Habitat #7 Juni 2013

Page 83

83 Habitat

UDGAVE 7 / JUN 2013

Especially in Europe there are talks about a future “bioeconomy”, and last year while Denmark had the EU Presidency, the Bioeconomy Strategy for Europe was adopted. – But what does bioeconomy mean? – Is it just another buzzword for business-as-usual? - Or are there some real perspectives to it? Only time will tell, but here are some deliberations as to why it could be the beginning of a new era, or why it might fail. It requires a difficult change and is not a quick fix for solving all societal challenges in ensuring future prosperity while safeguarding rich ecosystems and ample space for wild animals and plants. Text and photos: Dennis Lisbjerg

The bio-based economy or bioeconomy is meant as a contrast to our fossil fuel economy. The last 200 years of growth and development is to a large extent based on oil or gas, in the form of e.g. gasoline, fuel oil, diesel used as energy sources for transportation, electricity or heating and derivates that goes into a wide range of chemicals and materials, that we use in our everyday life. Many of the petrochemicals find their way into wrapping of foods (e.g. as plastic bags, foams, vita wrap), beauty products (have a look on the back of your shampoo, tooth paste, or lotion), or other materials and structures (e.g. nylon clothes, plastic for computers and other hardware casings). The global oil reserves are shrinking and getting harder and harder to extract. The access to cheap energy and fossil based products is getting more expensive and the challenge of feeding and catering for a population of 9 billion people in 2050 has been widely recognized as one of the grand challenges humans face, while continuing to sustain ecosystems that provide for all the services that our economy currently is not taking into account. The link

Tourism can provide a longterm steady income for local communities having intact ecosystems, instead of e.g. the one-off profit made in destruction for timber or housing development projects. E.g. the Nairobi National Park in the outskirts of the city has more than 100.000 visitors per year.

between human prosperity and degradation of ecosystems is widely recognized though it is debated as to how closely they are linked, and if/how the link can be broken.

AN OLD PHENOMENON AS A WAY FORWARD Shifting our economy into a bioeconomy is seen as a way forward. The bioeconomy refers to economic activity stemming from bio-based material, being directly from harvested natural resources (wood, plants or animals) or bioengineered in a lab or from industrial-like processes that find their way into our living. As such, the bioeconomy is not a new phenomenon; it is probably the oldest! Our ancestors developed their first businesses based on exploiting biological resources, such as agriculture and forest products. However, research and understanding of life sciences has made giant leaps forward since the first grasping of the fundamentals in genetics and cell biology. A great diversity of biotechnology industries are emerging that specialize in bio-based processes, e.g. biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, pharmacology, protein chemistry, cytology, immunology, neurobiology and synthetic biology. These new biological engineering disciplines attempt to modify and control biological systems to optimize existing systems, to replace or sustain chemical and mechanical processes, or to build systems from ground up, that mimic biological systems in

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