This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Food and Biofuels Don't Mix Very Well

In a world in which we aren't properly feeding the current 7 billion residents, and aren't really sure how we will feed the expected 9 billion who will soon be looking for a seat at the table, it is madness to insist that biofuels must be part of an energy policy. I have mentioned this before, but it keeps popping up as an issue because, as John Vidal in the Guardian reminds us:
The 2008 decision by EU countries to obtain 10% of all transport fuels from biofuels by 2020 has proved to be the catalyst for many evictions, says Oxfam. To meet the EU target, the total land area required to grow industrial biofuels in developing countries has been estimated as 17.5m hectares (43.2m acres), more than half the size of Italy.
One of the more recent and egregious issues is in Guatamala.
Maria Josefa Macz and Daniel Pascual were called at five in the morning, and asked to come quickly to the Polochic valley in southernGuatemala. Ethnic Maya Q'eqchi communities of smallholder farmers said they were being violently evicted by state security forces from land they had farmed for generations. Helicopters with armed men leaning out were flying overhead, private security guards and paramilitary forces were attacking people, and houses and crops were being burned. The farmers could not speak Spanish and needed help dealing with the police, as well as legal advice on how to stop giant biofuel companies taking their land.
"What happened in the Polochic valley exemplifies what is now happening all over the world. The latest data suggests up to 203m hectares of land has been acquired by companies in land deals and two-thirds of that is for biofuels," says Hannah Stoddart, economic justice adviser at Oxfam. "The UK government should immediately freeze its biofuel targets and call on the EU to scrap the directive. There is a mass undermining of rights and livelihoods, and no improvement in food supplies. They are just diverting food for stomachs to gas tanks."

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