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Totten Book Review of Jason Clay Agriculture book in BioScience 3 04

Totten Book Review of Jason Clay Agriculture book in BioScience 3 04

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Published by Michael P Totten
NOURISHING HUMANS WITHOUT DIMINISHING NATURE, is a positive review of Jason Clay's book, World Agriculture and the Environment, A Commodity-by-Commodity
Guide to Impacts and Practices, (2004), by Michael P. Totten, Chief Advisor, Climate, Water and Ecosystem Services, Conservation International, which was published in Bioscience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.
NOURISHING HUMANS WITHOUT DIMINISHING NATURE, is a positive review of Jason Clay's book, World Agriculture and the Environment, A Commodity-by-Commodity
Guide to Impacts and Practices, (2004), by Michael P. Totten, Chief Advisor, Climate, Water and Ecosystem Services, Conservation International, which was published in Bioscience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

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Published by: Michael P Totten on Apr 01, 2009
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 March 2004 / Vol.54 No.3
more extended treatments ofthe many issues addressed in
 Animal Social Com- plexity 
rather than these relatively brief,data-free presentations,concise andreadable though many may be.The vol-ume could,however,serve as a usefulstarting point for a senior undergradu-ate or graduate seminar,providing use-ful introductions to relevant literaturethat students could consult in preparingoral or written presentations.BENNETT G.GALEF JR.
Department ofPsychology  McMaster University Hamilton,Ontario L8S 4K1,Canada
Reference cited
Byrne R,Whiten A,eds.1988.Machiavellian Intel-ligence:Social Expertise and the Evolution ofIn-tellect in Monkeys,Apes,and Humans.Oxford(United Kingdom):Clarendon Press.
World Agriculture and the Environ-ment:A Commodity-by-Commodity Guide to Impacts and Practices.
JasonClay.Island Press,Washington,DC,2004.568 pp.,illus.$35.00 (ISBN1559633700 paper).
ason Clay,vice president ofWorldWildlife Fund’s Center for Conserva-tion Innovation and one ofthe first pur-veyors of“green marketing,brings to
World Agriculture and the Environment 
decades ofagricultural experience,be-ginning with working the family farmin Missouri.He has synthesized into thisaccessible reader an impressive volume of facts,figures,and trends on the state of world agriculture and its myriad envi-ronmental impacts.Unlike the reams ofstatistics aggre-gated in national or United Nations Foodand Agriculture Organization reports,the numbers for each ofthe 21 com-modities covered in Clay’s work arewoven into a narrative that captures sig-nificant patterns.Two trenchant chapterscover “agricultural trends and realities”and “agriculture and the environment.”These are followed by chapters on sepa-rate commodities,each ofwhich beginswith a map ofthe geographical areas of production;“fast factson productionand international trade;the key coun-tries that produce,export,and importthe commodity;and a summary ofma- jor environmental impacts and the po-tential for improvement.Clay examinesin some detail the main threats that eachcommodity poses to the environmentand the overall global trends that shapethese threats.He also presents a detaileddiscussion ofbest management practices(BMPs),both tried-and-true ones andnew approaches,that could boost pro-duction while minimizing ecologicallosses.The book can be read from multipleperspectives.For example,Clay exam-ines eight categories ofthreats and im-pacts—habitat conversion,invasivespecies,agrochemicals,soil erosion,wastes,water,fire,and greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions;he then presents in-novative policy recommendations—some market based,some that operatethrough regulatory enforcement—foraddressing them.Habitat conversion,especially ofintactecosystems with globally significant bio-diversity,is covered quite well.Severalstriking insights run through many of the commodity assessments:
Habitat conversion can occurregardless ofwhether the com-modity price increases,decreases,or remains stagnant.A commoditys scale ofproduc-tion in terms ofhectares undercultivation may not always be themost meaningful indicator of biodiversity threat and impact.Advances in biotechnology (bothclassical and transgenic) continueto overcome one agriculturalconstraint after another,enablingexpansion ofproduction intohabitats previously inhibited by some limiting factor.Agricultural subsidies promotehabitat conversion.Ironically,though,the reduction oftheOrganization for EconomicCooperation and Development’sdomestic manipulation ofcon-sumer prices and ofits provisionofproducer subsidies (which to-taled over $300 billion in 2001)could also accelerate conversionofsome ofthe planets most bio-logically rich habitats in develop-ing countries.(Such conversioncan be avoided,however,by the use ofmechanisms I discussbelow.)
All ofthese factors combine with othertrends to pose ever-present threats thatlead to broadscale fragmentation,degra-dation,and destruction ofintact ecosys-tems.These other trends include anannual increase in human populationgreat enough to people Mexico;as in-comes rise,growth in the percentage of protein derived from animals,a shift thatdemands even more agricultural land;conversion ofnatural resources in de-veloping countries to alleviate masspoverty and foster economic expansion;a rising rate ofconsumption ofland-based commodities globally;and a steady decline in the quality and productivity of soils.Clay’s most important BMP and pol-icy recommendations to combat suchthreats concern land zoning:Areas of high biodiversity and habitats importantfor maintenance ofecosystem servicesshould be set aside,he maintains.Notonly does such zoning need to be done atthe landscape or ecosystem level,he says,but it is essential to identify minimal-size,viable forest fragments ofbiologicalsignificance within commodity opera-tions.“Farming with nature,”an idea long ig-nored by large-scale,high-input mono-culture systems,is attracting greaterattention.The concept ranges from con-necting fragmented patches into ecolog-ical corridors for sustaining viablepopulations ofendangered species (e.g.,Sumatran rhinoceroses in unplantedareas ofoil palm plantations) to usingmulticrop systems with ecologically based
Special Book Section
 March 2004 / Vol.54 No.3 
pest-management strategies (e.g.,shade-grown coffee and cocoa).Regenerating degraded and aban-doned lands is another critical recom-mendation for slowing deforestation,which averaged 15 million hectares perannum over the past decade.One-fourthofthe world’s agricultural land area isdegraded,much ofit capable ofbeingrevitalized for production.Brazil offers acase in point.Sixty million hectares arecurrently under production in that coun-try,with another million hectares of forests being converted into agriculturallands each year.Meanwhile,80 millionhectares ofland lie abandoned ordegraded.Yet degraded pasture can beconverted into productive soybean–corn–cotton rotations within six years usingno-till practices that augment the soil’sorganic matter.The degraded land is val-ued at $500 or less per hectare,whileland for soybeans is worth $2000 perhectare.Reclaiming degraded land canboost producer assets by up to $300 perhectare per annum over the six years ittakes for regeneration,increasing thevalue ofthe degraded land
thanthe net value ofthe soybeans or othercrops produced on it.As Clay notes,“ifeven 15 percent couldbe reclaimed for agricultural use,Brazil’scurrent rate ofagricultural expansioncould be sustained for twenty years with-out needing to clear a single hectare of natural habitat.Ifproductivity is in-creased on each hectare,then the rate of expansion ofcultivated land could beslowed even more and total productionwould still increase.”World agriculture is responsible for asizable fraction ofGHG emissions,themajor constituent ofwhich is carbondioxide (CO
).Clay identifies climatemitigation projects for protecting andrestoring land carbon as potential sourcesofincome to fund many ofthe BMPsand land zoning policies.According to theIntergovernmental Panel on ClimateChange,the equivalent of360 billiontons ofCO
could be captured in thenext five decades through prevention of deforestation,restoration offragmentedlandscapes,and agricultural and forestry sequestration.Although this amount isonly 10 percent ofthe total reduction inGHG emissions that may be needed thiscentury to stabilize atmospheric con-centrations,it represents a potentialincome ofmany hundreds ofbillionsofdollars for these climate mitigationservices,which could simultaneously bring biodiversity benefits and help trans-form impoverished rural communitiesinto ones with sustainable livelihoods.For example,Brazilian scientists haveproposed a national cap on Amazoniantropical deforestation,which averaged2 million hectares per year over the pastdecade.Ifthe national loss were thenfurther reduced,say,10 percent belowthe cap,or 200,000 hectares per year,thiswould prevent the release ofmore than50 million tons ofCO
.These saved tonscould then be sold to countries and cor-porations that need to reduce their CO
emissions,accruing revenues in excessof$150 million per year (at current lowprices of$3 per ton ofCO
).Storing carbon is but one among sev-eral environmental services that,Clay ar-gues,provide important societal benefitsand economic value.Others are main-taining watershed quality and quantity,protecting biodiversity,and preventingsoil erosion.Payments to farmers to helpsustain and restore these services,Clay says,are justifiable.Is it reasonable to think that in timesofshrinking government budgets andrising national debts such new fundswill be forthcoming? Clay answers affir-matively,proposing that some ofthehundreds ofbillions ofdollars per yearofproduction,export,input,credit,and infrastructure subsidies be shiftedinto paying for environmental services“beneficial to all members ofsociety,both for this generation as well as forfuture ones.The rest ofthe subsidiesand other market barriers should thenbe phased out.
Special Book Section

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