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The greening (?) of agriculture in Latin America

John Nash's picture

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For many of us, the word 'agriculture' evokes bucolic images of lush fields of grain and pastures populated by peacefully grazing cows. In this light, the notion of "greening agriculture'' seems almost oxymoronic; could anything be greener than this?

Well, maybe not in terms of color, but in terms of environmental impact, agriculture has a sizable footprint. In many countries, including large areas of the high-income countries, those lush fields of grain used to be forests. And the fertilizer that keeps those fields so green is mostly nitrogen based, generating nitrous oxide, which – kilo per kilo – has an impact on global warming several hundred times that of carbon dioxide. And those cows – how to put this delicately? – have greenhouse gases coming out of both ends! (Methane emitted by livestock is over 20 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.) And (surprise!) crops and livestock need water –lots of it. Agriculture accounts for around 70 percent of water use worldwide.

Rio+20: When Legislators Make Their Voices Heard

Sergio Jellinek's picture

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Rio+20 has an unexpected effect on participants.

While government representatives attend interminable sessions to reach a consensus on the final text for the Sustainable Development summit, legislators from 85 countries managed to reach an agreement in record time. They made a commitment to promote legislation in their respective countries on green and inclusive growth, in other words, growth that respects the environment and benefits everyone in society.

Rio + 20, Latin America and the World Bank

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

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Latin America will attend the Rio+20 conferences safe in the knowledge that they have done a good job over the past few years, but with the shared international need to keep pushing for environmental policies which will help create a more sustainable world.

The region is home to examples of world-class innovative projects, but also faces far-reaching challenges for the future in terms of green growth. The decisions that we take today will shape development for the next 20 or 30 years, according to this video blog from Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Director for Sustainable Development for Latin America and the Caribbean. 


So-called natural disasters are not unpredictable

Niels Holm-Nielsen's picture

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No two earthquakes in the world cause equal damage, according to scientists. This is particularly true in Latin America, a land of contrasts.

Whereas in 2010, an earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter scale ravaged Haiti, claiming nearly a quarter of a million lives, a few weeks ago in Mexico, an earthquake of similar magnitude (7.4) caused only a few cracks and minor injuries.

Is climate change to blame for high food prices?

John Nash's picture

If you were to throw out the question of what, if any, is the connection between climate change and the current food crisis, I suspect that many people would answer instinctively that global warming is at least partially responsible for the spiraling food prices.  Why? Because –they would argue- it caused the various extreme weather events that disrupted production in major producing regions from Eastern Europe and Central Asia to Australia to Latin America’s  Southern Cone. 

Is the hypothesis of that connection valid?  Well, no and yes.  ‘No’, in the sense that we really can’t attribute specific climatic events to global warming. After all, even without climate change, extreme events happen:  a once-in-a-hundred-year event happens once in a hundred years (duh!).

Facebook: show your “like” for the environment planting a tree

Carlos Molina's picture

Two Mexican developers are hoping to raise awareness about the environment with a Facebook application that takes a swipe at deforestation. TreePet lets users plant virtual trees that can be "transplanted" to real forests thanks to partnerships with 'green' organizations, say developers Rodrigo Lopez and Claudia Gonzalez. They received praise and honorable mentions at the World Bank Applications for Development competition that rewarded 13 other programmers for their inventiveness to push forward the development agenda. Here's our video conversation with them.