

> Estimados Ron y Lucio,


> Efectivamente la inquietud planteada en cuanto a la confusion de

> terminos en la region es cierta. En primer lugar existe polemica en

> utilizar sustentable o sostenible. Al traducir sustainable del ingles

> parece que se han utilizado ambos terminos indiferentemente, tal como

> ocurre con empowerment traducido como empoderamiento pero que conceptua

> mejor la palabra potenciacion.

> Federico


May/05/1998/ELAN: Re: Sostenido o Sostenible o Sustentable

Estimado Alan. Cambios de modas son bien dificil pero cambio de

paradigma es mas dificil todavia pero son necesarios especialmente para

incorporar los costos sociales y ambientales que anteriormente se dejaban

fuera de la equacion. La globalizacion de un concepto que se demostrado

incorrecto(desarrollo sostenido) es parte de un proceso de evolucion en

el cual este punto de vista dominaba ausolutamente.

En vista de la dinamica actual, el interest de incorporar

seriamente aspectos sociales y ambientales llevara poco a poco a la

globalizacion de un concepto de "sostenibilidad" y en mi opinion, los

paises subdesarrollados van a tener un papel bien importante en hacer esta

transicion. Porque?. Hay muchas razones posibles:

a) Una es que conceptos como sustentabilidad/sostenido implica

dependencia/dominacion y sostenibilidad implica independencia/coordinacion;

b) el concepto de sostenibilidad es mas transparente con respecto a

sub-conceptos como equidad, participacion social, seguridad, cooperacion,

participacion social y los otros subconceptos que ustedes mencionaron ya

que permite balacear intereses economicos, sociales y ambientales.

Sustentabilidad es usualmente asociado con la provision de alimentos o

nececidades basicas de la sociedad y sostenido es normal mente asociado

con projectos economicos o eco-economicos;

c) El concepto de sostenibilidad parece mas consistente

con programas regionales de planificacion e investigacion que

los otros dos conceptos por su amplitud y naturaleza integrativa; y

d) El concepto de sostenibilidad implica ausencia de barreras/

fronteras entre los diferentes componentes de el sistema lo que lleva a un

nivel de flexibilidad que depende de el reconocimiento mutuo de derechos y

obligaciones entre los elementos de el sistema.

In mi opinion, el usar ESA en ves de EIA es un paso adelante pero

el verdadero paso a dar es hacer un ES(estudio de sostenibilidad) de cada

programa. Para poder hacer un ES que pueda ser replicado dependiendo de

las condiciones locales se necesita el lograr un cambio total de moda de

desarrollo sostenido a desarrollo sostenible, lo cual va a ser un proceso

lento el cual va a depender de el grado de rapidez con que la confusion




On Mon, 4 May 1998, Alan wrote:

> Por otro lado, y en relacion a lo que mencionaba Lucio, considero que la

> "sustentabilidad mantenida (sostenida)" es la meta. Esto tiene

> implicaciones a nivel de proceso.


> Hace un par de anhos un colega canadiense, Jim Norris, planteo que la EIA

> deberia de ser sustituida por la evaluacion de sostenibilidad ambiental

> o ESA. Decia que ya no se trata solo de evaluar impactos sino de

>cerciorarse que la accion propuesta cumple o no con los lineamientos del

>desarrollo sostenible.


> Saludos,

> Alan.


May/14/1998/ELAN: RE: International Standards on GE

Foods: Have Your Say

Dear Javier. Does this means that the driving force of Biotechnology is

to feed the poor/growing population and not profits?. Even if it was

both, still the potencial risk/liabilities given incomplete knowledge had

to be weighted. For example, if people start to get sick/die because of

specific GE Foods who will compensate them or their families?.

Governments?. Companies? or will we have so sign a risk/liability waiver

before we are allow to eat them?.

This is not to denie that there are no benefits from GE Food

technology, but the net benefits are not yet known according to other

experts in the Biotechlogy field. The theoretical and practical concerns

made by those scienties and individuals are valid in my opinion at this

stage, and the introduction of the GE Foods technology should be based on

the leasons learn from the introduction of the agricultural quimical

technology. After all the goal of these two technologies is the same

according to your posting: to feed growing populations at higher output

per area. However, the scale now is different: now the impacts will be

globalized not localized so it will not be individual countries at risk,

but the whole earth. A slower and more organized approach should be

preferred don't you think so?.



On Thu, 14 May 1998, Javier wrote:

> Dear Carlos,


> I fully understand your concerns, but I think we should be realistic in this

> era of "free global markets" which will stay with us for some decades (even

> if you and me don't like it), as long as socio-economic relationships remain

> unchanged in the world. Thus, I agree with Mr. Smith's thoughts.


> Historically, technological revolutions have always encountered opposition

> but were never able to block their development (with all the good and bad

> impacts). Having said that, we should recognize that the world population

> is expected to double by year 2030 to 12 billion and it is quite clear now

> that the current food production will not keep pace with population growth.

> The question is how to feed billions of additional people without destroying

> the planet with the excessive use of fossil fuels, agro-chemicals and

> marginal lands. Biotechnology offers answers to most of these concerns: it

> has the potential to increase food production, reduce dependency on

> agro-chemicals, and reduce the environmental impacts associated with

> conventional production methods.


May/25/1998/ELAN: Re: News - Fires Worse than Expected

During earthday there were some concerns about some fires in

Guatemala I think, and it was highlighted that a program to

prevent/attack fires was needed for the region. No more comments

were made. Now the fires in the region are the worse they can be and

formal calls for prevention and action are being made.

This time the blame seems to be placed on society(slash and burn farmers)

and the societie's representative(the government) for the problem(fire)

and its worsening. However, the calls for enforcement and action without

providing real options/support to farmers/governments, if implemented,

may backfire against nature. If slash and burn farmers are given only

the choice between their wellbeing or the wellbeing of nature, their

survival instints indicate that they will keep burning nature. Therefore,

efforts should be based on saving as much as possible and work immediately

on how to prevent new future fires. This prevention plan must included clear

options backed by clear enforcement rules and clear responsibility from

all involved(farmers, governments, NGOs, and other parties). As Tom says

after the fire is gone the problem is still there as well as the potential

for future fires.



On Sun, 24 May 1998, Tom wrote:

> Fire is a useful agronomic tool but the forest fire hazard will not

> disappear with El Nino. Stabilizing rural agriculture to improve the rural

> economy, reducing slash and burn, and protecting the natural ecology are

> all part of the same complex challenge. It's not enough for an

> environmental minister to call for a reduction in field fires. Technical

> assistance, markets and incentives must be offerred as well. I think it is

> both the biggest threat and the biggest challenge we face in the forest

> ecology of the developing world.

> Tom


May/28/1998/ELAN: Slush and burn agriculture

Dear Friends. The literature suggest that permanent agriculture

can be made sustainable, and that a lot of efforts are being made in that

direction. Can slush and burn agriculture be made sustainable too?. It

seems like it used to be or appeared to be!. What are the pros and cons

of permanet agriculture and slash and burn agriculture?. I think that the

careful consideration of these issues may lead to some possible

ways/options to address the problem at the local level, including

priorities for funding/incentives.




June/01/1998/ELAN: Re: Sustainable slashing and burning

Dear Ronald. Regarless of the terminology issue, the farmers and

their practices are here to stay in the long term if nothing is done.

As you indicated, a lot is known about this practice, prons and cons, so

alternatives/options could be identify consistent with local conditions if

there was a program(political/economic) to support it.

My question originated from seing calls for changing/eliminating

this practice without offering any alternative to the survival of these

farmers. Is it not possible to develop a CO2/GREEN TYPE policy to be able

to find/provide options to these farmers to make their practice and

perceptions more environmentally friendly?. If it works for economic/

ecological projects(such a modern agriculture) it may work for socially

oriented projects too, don't you think so?.

Even though it is not clear crisp, I got the feeling that a

comparison of prons and cons of modern agriculture and slash and burn

agriculture may indicate that slash and burn agriculture has produced less

environmental degradation and could be made more environmentally frindly

faster. What do you think?.

Warm greetings;



> The real question is when are we going to stop thinking of small farmers in

> the tropics as "shifty slashers" and let them (if we can't help them) make

> a decent life for themselves. They could significantly contribute to

> regional food security and even to global agriculture it they were given

> half a chance. They could also contribute greatly to conservation and

> restoration of vast degraded rural areas. Indeed it would seem that the

> future of natural resources in Latin America largely depend on the fate of

> these, million of men, women and children who still live on the land, and

> who, in many cases, possess wisdom about how to do that.

> regards to all


June/15/1998/ELAN: Re: Perverse Subsidies

Just a thought(before reading the book): if economic subsidies

are perverse, what about social subsidies or environmental subsidies?.

Given the fact that subsidies(incentives) are usually needed

to promote desired behaviour, the question is how to make all perverse

subsidies non-perverse. The answer should point toward "sustainability",

not toward sustainable development, but it seems not to be the case. Any




On Mon, 15 Jun 1998, John wrote:

> For all these reasons, perverse subsidies militate against sustainable

> development. They are a no-no whether economically; environmentally or

> socially. If they were to be reduced(while still leaving lots of

> subsidies for special interests), there would actually be a double

> dividend:

> 1. There would be an end to the formidable obstacles imposed by perverse

> subsidies on sustainable development.

> 2. There would be a huge stock of funds available to give a new push to

> sustainable development--funds on a scale that would be unlikely to

> become available through any other source. In the case of the United

> States, for instance, they would amount to more than $300 billion. This

> is larger than the Pentagon budget, $240 billion, and more than twice as


June/30/1998/ELAN: Re: El Salvador on brink of

environmental disaster etc

Just a comment: The apparent correlation between environmental problems

and industrialization may be affected by the size of the country and the

rate of industrialization. The smaller the country and resource base and

the higher the rate of industrialization, the more severe the

environmental problem should be expected to be. Apparently El Salvador

has had historically one of the highest rate of industrialization(eg. land

convertion with respect to its size) among Central American Countries and

it is a fact that it is the smallest.

Hence, the level of environmental degradation should not be a suprised

given that those models of industrialization were being promoted in the

past as the best way to go and environmental impacts were assumed

to be minimal.

On the other hand, it may be possible that the level of

environmental degradation was already critical before the land reform and

conflict that took place in el Salvador since the late 1970s. Hence the

model described below may be working, but not as desired or planned

because the enviromental impacts may be close the the maximum.




Comments are welcome to exchange ideas.

On Tue, 30 Jun 1998, bunny wrote:

> ****************************************************



> Some economists argue that developing nations invariably experience

> severe environmental problems as they industrialize their economies.

> But many argue that the model doesn't work for this tiny Central

> American nation because its problems are already critical.