CDMs – Friends or Foes of the EU ETS?

The EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) was designed as a climate change mitigation scheme, which would distribute the burden of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions amongst the participating EU member states. The idea behind employing a cap-and-trade system was to improve the cost effectiveness of mitigation. Hence, when the Linking Directive in 2004 introduced the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) into the ETS, it was understood that the economic efficiency of the system would improve. Unfortunately though, CDMs have been widely critiqued and the overall value added to the system challenged; hence, we have to determine if this link was truly a good decision or a very harmful one.

The EU ETS is based on the understanding that the costs of emissions abatement differ across Member States, for which reason allowances can be traded within the market mechanism. Likewise, it is widely accepted that abatement costs are significantly lower in other regions of the world, namely emerging countries. For this reason, CDM projects offer an opportunity for states to invest in a wider range of abatement projects whilst working towards the goal of reducing global concentrations of GHGs by 70% compared to 1990 levels.

Looking at the UNFCCC’s website today, we are presented with a rosy image of CDMs, in terms of the global CO2 emissions they have avoided and the billions of dollars that have been saved with regards to mandatory abatement costs. What these figures fail to highlight is the overall contribution of these projects to the environmental goals set and what impact they have had on the EU ETS. Unfortunately, though these projects were intended to improve the environmental health and sustainability of the Global South, economic incentives have driven several CDM projects away from these objectives.

One of the clearest examples of this is the case of the HFC-23 destruction projects. The objective behind these initiatives was to destroy a harmful by-product of HCFC-22, a common refrigerant. Given the immense global warming potential of HFC-23 (as compared to that of CO2), participants realised that by destroying small quantities of this GHG, they could obtain huge credits which they could exchange for CO2 allowances. As a result, higher volumes of HCFC-22 were produced, thereby releasing higher quantities of HFC-23[1], which was completely contradictory to the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol and EU ETS.

The popularity of such projects not only had environmental repercussions, but also impacted negatively on the carbon market. Coupled with the over-allocation of allowances, credits from CDM projects essentially flooded the market and contributed to the landslide drop in the price of carbon. As a result, stricter emphasis was given to the principle that CDM projects were intended to support national reduction policies, and now only a limited percentage of allowances from these projects can be used to cover emissions. Nonetheless, this percentage varies within the EU, so CDM projects still play a large role in some member states.

Given their continued presence, other regulations have been implemented, including the type of projects that can be carried out. Land use, land use change and forestry are no longer viable options, and hydropower projects over 20MW must comply with the standards of the World Commission on Dams[2]. With the risk of environmental damage and market inefficiency, we may ask ourselves why CDM projects have not been banned from the ETS altogether. The reason stems from international negotiations on climate change; principally, in a ‘promise’ made to the Global South…

This promise, set in the Copenhagen Accord, obliges the industrialised nations of the Global North to mobilise $100 billion each year by 2020[3], to fund climate mitigation and adaptation. Given this immense sum of money it is evident that it must be sourced from a number of initiatives, which is where CDMs come into play. Though reduction burdens can be differentiated to reduce the costs of mitigation for the Global South, CDM projects initially appeared to create the best incentives for foreign direct investment in climate change abatement. The issue now is that with demands from Annex I nations for ‘meaningful participation’, wherein non-Annex I countries would also have to take on reduction burdens[4], CDM projects are likely to become obsolete. Given the principle of ‘additionality’, wherein only projects that would not have occurred otherwise can be credited as CDM, any project carried out in a country with a set commitment would be difficult to justify. For this reason, it is presumable that participants in the EU ETS will move their focus to Europe and, as a result, that international mitigation efforts will suffer.

Though the EU complied with its pledge to raise €7.2 before 2012[5], to fund immediate action, climate financing may become increasingly difficult. With reduced economic demand and over-allocations of allowances, the price of carbon continues dropping and credits from CDM projects are currently being traded at €0.15. Given that the majority of credits allowed from CDM projects for phase II have already been purchased and surrendered, further investments in CDM are highly unlikely. Though this may improve market efficiency and increase national mitigation efforts in the EU, it does not paint an optimistic picture for international climate change decisions.

[1] Ballesteros, M. (n.d.). Possible actions at EU level to restrict certain type of CDM projects. CLIENTEARTH (Ed.), Retrieved from

[2] Carbon Market Watch (2012). Hydro Power Projects in the CDM. Retrieved from

[3]Mason-Case, S. (2011). SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT LAW ON CLIMATE CHANGE. IDLO (Ed.), Retrieved from

[4] Richards, M. (2003). Poverty Reduction, Equity and Climate Change: Global Governance Synergies or Contradictions? Retrieved from


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Large Corporations & SMEs Walking Hand in Hand

Increasingly, we have seen a growth in small and medium-sized entities (SMEs) throughout the globe, to the point that they now constitute 95% of all businesses[1]. With this, it is evident that these enterprises cannot be considered small-time players and that they should be at the forefront of sustainable development. The problem is that many companies are convinced – or try to argue that – with limited resources they cannot make a big impact, so it is needless to try. This is where large corporations come into play. With their financial resources and human capital, these companies should be the ones spurring on SMEs whilst simultaneously widening their CSR portfolio.

Such a model has been adopted by Walmart, a large corporation heavily dependent on SMEs. Given the growing responsibility companies face over issues in any section of their supply chain, companies like Walmart have come to realise that they can be held liable for their suppliers’ behaviour. They can also be the driving force behind their suppliers’ shift towards sustainability. Walmart’s approach involves an evaluation of each of their business partners, graded according to a standardised scorecard, followed by specific recommendations for improvement. This last point is essential, for often companies are told that they are not acting in a sustainable manner, but are not given the means with which to change. Additionally, it is important for such measures to remain optional, rather than something that is imposed upon a company.

Unfortunately, though the relationship between large corporations and their suppliers ought to be a symmetrical one, bigger companies tend to hold more power as their business does not depend on one sole partner. Hence, there is a danger of large corporations, incited by their stakeholders, to force SMEs to change their business models. Such pressure, without adequate support can induce SMEs to place a heavy burden on their employees’ shoulders and negatively impact on their output. Forbes warns of the danger of ‘presenteeism’, where unlike absenteeism, employees are physically present in the office, but do not have the motivation to contribute fully[2]. In order to avoid this, large corporations ought to facilitate the implementation of sustainability measures and ensure that SMEs take steps to involve all their staff members without putting too much strain on them.

For this, large corporations ought to carry out capacity building and training programs so that SMEs are not overwhelmed by the task ahead of them. These companies in turn can improve their corporate image and ensure that the life-cycle impacts of their products are minimised. In this scenario, the likely success of a project is increased, as each type of enterprise can contribute its own advantages. Often in SMEs, there is less hierarchy and employees have a closer connection both to the local community and to the top management. This makes it simpler to involve everyone and pool together ideas. Once a valid idea is put forward it can be implemented using the resources of the larger corporation. Hence, by creating a partnership and stimulating an active – versus passive – response, through incentives rather than regulation or contracts, large corporations can work alongside SMEs to create the changes society demands.

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A Salute to Social INTRApreneurs

Once, having accepted a position at one of the Big Four accounting firms, I was confronted with a great deal of criticism and taunts that I had become a ‘corporate sell-out’. Those who appreciated my passion for social progress, could not possibly understand my desire to work in a large corporation. This sprung from the outdated belief that companies have no interest and no role in social change. However, recently it has become clear that some firms do hold a recipe for this, and within it, one key ingredient: a social intrapreneur.

Social intrapreneurs are those who use their entrepreneurial spirit to reinvent their company’s business model and create a lasting social impact. Their innate value is not their need for a meaningful profession, but their willingness to add meaning to their existing job. So many of us spend our lives searching for companies that reflect our values, whereas we should actually be revolutionising the ones we already work in. Naturally, this entails us finding the economic value of a social project, but also means that a huge array of resources are available to us. Though social intrapreneurs do not have the independence of self-starters, they are already surrounded by specialists in their field and can increase the scale of a project through their company’s network.

Given the growing importance of stakeholders in corporate strategies, social projects are likelier to receive more support than opposition. Companies have begun realising that their success depends on their social impact, as illustrated by Samuel Palmisano (previous Chairman of IBM) asking “why would society allow us to operate?”[1] Though some companies have attempted to fill this requirement through philanthropic donations or small community activities, larger opportunities lie in social intrapreneurial projects. Rather than simply writing a cheque, or giving employees the day off to volunteer at a shelter, companies can use the innate skills of their workforce to create value, both for society and the corporation.

Companies with a competitive advantage in a given field simply have to identify gaps in society where their services or products could solve a major issue. This is well illustrated by the current transformation being led by Graham Simpson at GlaxoSmithKline, a company specialised in healthcare products.

Having identified the need for quicker diagnostics in Kenya, Simpson advocated for the creation of specialised kits which could be used with little professional knowledge[2]. In this manner, Simpson is effectively using the resources of his company to create deeper value for society.

This is all anyone with a social mind-set should be attempting to do within large corporations. Rather than daydreaming of quitting our jobs and finding a company with a deeper concern for society, we simply have to create the meaning we seek.

[1] Palmisano, S. (2012). Now it gets interesting: Global integration act ii. In The 2012 Guglielmo Marconi Lecture. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/usuario/Downloads/LISBON_COUNCIL_Palmisano_Lecture.pdf

[2] Bulloch, G. (2013). Social intrapreneurs: the changemakers working inside companies. Retrieved from
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The Evolution of the Social Enterprise

Looking at virtually any major corporation’s homepage, it is clear that the selling point of firms has changed. Now it is more of a challenge to access a website and fail to find the words ‘sustainability’, ‘value’ or ‘responsibility’. This is a major change from the traditional emphasis on a company’s net worth and the focus on market value (as opposed to social value). So, how has this transition come about?

Essentially, it has been driven by changing social values. Whereas once companies were evaluated based on their profit margin, now it is their social impact which makes them more attractive. Though many companies are still profit-driven, they are no longer marketing this as their purpose in open forums, as illustrated by Staples Inc.’s new slogan: ‘Make more happen’. Other companies, however, are driven purely by a desire to achieve deeper social impacts and best illustrate the evolution from a traditional firm to a social enterprise.

Traditional enterprises were concerned with cheap labour costs, high returns on investment and protecting intellectual property. As a result, meaningful employment, social investment and technology transfers to developing areas were of seemingly little interest to companies. Gradually however, philanthropists within companies began appearing and considering such social issues. For the most part, however, these actors simply directed funds at external projects but played no active role in carrying them out. As a result many social projects simply revolved around donating products or services to ‘beneficiaries’, as opposed to empowering participants. From the unease over resulting dependency risks and lack of dignity, social enterprises were born. Finally, we began seeing companies powered by the desire to help others pave their own personal development. The question is: is it possible for all current firms to reach this stage of evolution?

For a company to truly reflect the values of a social enterprise, the influence on its stakeholders and wider community has to be bidirectional. Essentially, decisions must mirror the specific needs of society, not what the company determines they may be. Social entrepreneurship is essentially about asking the right questions and finding a way to add value through business. This means that addressing social issues creates added value for both the company and society. Hiring an equal number of men and women, for instance, does not simply tackle gender issues, but gives companies a wider perspective and access to different market segments. Hiring employees with special needs, also gives companies access to special skill-sets. For instance, ‘Dans Le Noir’, an international restaurant chain which gives customers the brief experience of being blind, benefits from the precision and comfort of its visually-impaired staff in the dark.

Such companies, however, are missing a simple element. Though many companies may be branding themselves as social pioneers and others actively working to modify their business model, they were not created to solve a social problem. So, does this mean that they will never become a social enterprise? Well, according to Clearvale, no. This company has now created a ‘Social Enterprise Transformation Program’ to facilitate knowledge-sharing and the modification of workplace habits. Though I remain doubtful that a company can simply undergo a ‘social makeover’ of this nature, it is clear that companies can benefit from building a bridge between their interests and those of society. In the future, we may only have social enterprises, but for this we have to move beyond the selling point to the point of existence.


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Chances and Challenges in China

Through the eyes and experiences of businessmen and academics, I have come to see China as a land of opportunities – and challenges. For anyone with a flair for social networking, a willingness to learn Mandarin and cultural compassion, China’s arms are open. Yet this enigma of a nation, requires some unravelling; for which I will leave you all with the puzzle pieces of my journey and allow you to form your own conclusions…







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Catastrophic Expenditure and the Agricultural Industry

Each of us, at some point in our lives, has had to make difficult expenditure decisions. Many of us have faced financial shocks which adversely affected our spending, but none of us have ever been pushed to the brink of poverty because of them. Far from the woes of rural life, few of us have experienced catastrophic expenditure.

Common in rural areas of both high- and low-income nations, catastrophic expenditure generally occurs when a household faces such high medical costs, that they are unable to cover any of their other basic needs and fall into a spiral of poverty[1]. In my view, however, this is not limited to healthcare costs. With global trade in agriculture, fluctuations in commodity prices have made food expenditure so unpredictable, that they can leave low-income households penniless.

Such fluctuations ought to be controlled through financial regulation, but because of the power brokers hold, we may be better off focusing on rural safety nets and effective agricultural support initiatives. Though some may argue that policies like the Common Agricultural Programme (CAP) exist to help rural communities, according to Oxfam, the CAP does little to protect the most vulnerable. With “about 80 per cent of direct income support going into the pockets of the wealthiest 20 per cent – mainly big landowners and agribusiness companies”[2] it is clear that subsidies alone cannot solve rural livelihood problems, even in high-income nations.

With most agricultural programmes failing to protect rural families and creating trade issues in low-income countries, it is no wonder that there is a great deal of animosity towards them. However, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) argue that we cannot only focus on poor families within cities and that if we invest in the correct agricultural programmes, millions of people could escape the poverty trap. We have to recall that “70 per cent of the developing world’s 1.4 billion extremely poor people [are] living in rural areas”[3], so though the media may highlight urban poverty (it is tough to find someone who has not heard of the Favelas in Rio de Janeiro), we need to consider those at the margins of society. For these families, who “spend 50 to 70 percent of their income on food”[4], any minor change in commodity prices or wages can drive them towards catastrophic expenditure.

Facing food price hikes, rural households have little choice but to select the cheapest products. Unfortunately, these tend to have the lowest nutritional value and threaten individuals’ overall wellbeing[5]. Malnutrition impacts learning abilities, productivity and health, as illustrated in a study wherein children from rural regions who received ‘nutritional interventions’ “earned wages as adults that were 50 percent higher than those of nonparticipants”[6].

So how do we give these households the stability they so desperately need? In Europe, catastrophic expenditure over healthcare costs is rare, since most nations have insurance policies. Additionally, lower-income nations have begun to understand the importance of – and started implementing – social safety nets. Thailand, for instance, initiated a universal coverage programme in 2001[7], which has helped reduce poverty figures. Following this example, could we not create a similar insurance scheme for food expenditure?

As detailed in my blog ‘Disaster Management or Disastrous Management’, rural development relies on individuals taking ownership of programs, so the effectiveness of such an insurance scheme would be secured by its inherent autonomy. Rather than relying on food stamps and donations during food crises, rural households could pay a regular premium (either in cash or crops) and receive a bundle of nutritious goods in return. The scheme managers, by purchasing food in bulk, would be less sensitive to price instability. Ultimately the feasibility of such a scheme would have to be tested, but it is clear that we cannot sit back and allow rural families to continue living in such an inconstant manner.

Beyond regulations of financial speculation and agricultural support, it is our duty to come up with creative solutions to this problem. Otherwise, we are simply creating a global example of catastrophic expenditure: in which our global resources are all directed towards the wellbeing of developed nations, and none are left to pull rural households out of poverty.

[1] Xu, K., & Evans, D. (2005). Designing health financing systems to reduce catastrophic health expenditure. Retrieved from

[2] Oxfam (2011) Growing a better future: Food Justice in a Resource Constrained World. Retrieved from

[3] Heinemann , E. (2011). Rural poverty report 2011. Retrieved from

[4] J. Von Braun (2008) ‘Food and Financial Crises: Implications for Agriculture and the Poor’, IFPRI Food Policy Report. Washington DC: International Food Policy Research Institute. Retrieved from

[5] Fields, S. (2004). The fat of the land: Do agricultural subsidies foster poor health?. Environ Health Perspect.112(14), 820-823. Retrieved from

[6] J. Von Braun (2008) ‘Food and Financial Crises: Implications for Agriculture and the Poor’, IFPRI Food Policy Report. Washington DC: International Food Policy Research Institute. Retrieved from

[7] Somkotra, T. (2009). Which households are at risk of catastrophic health spending: Experience in thailand after universal coverage. Health Aff.28(3), Retrieved from


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Business beyond our Borders

“What I personally think is important to take into account when doing business in China”


Each time I have decided to work abroad, I have been bombarded with anecdotes and stereotypes about what I should expect, but rarely have these encompassed what would be expected of me. Though business profiling and anticipations vary from country to country, the impact of your first impression, from the moment you greet someone, does not.

In the US, I was expected to shake hands with each of my bosses and all my customers, in Costa Rica I often had to replace this ritual with a kiss on the cheek, and in Japan I had to move away from direct contact entirely and greet others with a bow.

Beyond the initial greeting, in certain countries, body language can play a huge role in business. In Japan, you could use the most formal vocabulary and present the most appealing business plan, but you will never be taken on as a business partner if you cross your arms in front of someone. I trust that I will be exposed to such customs and rituals in China, and hope to learn the correct etiquette for greeting others, exchanging business cards and setting business hours.

From the Chinese employees I have met abroad, I have the impression that working hours in China are much less flexible than in other countries. Nevertheless, flexibility is relative. In Hungary, working hours are similar to those in Spain, i.e. late-starts, coffee breaks and long-lunches. This, however, obliges you stay in the office far longer than you are required to. In contrast, in Costa Rica, I was strictly required to be at my desk working by 8am, but also had the freedom to leave at the hour stated on my contract. As a family-oriented country with strong business aspirations, I am interested to see how social and work life are balanced in China.

I can only assume that such social structures will vary a great deal within the country, given the sheer size of China. Nearly comparable with Europe, China could be its own continent, so when doing business there it is important to consider that someone from the North may be as different from a Southerner as a Swede is from an Italian. As a lover of languages, I generally try to learn some key phrases before travelling somewhere new, but with China this is tough considering the number of dialogues that exist throughout the nation. It is essential to remember that people will always prefer to conduct business in their native language and to show a little respect for their origins.

Overall, I think the most important concept to take into consideration when doing business in China, or any other country for that matter, is that each person’s behaviour is shaped by their traditions and regional values. As foreigners, if we hope to form business relations, we better be observant and quick to adapt!



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Certified Palm Oil – a Slippery Solution?

Once you jump on the ‘sustainability bandwagon’, you begin reconsidering every choice you make, every product you buy and every campaign you support. This becomes increasingly difficult when you begin to consider that a product’s impact does not begin or end with your consumption, but spans its entire ‘life cycle’. At the moment you enter a supermarket, you are unlikely to take out your laptop and research what effects your desired product had on the environment when its materials were extracted, which ecosystems may have been harmed or what will happen once you are done consuming it. This is where environmental certification comes into play.

Certificates highlight the compliance of products with set environmental and social standards, but sometimes certify goods or services we would never consider ecologically viable. Though not as surprising as the Initiative for Responsible Mining or the Responsible Jewellery Council (blood diamonds, anyone?), the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) strikes me as a bizarre name for an organisation addressing socio-environmental concerns.

Though many companies have begun readdressing their production methods in order to guarantee a sustained yield of their raw materials, this does not make their activities any more sustainable. For this we not only have to consider a company’s ability to continue harvesting a resource (by extracting less than is reproduced each year), but also the overall effects on the surrounding ecosystem. Here is where my issue with ‘sustainable palm oil’ lies.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “not only does palm oil promote heart disease, but the vast plantations that grow oil palm trees have contributed to the destruction of the rainforest and wildlife of Southeast Asia.”[1] Though elephants, tigers and rhinoceroses (as well as humans) are at risk from palm oil extraction, international critique has centred on the threat to orangutans from the deforestation of their native habitat.

As a result a number of organisations have spoken out against palm oil production, but what is more interesting is that one of the lead campaigners, The Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia (BOS), actually cites the RSPO as a force for good in this field. However, they do not see this as the best solution and lament that the organisation has only certified 14% of palm oil production. For this reason when RSPO claims that there is an “increasing amount of palm oil in our products that has been produced and sourced in a sustainable manner”[2] we have to consider how much that really represents.

Considering the extensive market penetration of palm oil, and the low volume of ‘sustainable’ batches circulating our stores, it is presumable that some manufacturers include both sustainable and unsustainable palm oil in their products. For this reason, as a consumer I would prefer to opt out of the market altogether. Thankfully, BOS publishes an extensive list of products without palm oil on their website, but while such a boycott washes my hands of guilt over Southeast Asian ecosystems, there is little guarantee that these substitutes will not have their own hidden secrets. As a general rule, certificates may not make our purchasing decisions easier, but certainly make us aware that the methods of production have been monitored and evaluated, and that though the product may not save the planet, it may be doing it less harm than others.

[1] Brown, E. (2005). Cruel oil. Washington, DC: The Center for Science in the Public Interest. Retrieved from

[2] Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. (2012). ‘Better palm oil’. Retrieved from


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Where our paths begin and theirs end – Landscape fragmentation and Habitat corridors

Having lived in several places, I’ve driven past ‘deer crossing’, ‘iguana crossing’ and even ‘kangaroo crossing’ signs. I’ve often wondered why an animal would think to come so close to a noisy highway; never realising that they may have no other choice. Just as we commute to university or work each day and have to leave our houses to buy food, animals have their own daily errands to complete. Therefore, just as we demand good roads and sturdy bridges from our governments, we should provide such pathways for animals, so that they too can access their bare necessities.

In order to make up for the infrastructural obstacles we have built, ecologists are now working to create habitat corridors, which allow for dispersal, commuting and migration[1]. Dispersal is a one-way movement, which ensures biodiversity and reduces the chance of a species becoming extinct by staying in one area. Commuting, on the other hand, is a regular movement – in search of food or water, for example – but is generally restricted to smaller areas. Then there is migration. Many species carry out a yearly migration so as to escape the winter, but as this is generally a long journey it is increasingly difficult for them to travel through the maze of highways and fences we have constructed.

In order to allow animals to travel through increasingly fragmented landscapes, ecologists protect specific routes, such as the Mesoamerican biological corridor[2], which allow animals to commute to and from protected areas. Where highways have already been built and have disrupted migration, ecologists have come up with innovative ideas to protect animals from these dangers. In the USA, for example, they built a grassy overpass, so that Pronghorn dear can migrate each winter[3]. Though this new obstacle was first approached with caution, the dear have gradually accepted it, showing that there are changes we can make to protect animals without limiting our own travel opportunities.

Copyright: WCS JBurrell. Trappers Point fall 2012 crossing. Retrieved from:

Though there are increasingly more protected areas, there is another obstacle which may be harder to deal with in the coming years. Climate change is a growing problem which forces animals to change their habits. Though we can buy air-conditioning units or warm clothing, animals have no choice but to escape from areas which are no longer adequate for them. Climate change can dry up water sources and kill plants, for which reason we need to create pathways for animals to move from warm zones to cooler areas where they can find food.[4]

Sadly unless we stop contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and start investing more in habitat corridors to help animals adapt, in the future we may never again see wildlife crossing signs.

[1] Meiklejohn, K., Ament, R., & Tabor, G. (2010). Habitat corridors & landscape connectivity: Clarifying the terminology. In K. Meiklejohn (Ed.), A PROJECT OF THE WILD FOUNDATION Retrieved from CLLC.pdf

[2] Independent Evaluation Group. (2011). The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. In Corporate and Global Evaluations and MethodsRetrieved from

[3] Burrell, J. (2013). Path of the pronghorn — leading to new passages: Part 3. In K. Meiklejohn (Ed.), Wildlife Conservation SocietyRetrieved from

[4] Miller, M. (2013). Connect: Helping animals move in a changing climate. In The Nature Conservancy: The Science BlogRetrieved from


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Responsible Hunting – The paradox of Natural Resource Management

Coming from Costa Rica, the first Latin American country to ban hunting as a sport, never would I have imagined myself even considering the benefits of hunting. Yet, when the concept was presented to me, I decided it was time to question whether it is now possible, or even necessary, to permit ‘responsible’ hunting.

Before us humans came along, animals had the freedom to roam the planet and migrate once the resources of their ecosystem had been worn down. This in turn allowed ecosystems time to recover their functions. Now, however, we have essentially caged animals within specific areas – for our and their protection – and have created problems of overexploitation. White-tailed deer for instance are a greater threat than climate change for forests[1], according to the Nature Conservancy, given that they have pushed the carrying capacity of these areas to their very limits.

It is evident that in order to protect the deer’s habitat and other species which rely on these ecosystems, we have to control the population within these regions. My question is why is hunting the answer?

Even in Costa Rica, exceptions are made for hunting when used for species control, as long as there is scientific proof that the overpopulation of a particular species endangers its own existence, that of another species or the ecosystem it inhabits[2]. It is clear that the overpopulation of white-tailed deer is detrimental to forests, but in addition to adequate reasons, we need adequate hunting tactics to solve this problem.

According to the University of Illinois, killing male deer does little to control population, but it is this that brings hunters the most prestige. If hunters focus on killing does, the community “allow them to shoot deer with exceptional antler”[3], but how can we guarantee that not all deer will suddenly have exceptional antlers? We must not forget that hunting is after all a sport. In order to compete, hunters tend to target the strongest animals, but in order to mimic nature’s population control, they should actually only hunt the most vulnerable ones. If only weak animals are left, they may not be able to hunt enough or offer enough protection to keep the rest of their herd safe.

On the other hand, according to Wildlife Ecology and Management “mortality is frequently compensatory because it usually increases the life expectancy of individuals surviving the hunt, promotes higher reproductive rates, or does both.”[4] Here, Bolen and Robinson argue that, hunting is not even effective, since it reduces competition for food, so that the animals that remain are stronger and more likely to reproduce. Nonetheless, hunting can also have psychological impacts on animals – and not just the ones it is targeting.

The noise from hunting affects migration and hibernation, as well as animals’ eating and mating instincts. If an adult flees, their young are left to defend themselves and if a goose or wolf lose their partner they may not be able to recover, since they mate for life.[5] Additionally, many animals are killed accidently or are subject to diseases, which hunting is supposed to control, but spreads instead. [6]

Given all these losses, we have to ask ourselves: aren’t there any other, more humane, options? According to the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University “deer become increasingly habituated to deterrent measures such as repellents and fencing”[7] so these measures are not cost-effective. In the same manner, the University of Illinois argues that sterilisation, is very costly and often ineffective since it is difficult to monitor the deer which have been treated[8]. This leaves us with animals’ natural solution, relocation. However, when this is performed by people, it often creates so much stress that the animals don’t live long afterwards.

Given the costs of other population control methods, it is clear why hunting is increasingly popular. According to Peta, wildlife reserves in the US are financed by the revenues from hunting licenses and taxes, so paradoxically they actually benefit from an increase in hunters. All we can hope for is that they are educated properly so that their diversions protect our ecosystems, and that the exceptions we permit for hunting don’t become loopholes for careless killing.

[1] Pursell, A. (n.d.). Too many deer: A bigger threat to eastern forests than climate change? The Nature Conservancy: Science Blog. Retrieved from

[2] Vindas Quirós, L. (2012). Caza deportiva es prohibida en costa rica. Retrieved from

[3] Living with white-tailed deer in Illinois. Retrieved from

[4] Bolen, Eric G., Robinson, William L.  2003.  Wildlife Ecology and Management:  Fifth Edition.  Pearson Education, Inc.  Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.  42.

[5] Hunting. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Retrieved from

[6] McGill, K. (2010). Realities of hunting as a population control: Why there are so many deer today. In Urban Wildlife Examiner. Retrieved from

[7] Merrill, J., Cooch, E., & Curtis, P. (n.d.). Managing an overabundant deer population by sterilization. In Merrill (Ed.), the Journal of Wildlife Management. Retrieved from

[8] Living with white-tailed deer in Illinois. Retrieved from


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