Latin Americanist Lunch: “Population, Health, and Environment: Transitions in Latin America”

Attending Dr. Lopez-Carr’s presentation on Latin America, with several references to Africa, was quite insightful, as he had been awarded a grant to engage in socio-economic research within the Latin American region. In terms of urbanization, Latin America was one of the slower regions to pick up this new global phenomenon. However, per Dr. Lopez-Carr’s research 80% of Latin America is now urban, which has resulted in lower fertility. Families that would have originally had seven children, are now having roughly 3.5 children; this further changed the agriculture landscape. Instead of families having large acres of land, which would eventually be evenly distributed among the children, more families have acquired smaller acres of land to farm.

Keeping these new changes in mind, it should come as no surprise that Dr. Lopez-Carr has found the conversion of forest to agriculture has been the biggest impact on the environment by humans. Even, more troubling is that these urban population booms are taking place in the world’s poorest areas, where they cannot financially, and socially, support the growing populations. So, while your average rural family is having less kids to work the land, the families in the urban areas are reproducing at unprecedented rates.

During the duration of the talk my eyes were opened to new statistics, as the big picture was clearly depicted from these seemingly innocent facts. However, the most interesting/troubling piece of information I acquired was perhaps the biggest advocate for vegetarianism. Less than 1% of the earth’s surface is used for humans, for example soybeans, which were a crop driver at the start of the 2000s, of all the soybeans produced less than 1% were eaten by people, the rest were feed to livestock. This means three-fourths of the world’s used surface would be released into nature if people stopped eating animal protein. Therefore, I propose two questions for Dr. Lopez-Carr: 1.) Knowing what we do about deforestation and climate change, why have more Western governments not regulated the amount of meat households can buy, and 2.) In a world where the global north is so privileged, how are we going to sustain ourselves, when we are clearly destroying the land that feeds us? This was a very engaging talk, and I only touched on a small subsection of Dr. Lopez-Carr’s discussion.

 

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