Carbon & Poverty

Sustainable development links natural resource management with tangible economic improvements in rural livelihoods.  Approximately 3 billion people, half of the world’s population, live below the ethical poverty level (EPL).  The ethical poverty level is defined as the point at which life expectancy falls as rapidly as income, and above which life expectancy rises only slightly compared to income increases (Edwards, 2006).  Currently, the global EPL is around $2.70/day.  A vast majority of these individuals depend for their survival on the 400 million small-farms that are found throughout the developing world (Gates Foundation, 2006).  If the appropriate markets can be created the cumulative human and natural resources that can be marshaled in reducing atmosphere carbon, and raising rural incomes are vast.  Traditional approaches to reforestation and agro-forestry often fail because farmers are asked to make immediate investments of scarce land and labor to plant and protect trees with the uncertain hope that the trees will begin to produce benefits 5-15 years later.  The ability to link tree planting with near-term payments through the emerging carbon markets, with additional payments from other tree products coming on-line in subsequent years, has the potential to positively impact millions of lives.  Furthermore, once productive, the continued generation of high-value tree products (fruits, oil-bearing nuts) serves to protect the stored carbon from being harvested as fuel wood, burned and then re-released into the atmosphere.  The fact that some oil-bearing nuts (e.g., jatropha) can be used in the manufacture of bio-diesel, thus reducing the use of fossil fuels and release of additional stored carbon, constitutes yet another positive gain of our approach to carbon sequestration.