Our ability to transform commodity markets will determine nature’s fate

The success of governments and big corporations in eliminating environmental degradation from the products we consume will play a critical role in determining the fate of the world’s remaining wild places, said a group of experts speaking at a panel during the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.

Meeting in Oxford last week, the forum included WWF, a major conservation group; Greenpeace, an environmental activist group that is known for colorful campaigns to reform corporate practices; Unilever, a consumer products giant that is one of the world’s largest commodity buyers; UNICA, an association that represents 140 Brazilian sugar cane producers; and Rankbank, the world’s largest agricultural bank, with operations in several key tropical forest countries. The panelists discussed and debated how the world can protect forests in the face of growing demand for agricultural land due to rising population and surging consumption.

“In the 20th century we solved the population problem but in the 21st century we still have to solve the consumption problem,” said Jason Clay, Vice President of Market Transformation at WWF, noting that population growth rates have slowed dramatically since the 1970s and are expected to peak around 2050. “In the next 40 years we need to produce as much food as we produced in the past 8,000.”

“If we don’t get how to produce food and fiber right in next 40 years, we as a conservation group can turn off the lights. There won’t be any biodiversity left to save.”

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