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People & Ecosystems

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  • Presentation
  • Blog post

    A Critical Moment to Harness Green Infrastructure—Not Concrete—to Secure Clean Water

    This post was co-written with James Mulligan, Executive Director at Green Community Ventures.

    Natural ecosystems provide essential services for our communities. Forests and wetlands, for example, filter the water we drink, protect neighborhoods from floods and droughts, and shade aquatic habitat for fish populations.

    While nature provides this “green infrastructure,” water utilities and other decision-makers often attempt to replicate these services with concrete-and-steel “gray infrastructure”—usually at a much greater cost. Particularly where the equivalent natural ecosystems are degraded, we build filtration plants to clean water, reservoirs to regulate water flow, and mechanical chillers to protect fish from increasing stream temperatures. And even though healthy ecosystems can reduce the operational costs of these structures, investing in restoring or enhancing various types of green infrastructure is rarely pursued—either as a substitute for or complement to gray infrastructure.

    Despite America’s history of reliance on gray infrastructure, now is a critical time to tip the scales in favor of a green infrastructure approach to water-resource management. Investing in the conservation and improved management of natural ecosystems to secure and protect water systems can keep costs down and create jobs. Green infrastructure can also provide a suite of co-benefits for the air we breathe, the places we play, the wildlife we share our landscapes with, and the climate we live in.

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  • Blog post

    Farewell, 2012. You Taught Us Much.

    This year has been one of those worst-of-years and best-of-years. In its failures, there are signs of hope.

    An unprecedented stream of extreme weather events worldwide tragically reminded us that we’re losing the fight against climate change. For the first time since 1988, climate change was totally ignored in the U.S. presidential campaign, even though election month, November, was the 333rd consecutive month with a global temperature higher than the long-term average. A WRI report identified 1,200 coal-fired power plants currently proposed for construction worldwide. The Arctic sea ice reached its lowest-ever area in September, down nearly 20 percent from its previous low in 2007. And disappointing international negotiations in June and December warned us not to rely too much on multilateral government-to-government solutions to global problems.

    But 2012 was also a year of potential turning points. A number of new “plurilateral” approaches to problem-solving came to the fore, offering genuine hope. A wave of emerging countries, led by China, embraced market-based green growth strategies. Costs for renewable energy continued their downward path, and are now competitive in a growing number of contexts. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that global investment in renewable energy was probably around $250 billion in 2012, down by perhaps 10 percent over the previous year, but not bad given the eliminations of many subsidy programs, economic austerity in the West, and the sharp shale-induced declines in natural gas prices. And the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy, coupled with the ongoing drought covering more than half of the United States (which will turn out to be among the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history) may have opened the door to a change of psychology, in turn potentially enabling the Obama Administration to exhibit the international leadership the world so urgently needs, as many of us have advocated.

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  • Blog post

    Does Economic Valuation Really Influence Coastal Policy?

    Governments, corporations, and development agencies are increasingly interested in putting a dollar value on ecosystems in order to balance conservation and development needs, a concept known as “economic valuation.” For example, St. Maarten’s government recently established the country’s first marine national park after a local organization found that the area’s coastal ecosystems contribute $58 million per year through tourism and fisheries. Belize enacted a host of new fishing regulations based on a WRI valuation, which found that coral reef- and mangrove-associated tourism contributes $150 million-$196 million per year to the country’s economy. And in Bonaire, park managers used economic valuation to justify the Bonaire Marine Park’s establishment of user fees—making it one of the few self-financed marine parks in the Caribbean.

    These stories show that economic valuation can indeed lead to better coastal policy, conserving these ecosystems and securing their important economic contributions. However, according to new WRI research, these cases tend to be the exception in the Caribbean.

    Economic Valuation and Coastal Policy in the Caribbean

    In the Caribbean, there is keen interest in economic valuation of coastal ecosystems to inform policy and improve natural resource management. But while the literature on the value of coral reefs and mangroves in the Caribbean continues to grow, these ecosystems continue to decline.

    WRI and the Marine Ecosystem Services Partnership (MESP) took a closer look at the impact of previous economic valuation studies in the Caribbean. Out of more than 200 studies of the economic value of the Caribbean’s marine ecosystem goods and services, we were only able to identify 13 that actually influenced marine and coastal management policies, such as those in Bonaire, St. Maarten, and Belize.

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  • Blog post

    Updated Guide Helps Businesses Source Sustainable Wood and Paper Products

    Forests are vitally important for the global environment, economy, and population. The forest sector employs 13.7 million workers and contributes to about 1 percent of the global GDP. Plus, an estimated 500 million people around the world directly depend on forests for their livelihoods.

    But forests are also under threat. From 2000-2010, about 15 million hectares of the world’s forests were cleared, and a 2004 assessment estimated that 8-10 percent of the global wood trade is of illegal origin. In addition to deforestation, illegal logging can cause government revenue losses, poverty, unfair competition with legally sourced goods, unplanned and uncontrolled forest management, conflicts, and other illicit activities that can occur in instances where illegal logging’s proceeds are linked to organized crime and corruption.

    But there are solutions. One way to improve forest management across the globe is for businesses, governments, and citizens to seek out and demand sustainably harvested wood and paper products.

    Today, WRI and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) released the third edition of a guide that helps businesses develop sustainable policies and seek out sustainably harvested wood and paper products. The updated guide, Sustainable Procurement of Wood and Paper-Based Products, is accompanied by a revamped website.

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  • Blog post

    The False Choice Between Palm Oil and Indonesian Forests

    This post originally appeared in the Jakarta Post.

    Palm oil is on a lot of people’s minds. In Indonesia, the industry is booming, with $19.7 billion of crude palm oil exports in 2011. But expanding oil palm plantations have taken their toll on remaining forests and other natural habitats in tropical regions and led to conflict over land with local people.

    The world’s top scientists are also raising concerns. According to a recent study in Nature Climate Change, from 1990 to 2010, 90 percent of lands converted to oil palm plantations in Kalimantan were forested.

    There need not, however, be a trade-off between palm oil, forests, and communities. It is possible to grow more crops--including oil palm--while keeping forests and cutting rural poverty.

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  • Blog post

    2 New Tools Can Cut Deforestation and Support Sustainable Palm Oil in Indonesia

    Can the world have its palm oil and forests, too? This is an issue that my colleague and I discussed a while back. I am pleased to say that we recently moved a step toward ensuring that the answer is “yes.”

    At the 10th Annual Meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), WRI launched two new online mapping applications designed to help the palm oil industry grow while avoiding deforestation. These free tools enable palm oil producers, buyers, investors, and government agencies to easily identify and evaluate locations in Indonesia where they can develop plantations on already-degraded land rather than on currently forested areas. By siting oil palm plantations on degraded or “low-carbon” lands, developers can avoid the need to clear remaining natural forests to meet the growing global demand for palm oil.

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  • Blog post

    Forthcoming World Resources Report Will Focus on Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture

    Today is World Food Day, a chance for people all over the world to focus on approaches to end global hunger. Celebrated each year to commemorate the founding of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), this day provides us with an opportunity to assess where the world is today in regard to food security – and what we’ll all have to do in the future to achieve it.

    How Do You Feed 9 Billion People by 2050?

    For much of the planet, food security isn’t a concern on just one day of the year—it’s a daily struggle. According to the FAO, 870 million of the world’s poor are already undernourished, and yet global human population is projected to increase from 7 billion to more than 9 billion by 2050. To sufficiently feed these people, worldwide food availability will need to increase by at least 52 percent from 2007 levels.

    Yet agriculture is already having huge impacts on the world’s environment and resources. For instance, agriculture is the direct driver of about 80 percent of tropical deforestation. Agriculture is responsible for up to 85 percent of the world’s consumption of freshwater, and nutrient runoff is a major cause of water quality degradation globally. And according to WRI’s Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT), food production accounts for up to 27 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions per year due to deforestation, livestock, energy consumption on farms, and fertilizer use.

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  • Blog post

    A Look Inside Disney's New Paper Sourcing and Use Policy

    Disney, one of the world’s largest media companies, made a big announcement today that can help the company move in a more sustainable direction when it comes to paper sourcing and use. This is a positive step toward environmental leadership by a company whose name is familiar to people around the globe.

    According to the policy, Disney will minimize paper consumption in its day-to-day operations and increase the recovery of used paper and packaging for recycling. In terms of paper purchasing, the policy addresses most of the themes covered in WRI’s Sustainable Wood and Paper Procurement Guide. Disney commits to maximize the use of recycled fiber, maximize the use of paper made from wood sourced from sustainably managed forests (as certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or an equivalent forest certification scheme), and maximize the use of paper products processed without chlorine or chlorine compounds. Disney will also eliminate the use of paper made from “unwanted” raw materials including:

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  • Blog post

    New, Interactive Atlas Can Improve Cameroon’s Forest Management

    Cameroon’s forests, which cover about 60 percent of the country, play a vital role for people and the economy. They account for more than six percent of the nation’s GDP, the highest percentage of all countries in the Congo Basin. Cameroon’s forests provide services and sustenance directly and indirectly to local communities and city dwellers alike.

    Yet, until recently, Cameroon lacked a comprehensive information system to actually monitor and manage its forests. There was no integrated system or entity tracking the various forest uses, like logging concessions, community forests, hunting zones, and more. The information that was available was scattered amongst different institutions, wasn’t publicly accessible, or was of a quality insufficient to support legality claims and effective land use decisions. This lack of information exacerbated the unsustainable use of forest resources and sparked conflicts between competing forest stakeholders, such as loggers and community groups.

    That’s where the Cameroon Forest Atlas comes in. Since 2002, Cameroon's Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) has worked with WRI to improve transparency and governance in the forest sector by publishing and regularly updating the Interactive Forest Atlas of Cameroon. MINFOF and WRI recently released version 3.0 of the online Atlas, as well as an accompanying report, poster, desktop mapping application, and underlying spatial datasets.

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New Data Shows Indonesian Forest Fires a Longstanding Crisis

Over the past few days, WRI has been tracking the location of forest and land fires on Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia. In this update, WRI examines the historical trends of forest fires in Sumatra. Read our previous analysis.

Bacalah posting blog dalam Bahasa Indonesia di sini

Fires continue to burn in Indonesia, spreading haze and suffering across the country and into Malaysia and Singapore. New research from the World Resources Institute reveals troubling trends about the blazes:

  • The current fires are not beyond the normal historic range for fires in the region, but that may change as the fires continue to burn heavily.

  • The recent fires are part of a longstanding, endemic crisis of forest fires and land clearing in Indonesia, and bold action is needed to prevent the crisis from escalating.

In this new analysis, WRI examines the historical trends of forest fires in Sumatra. Rapid analysis from WRI finds that the current forest fires observed in the Riau Province fit into a larger pattern of widespread forest and land fires. However, June 2013 is on track to be one of the worst months on record since 2001. Evaluation of recent wind patterns explains why the fires’ impact was felt so acutely in Singapore.

WRI explored these trends using two key data sets:

  1. Historic fire alerts from NASA’s Active Fire Data, which shows fire alerts for the period of January 1, 2001 until the present.

  2. Information on air dispersion to Singapore derived from NOAA’s HYSPLIT model, which takes into account meteorological data and can be used to estimate the most likely path that air traveled to reach a particular location at a given time.

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3 Ways to Achieve Zero Tropical Deforestation by 2020

This post was co-authored with Carita Chan, an intern with WRI's forests initiative.

As the crisis of tropical deforestation reaches a new level of urgency due to forest fires raging in Indonesia, an important question is how can the world satisfy the growing demand for forest products while still preserving forest ecosystems? This week, some of the world’s largest companies will join U.S. and Indonesian government officials in Jakarta at the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA 2020) meeting to discuss this issue.

The meeting comes three years after the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a group of the world’s 400 largest consumer goods companies from 70 countries, announced their commitment to source only deforestation-free commodities in their supply chains and help achieve net-zero deforestation by 2020. The TFA 2020, a public-private partnership established in 2012 at the Rio+20 Summit, aims to provide concrete guidance on how to implement the forum’s pledge.

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WRI Merilis Data Terbaru Terkait Kebakaran Hutan Di Indonesia

Cecelia Song, Andika Putraditama, Andrew Leach, Ariana Alisjahbana, Lisa Johnston, James Anderson dan ahli lainnya di WRI juga berkontribusi dalam artikel ini.

Read this post in English here.

Hari Jumat yang lalu, World Resources Institute (WRI) mempublikasikan data detil terkait lokasi peringatan titik api di Sumatera yang telah menyebabkan kabut asap yang sangat mengganggu dan berpotensi beracun di wilayah Indonesia, Singapura, dan Malaysia. Pemerintah ketiga negara, perusahaan-perusahaan, maupun media semua berlomba untuk mencari data untuk memahami penyebab dan lokasi sebaran titik api, serta memutuskan siapa yang seharusnya bertanggung jawab.

Selama beberapa hari terakhir ini, WRI telah melacak lokasi sebaran kebakaran hutan dan lahan yang terjadi di Sumatera, sebuah pulau di bagian barat Indonesia. Dalam perkembangan terbaru ini, WRI menganalisis tren historis kebakaran hutan yang terjadi di Sumatera. Baca analisa sebelumnya.

Analisis terbaru dari WRI menunjukkan adanya perkembangan sebaran peringatan titik api di Sumatera dari waktu ke waktu serta kaitannya dengan konsesi perusahaan. Dua data penting dalam analisis ini antara lain:

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WRI Releases Updated Data on the Fires in Indonesia

Bacalah posting blog dalam Bahasa Indonesia di sini

Last Friday, the World Resources Institute (WRI) published detailed data on the location of forest and land fires on Sumatra, which have spread a noxious and harmful haze across Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, and caused widespread public concern. Governments from all three nations, many companies, and news outlets are seeking data to help understand the origin and spread of the fires, and determine who should be held accountable.

Read WRI’s "Peering Through the Haze: What Data Can Tell Us About the Fires in Indonesia"

WRI now has an updated assessment of fire alerts in Sumatra, showing the progression of alerts through time and location in relation to company concessions. The new analysis incorporates two important data updates:

  1. New fire alerts from NASA’s Active Fire Data, which shows the most recent fire alerts for the period of June 20-23 (previous analysis was for June 12-20).

  2. More recent concession and land use maps from the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, dated 2013.

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Mengintip diantara kabut: Bagaimana data dapat membantu kita menyelidiki kebakaran di Indonesia

WRI telah memperbarui data terkait kebakaran hutan di Indonesia. Baca artikelnya di sini.

Cecelia Song, Andika Putraditama, Andrew Leach, Ariana Alisjahbana, Lisa Johnston, Jessica Darmawan, James Anderson dan ahli-ahli lainnya di WRI juga berkontribusi dalam artikel ini.

Read this story in English here

Penduduk di,Singapura, sebagian dari Indonesia dan Malaysia sedang mengalami kabut asap yang menganggu aktivitas sehari-hari akibat kebakaran hutan. Tingkat kualitas udara di Singapura telah jatuh ke tingkat terburuk yang pernah tercatat di pulau tersebut sedangkan bandara di Indonesia dan beberapa sekolah di Malaysia harus ditutup. Hampir semua kebakaran yang terjadi baru-baru ini (12-20 Juni) berasal dari titik api di Sumatera.

Media massa banyak memuat debat sengit mengenai lokasi, sebab, dan sifat kebakaran. Saat ini WRI telah menyusun beberapa data awal yang menunjukkan beberapa pola menarik. Data awal menunjukkan kebakaran yang terjadi relatif sedikit di kawasan lindung dan konsesi penebangan. Lebih dari setengah dari peringatan titik api yang ditemukan terjadi pada hutan tanaman industri dan perkebunan kelapa sawit. Meskipun membakar hutan bagi perusahaan di Indonesia merupakan perbuatan ilegal, perusahaan di masa lalu telah diketahui menggunakan api untuk pembukaan lahan. Hal ini akan menjadi penting untuk mengumpulkan informasi lebih lanjut mengenai lokasi kebakaran dan penyebabnya. Informasi ini dapat memberi implikasi penting bagi perusahaan-perusahaan dan badan pemerintah yang terlibat.

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Peering Through the Haze: What Data Can Tell Us About the Fires in Indonesia

WRI has released updated data on the fires in Indonesia. Read the story here.

Cecelia Song, Andrew Leach, and other experts at WRI also contributed to this post.

Bacalah posting blog dalam Bahasa Indonesia di sini

People in Indonesia, Singapore, and parts of Malaysia are currently suffering from debilitating levels of haze resulting from forest fires. Air quality levels in Singapore have deteriorated to the worst levels ever recorded on the island, while local airports in Indonesia and some schools in Malaysia have had to close. Almost all of the recent fires (June 12-20) have occurred in Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia.

While there’s been heated debate on the location, cause, and nature of the fires, WRI has compiled some initial data that reveals that there are some patterns. Relatively few fires have occurred in protected areas and selective logging concessions. Furthermore, half of the fires are burning on timber and oil palm plantations. Although it is illegal for companies in Indonesia to start forest or land fires, several companies have used fires for land clearing in the past. It will be important to gather more detailed information about the exact location of the fires and their causes, which could have important implications for the companies and government agencies involved.

A Look Inside the Forest Fire Data

WRI gathered information from NASA’s Active Fire Data, which uses satellite data to pinpoint the location of fires in near real time, together with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry’s concession maps for oil palm, logging concessions, and timber plantation licenses. We counted the number of NASA fire alerts in each concession in Indonesia and tabulated the results.

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10 Ways to Cut Global Food Loss and Waste

This post is the third installment of WRI’s blog series, “Creating a Sustainable Food Future.” The series explores strategies to sustainably feed 9 billion people by 2050. All pieces are based on research being conducted for the 2013-2014 World Resources Report.

An amazing 24 percent of all food calories produced today go uneaten. Reducing this loss and waste is a critical step toward generating enough food for a population set to reach more than 9 billion by 2050.

Fortunately, there are low-cost methods that can begin saving food immediately in both the developing and the developed world. WRI’s new working paper, Reducing Food Loss and Waste, identifies a number of these strategies. Some methods cut loss “close to the farm,” while others reduce waste “close to the fork.”

Reducing Food Loss Close to the Farm

Improved storage methods

Simple, low-cost storage methods can drastically cut food loss, especially for small-scale farmers in the developing world, who frequently lose food to factors like pests, spoilage, and transportation damage. For example, a system developed by researchers at Purdue University in which grain is stored in three interlocking plastic bags locks out pests and keeps grain fresh for months. The Food and Agriculture Organization has built more than 45,000 small, metal storage silos—just big enough for use by a single farmer—in 16 different countries. These silos have cut food loss during the storage phase to almost zero. Even using a plastic crate instead of a plastic sack during transport can cut loss dramatically by preventing bruising and squashing.

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By the Numbers: Reducing Food Loss and Waste

This post is the second installment of WRI’s blog series, “Creating a Sustainable Food Future.” The series explores strategies to sustainably feed 9 billion people by 2050. All pieces are based on research being conducted for the 2013-2014 World Resources Report. Look for the next installment tomorrow, which will highlight a number of solutions to reduce food loss and waste.

The world produces about 4 billion tons of food per year, or about 6 quadrillion calories. That’s a large amount, but what’s really shocking is that nearly one-quarter of these calories go uneaten.

This food is lost or wasted in a number of ways. It might rot in the fields, get eaten by pests in storage, or be thrown away by a grocer or consumer, just to name a few. It’s a problem that must be mitigated: The world will need about 60 percent more calories per year by 2050 in order to adequately feed the projected population of more than 9 billion people. WRI’s new working paper, Reducing Food Loss and Waste, shows that cutting current rates of food loss and waste in half would reduce the size of this food gap by about 22 percent.

The new paper, part of the ongoing 2013-2014 World Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future working paper series, looks at the scale of the food loss and waste challenge and examines how we as a global community can start tackling this issue. The paper and tomorrow’s blog post explore a number of practical, affordable strategies for governments, businesses, and households to reduce their loss and waste immediately.

But first, it’s important to understand the extent of the problem. Here are several facts and figures that reveal just how much food the world loses and wastes:

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Demystifying the Role of Ecosystem Services in Impact Assessments

Ensuring that development projects benefit both people and the planet is becoming more and more of a priority.

Environmental and social impact assessments (ESIA) have been in use for decades to consider the effects of projects such as dams, highways, and oil and gas development. Over the years, ESIAs have evolved to cover both environmental and social impacts, including health and human rights.

However, the assessments often study social or environmental factors separately from one another, missing the many ways in which they interact.

In 2012, important financial institutions--the International Finance Corporation and the Equator Principles Financial Institutions--took a welcome step towards promoting a more holistic approach to impact assessment, requiring their clients to address ecosystem services as part of their due diligence.

Incorporating the concept of ecosystem services into ESIA can ensure that affected stakeholders, project developers, financial, and governmental institutions understand the full scope of a proposed project’s impacts on people and the environment. But as I recently learned at the annual conference of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) two weeks ago, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what the concept of “ecosystem services” really means and how it can be applied to conducting impact assessments. It’s a good time to clear up confusion on this critically important yet complex issue.

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