What did the ancient Romans eat?

Food in ancient Rome wasn't as bland as you might think. Still, before the rich and elaborate meals began to appear on the tables the empire needed a basis to build on. Later food began to appear from places as distant as Guinea (pheasants), Persia (cocks), India (turkeys), Hispania (rabbits), Ambracia (toe), Calcedonia (tuna), Tarento (oysters and clams), Attica (mussels) or Dafne (tordos), the Romans knew nothing but the staple foods provided by the land: cereals, legumes, vegetables, milk or eggs. And the poorest Romans knew a very small selection of those.

The Ancient Roman cuisine

In ancient Roman times access to food was extremely difficult for the less favored classes. The staple food was puls for more than 300 years. Puls is a pottage made from farro grains boiled in water until it turns to mush and then flavored with salt and oil or pig fat. This type of wheat flour porridge was consumed by the commoners and legion alike.

The analysis and description of food in the times of ancient Rome must be done according to the social classes since each class had access to different types of food. For the poorest classes, such as campesinos, soldiers in battle and the inhabitants of cities, the basic food was cold and raw, consisting of cereals and vegetables. A fine meal for this population would be represented by a hot dish (such as a stew), even if this occurred rarely. The basic grain pottage, puls, could be expanded on with vegetables, meat, cheese, or herbs to produce dishes similar to polenta or risotto. Never the less, such items like beans, lentils and vegetables were the basis of daily cooking.

Okay, So what did the Romans eat?

We have an image, one based in popular culture, about the Roman meals, this is taken from movies and books and does not always paint an accurate picture of their diets. We imagine them stuffing themselves with greasy, spicy and bizarre foods, and drinking a lot of wine. But that's not the reality.

Not for the majority of the Roman population at least.

Ordinary people fed themselves with mostly bread, oil, cheese, olives and whether they could get some meat from time to time. They would also take fruit (grapes, figs, apples), nuts (almonds and pine nuts) and vegetables (asparagus, lettuce, carrot, onion and garlic) into their diets.

As we have already learned a very common meal was porridge.

If you were a member of the upper class your diet looked much different. And the food eaten on a daily basis was more plentiful and varied.

While it is obvious that the meals eaten by the rich were elaborate compared to those of the commoner and peasants, they still paled when compared to the Roman banquets.

In fact big banquets were something else. There are two ancient Roman books that have been preserved and tell things about the food of the rich. "The Satiricón" (full text) and a cookbook ("Apicius") by an author named Marcus Gavius Apicius. The dishes were very exotic and complicated. For example: nightingale tongues, stuffed slob loins or bristle breasts, roasted pheasant or turkeys with live thrush inside. The presentation of the dishes I consider it impressive.

I remember reading recipe from Apicius which called for rose leaves, pork brains and eggs all cooked slowly.

Maybe they wouldn't be popular today, but at least they were exotic to our palettes.

In the Rome of the Caesars, at the beginning of the Christian era and during the reign of Tiberius, the name of Marcus Gavius Apicius (25 B.C. – 37 A.D.) was cited as a culinary master and competent gourmand, having spent all his fortune in permanent gastronomic toil. He always organized great banquets, and thus dilapidated his heritage. When he found that what was left of him would not give to maintain his standard of living, he committed suicide. He was the founder of the school of Cuisine of the patricians of Rome, where he and his slave cooks taught culinary techniques and recipes to housewives. This may be the first gastronomist to be quoted in texts of well-known writers. Seneca, Herodotus and Isidoro were Romans who quoted Apicius in their writings, with indications that he wrote a manual of culinary techniques and recipes for sauces, called De re coquinaria (Ars Magirica, Apicius Culinaris, or On the Subject of Cooking).

One of the biggest problems faced by Governments was the maintenance of a food supply system for the people, as the supply was irregular. The nobles fed those who served them, slaves and attendants. But it was the government who distributed to the ommon people, everything from the wheat, the oil, and sometimes the pork, when the difficulties were greater. Because of this red meats could eventually be consumed by the commoner, but domesticated animals could only be slaughtered in religious ceremonies, which hinted about who had access to these foods. One of the habits of the wealthy was to serve roasted whole animals, such as piglets, boars, goats and lambs, which showed their power and wealth.

But the gluttony and waste of food incurred by the Romans of the imperial era was not always the case. When resources were scarce, the staple food was puls, and it remained so for more than 300 years. It was this kind of wheat flour porridge that helped build an empire. And through the consumption of this paupers dish led, in the times of greatest abundance, to the Iulian puls, which contained boiled oysters, brains and spiced wine, a sign that times had improved.

The staple food of Roman society was wheat. In the time of Julius Caesar (49-44 BC), some 230,000 Romans benefited from the distributions of cereal with which the flour was produced and, consequently, the bread.

Another popular food highlighted in the Roman diet was a drink, one that you certainly know, wine, although the science for preserving it was underdeveloped. As it soured easily in the amphorae where it was stored, it was drunk with species, or served hot and watery.

Those who could not afford access to more elaborate food in times of shortage had breakfast soups of bread and wine. These abounded: farro, chickpeas and vegetables, cabbages, elm leaves, mauve, etc.

The Roman that could afford more enjoyed a great consumption of milk, goat or sheep. As well as olives. The most consumed meat was pork, which was eventually joined by beef, lamb, sheep, goat, deer, deer and gazelle. Even the dog meat was highly prized.

The diet of the Roman during the Republic barely reached 3,000 calories (the average daily intake of calories in America is 3,770), of which at least 2,000 came from wheat. The rich became fond of consuming seasoned meat with a number of products that were influential in determining the characteristics of the future great imperial cuisine: pepper, honey, coriander, nettle, mint and sage.

Mealtime in Rome

The Romans ate three or four times a day:

  1. breakfast (ientaculum),
  2. lunch (prandium),
  3. snack and
  4. dinner (dinner)

The latter was the most important. It was done as a family, at the end of the day. One of his greatest pleasures was a good conversation around the table. From the daily dinner with lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, leeks, porridge and beans with bacon was passed to a sophisticated banquet dinner with the meal divided into three parts:

  1. the gustus or appetizer to wet the guest's appetite (melon, tuna, truffles, oysters,…),
  2. the premium table (chicken, chicken, ham, seafood, ….) which was the main course, and
  3. the backtable, the desserts.

In the Imperial era food became much more diverse and luxury foods like fowl began to emerge in the form of parrot and flamingo. The ibis and stork meats were avoided because they devoured snakes, and the swallow, which ate mosquitoes.

In imperial times no one set a stop to the consumption or the waste on the table: chickens and geese were fattened with boiled flour and mead or with bread soaked in sweet wine.

Although there were changes in the history of Rome in general the meals they made daily were three: breakfast or jentaculum, lunch at noon or prandium and dinner.

The jentaculum was taken when they got up, about seven in the morning. They usually took in a few spoonfuls of porridge or bread with cheese or bread smeared with wine, garlic or oil. Breakfast was eaten on one's feet, in other words while on the go.

At the prandium they took the leftovers from the night before, bread and fruit and vegetables. They were standing up for this meal as well. At the time prandium was eaten it was about noon.

When i was at the top, they'd go to the hot and cold baths. Then they'd come home and have dinner. Dinner was taken at the triclinium and it was around 8 o'clock and in summer at about 9. Dinner consisted of appetizers (eggs, cheese, olives, seafood), various dishes (salads, vegetables, meat and fish) and desserts (cakes, fruit or nuts).

The wine was drank mixed with water and sometimes drunk with added honey or spices.

As we have seen the ancient Romans ate in some things not un-similar to our modern diet. In part because they were Mediterranean, and their culinary contributions spread throughout Europe and from that to North America. But in other regards they were very different.

Climate Change

Think About A World Without Plants

In a world without plants, life as we know it would end.

We would cease to exist.

Plants feed on minerals and carbon dioxide to grow. Their bodies are rich in glucose that builds the basis of the food of animals and expel oxygen during photosynthesis, and that oxygen is what the animals need to breathe. Animals cannot live without plants.

And we are just another species of animal.

If the plants disappeared, the herbivores would starve to death. If there are no herbivores, the carnivores would also starve to death. Mushrooms and insects would disappear.

But our planet would not be without life.

Some bacteria could survive.

Democracy Politics

A Right to Democracy

The Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 21:

Article 21

  1. Everyone has the right to participate in the government of his country, directly or through freely elected representatives.
  2. Everyone has the right to access, on an equal footing, the public functions of his country.
  3. The will of the people is the basis of the authority of the public authority; this will shall be expressed by authentic elections to be held periodically, by universal and equal suffrage and by secret ballot or other equivalent procedure guaranteeing freedom of vote.

Today the sight of politicians arguing with each other, fighting for their interests or opinions, as they always do, dominate our television, computer, and phone screens. They care more about their parties than everyone's good and don't listen to each other.

They never agree.

Politicians are elected by the people, by voting for their parties, but in today's Democracy there are some flaws. The people vote for someone but you can't choose people directly, you have to vote for the representative that each party has put on their lists. And those are not always the most logical choices,

Moreover, once they have been voted into power, we can no longer control them, and hold them accountable and ensure they are doing what they promised or take away their power when they go against their promises.

Democracy is not fully achieved, because between election and choice, people can hardly intervene in the decisions of parties and governments.

Too often our voices need to be raised to be heard. Politicians often forget to listen to the people who elevated them to power.

Democracy Politics

The Political Lie

It is that lie used by those seated in power to make their own interests prevail over those of their voters. Political scientist John Mearsheimer wrote the book: "Why Leaders Lie: The Truth About Lying in International Politics" in 2011 (read the NPR review).

Politicians lie, and it good if they lie to other political leaders on our behalf. This is theory that John Mearsheimer poses in his book. But the idea itself is not new.

The political lie, also known as "noble lie", has been justified by Plato's political philosophy since Plato's "Republic" always considering the governed as idiots in front of their rulers and unable to know what the public interest is, many sometimes conceived as the interest of the state. So in Plato's "The Republic" (Book III) we can read "if any one at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the State should be the persons; and they, in their dealings either with enemies or with their own citizens, may be allowed to lie for the public good" however "when intemperance and disease multiply in a State, halls of justice and medicine are always being opened; and the arts of the doctor and the lawyer give themselves airs, finding how keen is the interest which not only the slaves but the freemen of a city take about them." The justification for the noble lie continues its development with Machiavelli "for this reason a prudent Prince neither can nor ought to keep his word when to keep it is hurtful to him", Nietchzsche, Weber, Carl Schmitt and in the present stage with Leo Strauss, the spiritual father, the latter, of many of the current rulers in the United States.

An illustrative example of political lying is the philosophical contest promoted by Frederick II of Prussia in 1778 with the title of "Is it convenient to deceive the people, either by inducing them to new mistakes, or by keeping them in those already in?"

The political lie is systematically exercised through the use of mass media to constitute the social body or unify it as Sun Tzu said in the "Art of War" three centuries before Christ, and thus justify interest. The preferred technique, of this, to give body to a political lie is demagoguery, whether this demagoguery of equality or freedom, in addition to the political fiction.

The country, through the division of the powers of the state, the imperative mandate and the ability of the governed to depose their rulers, control the narrative of political lie.


A Word on Humanism

What is humanism? It is a perspective from which you see the world, rather than a school of thought or a collection of beliefs.

Humanism gives man unique capacities with respect to other living beings who are cultivated and celebrated for their own good. It is established between the vision that subjects man to the divine and the one that treats him like any other animal. The form of humanist thought developed (although it comes from the classical era) and extended during the eighteenth century with thinkers such as Voltaire, Rosseau, Deiderot, Bentham, Hume, Lessing, Kant, Franklin or Jefferson. This set of thinkers had in common support for values such as freedom, equality, secularism and cosmopolitanism, and the exaltation of creative active life versus contemplative life. They also believed in the capacity for perfection of human nature, moral sense, responsibility and the possibility of progress.

In the twentieth century, in the face of totalitarianism and wars humanists oppose values of nobility, resistance, intelligence, moderation, flexibility, sympathy, love and seek the beauty of mankind and the landscape.

Humanists attach crucial importance to education by enceiving it as the full development of the creative personality, linking science with politics and culture with democracy. Humanists attach paramount importance to freedom of thought and opinion, the use of intelligence and pragmatic research in science and technology, political systems governed by representative institutions. Believing that one can live without metaphysical or religious certainties and that all opinions are open to review and correction, they see the human flourish through open communication, discussion, criticism, and unforced consensus.

Humanism is, in short, a component of a wide variety of more specific philosophical systems and various schools of religious thought. Long before being widely employed in political terms, humanism is a concept of the history of philosophy, renewed with the Renaissance, associated in particular with the movement represented by Erasmo, Michel de Montaigne or even Guillaume Budé, to whom it is the honor of having been interested in both Greek-Latin literature and personal reflection.


Saying Happy Birthday

Rome wasn't built in a day. It took a long time for the seven Lazio villages to form a greater whole that we recognize as Rome. As people we are never complete, there isn't a moment when you stop and realize things have reached the finishing line. For me birthdays are those milestones that make up the path that leads into the road of my life.

So you can say that I enjoy my husband's birthday, my kids' birthdays, and yes even my birthday. All of these are little reminders that we are alive, developing, maturing, and learning. I look forward to these moments. Each year we choose different themes for our birthday party. Usually it is something that means something to the one celebrating. For example my youngest decided that over the course of the last year she loves horses. So of course the theme was easy to guess. While this isn't always a given, that party was easy to decorate. We've used the same site for a couple of parties, if you notice they specialize in just about any type of party you can imagine. This brought up the question for us; "Do people actually need all of these options?"

Even though we have a theme for the parties they are more akin to the celebrations that my husband and I had growing up. They are traditional small celebrations with either friends and/or family.

There was an interesting article on that highlighted the current trend towards bigger is better.

I think that it is interesting on a number of levels. To quote the article:

Rarely do we stop to consider why we have birthday parties in the first place. Or perhaps more importantly, what do our children think about all this? Do they even understand what is being celebrated? What do young children understand about birthdays and birthday parties?

When our children were able to cognitively understand what, well, the big deal was about they looked forward to the idea, but never expected more than what was being planned. In the same article the author gave an example of a boy who was turning six year olds, he and his family flew on "the day of his birthday, he and his family were out of the country, so instead of a full-fledged party they simply had a cake, he blew out the candles, and they promised him a party when they returned home." This in and of itself is enough to confuse most children that are in the position to understand the basic concept of what the day represents. For the child, it was an abstract thought, that was not based on a standardized concept, rather abstract and arbitrarily assigned. As he was preparing for the promised party he was insistent that he was now turning seven, "this child clearly seemed to believe that birthday parties play a causal role in the aging process. Two cognitive developmental studies support this possibility."

How is it that we have taken one of the most exciting days in a child's life, one filled with laughter, silly games, and lots of cake and ice cream and shifted it into the realm of international travel and unsustainable consumerism?

As parent's we want to give our children as many possibilities of happiness as we are in a position to give. We want to make them happy, thus it is an understandable jump for some to make it a day they will never forget (until next year rolls around) and while is is admirable it places both the parents and child in a position that quickly allows things to get out of focus.

My husband told me a story once when we were dating. He related the happiest birthday he could recall. His grandmother made him a cake that had Superman on it. She didn't buy the cake, she made it from scratch. This was long before the day of super heró themed parties (my son just attended one last month, he was Ironman). He showed me a picture taken of him that day and there are only a few instances when I have seen him beam more (notably on the day our children were born).

I will close with four words. Bigger isn't always better.


Democracy In Focus

Bolivia's first president, Evo Morales, has recently been removed from office after 14 years in power after facing acquisitions of a election fraud; declaring himself president even when a clear winner was yet to be decided. What followed was a month of unrest in the country, forcing Morales to seek asylum in Mexico. Jeanine Áñez has been sworn in to act as an interim president until new elections are held.

What is democracy?

First, we can distinguish between what we call social democracy and formal or political democracy. The first comes from an idea of morality or justice, and consists in the aspiration for civil and social equality of individuals in a community. It is the idea traditionally vindicated by progressive or left-wing ideologies. It is also called "horizontal democracy" (horizontalidad in Spanish speaking countries). The second is a concrete form of government, and we can define it as the institutional guarantee of political freedom. It is also called "vertical democracy."

For a political democracy to exist, basic conditions are necessary:

  1. De facto separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers
  2. Representativeness, through electoral laws, of civil society

If any of the conditions are missing, the government is undemocratic.

Climate Change Politics

Our Neighbors Are Dying

Our planet is dying and we have been watching it slow to act. Some of our neighbors have already passed away and more are dying right now. By the time you get done reading this and go onto something else another one of them will have gone extinct.

It has been nearly a decade since the UN released the previous Global Environment Outlook. GEO-6 was released this year. The Global Environment Outlook is the most reliable assessment of the state, trends and perspectives of the global environment. The report was produced over three years through a process involving six hundred specialists from around the world, who collected and analyzed data from all continents to build a detailed view of the planet's well-being. (GEO-1 in 1997, GEO-2000 in 1999, GEO-3 in 2002, GEO-4 in 2007, GEO-5 in 2012 and GEO-6 in 2019) is just another in a long line of assessments, but what has changed?

Climate change is on everyone's lips but little is being done to address or stop major culprits. The current trend to look to the easy or sensationalized topics like drinking straws allows one side to get upset because their "liberties" are being "robbed." While the other becomes frustrated by the diversionary dialog that is raised by these selective topics.

If current models are not changed, greenhouse gas emissions can double over the next fifty years, causing an increase of 3° C or more in the planet's temperature by the end of the century.

Although Latin America and the Caribbean accounts for a relatively modest 12% of the world's greenhouse gases (GHGs), the region is already experiencing the negative consequences of climate change and its variability. Climate change exacerbates many of the environmental problems, as well as threatening the achievements of development, poverty reduction and economic growth.

The number of people affected by extreme climate-related phenomena in Latin America and the Caribbean increased from five million in the 1970s to more than 40 million in the last decade. Beyond developments related to climate, poverty, marginalization, exclusion from decision-making processes, inadequate education and poor basic infrastructure, are among the factors that accentuate the vulnerability of Region. As vulnerability to climate impacts increases, addressing the underlying factors that cause this risk becomes a priority.

Four independent studies highlight that the decade between 2000 and 2009 was been the hottest in history (few took note), and in this decade we have finally stopped to reflect how hot things have really gotten. The rate of emissions caused by the use of fossil fuels and cement production was the highest recorded to this is the date.

It is estimated that by 2100, if temperatures rise by 2.5° C, climate change will cause annual economic damage equivalent to between 1% and 2% of world GDP.

Air pollution

Around 20% of vertebrate species are threatened.

Coral reefs have deteriorated by 38% since the 1980s, indicating that they are the living organism whose risk of extinction is increasing the fastest. A rapid contraction is expected in 2050.

More than 30% of the land area is devoted to agricultural production, which has led to a decline of more than 20% of natural habitats since the 1980s.

Despite all this, some progress is seen in policy responses, such as the extension of coverage of protected areas and the distribution of genetic resources and their benefits.

Access and Benefit-sharing

The "Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from Their Use", which entered into force in 2015. It was the first to recognize the right of indigenous and local communities to regulate access to traditional knowledge in accordance with its customary norms and practices.

In the pharmaceutical field, for example, 90% of patents related to marine biodiversity are held in ten countries.

Full data on the number of agreements, the number and distribution of beneficiaries and the scope and sustainability of the benefits from genetic resources can be found in the GEO-6 fact sheets.

Protected Areas

Biodiversity plays a vital role in maintaining essential ecosystem services, while being threatened by a number of interrelated factors. These include habitat loss due to conversion, alteration and pollution of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems due to intensive economic activities. The deterioration of biodiversity has economic, social and environmental impacts on the local and global population, addressing its pressures requires equitable, evidence-based, participatory and cross-sectoral policies.

Protected areas cover almost 13% of the land area, although only 1.6% of marine areas, relative to the 17% and 10% targets respectively, set for the coming year (2020) by the Aichi targets approved in 2011, nearly ten years ago.

Protected areas not only play an important role in the conservation of species and habitats, they also provide ecosystem services, which are considered critical in climate change mitigation and adaptation and provide a number of valuable social benefits.

Information gaps on their location, scope, legal status and effectiveness, as well as some safety issues, undermine the conservation work of protected areas. Priorities for action include the distribution of adequate resources and the establishment of management provisions and clear indicators for assessing their effectiveness.

Fish populations

In the last three decades we have seen an unprecedented deterioration in fish stocks.

Although marine catches increased more than fourfold from the early 1950s to the mid-1990s, they have since stabilized, despite increased fishing.

By the year 2000, marine catches would have grown by between 7% and 16% had it not been due to population depletion. This, in economic terms, means losses of between $4000 million and $36 billion.

Commercial fisheries and overfishing are the two main threats of fish stocks. In 2007, Fishery Stewardship Council certified fishery products accounted for only 7% of the world's fisheries.

Marine protected areas have proven to be useful conservation tools. Recent surveys show that fish stocks are larger within the reserves than in the surrounding areas and in those same areas before the reserve was created.


Only one of the thirty environmental targets analyzed in this regard—increased access to clean drinking water—shows significant progress.

However, less progress has been made in rural areas, especially in Africa and the Pacific.

Latin America and the Caribbean account for 31% of the world's freshwater resources and 30 different mangrove ecosystems located in the continental-marine transition zone. The availability of safe drinking water in sufficient quantity and quality was proclaimed a human right in July 2010, under UN Decision 64/292, and has been recognized in the constitutions of some LAC countries. The availability of quality drinking water in sufficient quantities is essential for human dignity, quality of life and poverty alleviation. Effective water management policies that improve the efficient use of water resources and promote their allocation between conflicting uses should be implemented to achieve the objectives set out in paragraph 26 (c) of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

Quantity and water quality

Despite some progress, water quality remains one of the main reasons for health problems around the world.

In turn, climate change and increased population growth can lead to even greater water shortages in some regions.

Water quality in at least some of the most important river systems still does not meet World Health Organization (WHO) standards in this regard.

More than 600 million people were expected to gain access to safe drinking water in 2015 and yet more than 2.5 billion people still do not have access to basic sanitation services.

Increasing water scarcity forces some regions to rely more heavily on energy-intensive desalination technologies.

It is estimated that between $9000 million and $11 billion per year will be spent in 2030 on additional infrastructure for sufficient water supply, especially in developing countries.

Reducing water pollution could generate health benefits valued at more than US$100 million in the OECD's large economies alone.

Nitrate concentrations due to fertilizer water contamination are expected to cause serious threats to human health and aquatic life.

Although freshwater pollution appears to continue to increase, adequate follow-up work has been reduced in many regions to fully understand the effects.

Groundwater Depletion

Water extractions have tripled in the past fifty years, and since 2000 there has been an even greater deterioration in groundwater supplies.

Agriculture is responsible for 92% of the world's water footprint, and many agricultural production centers around the world rely especially on groundwater, such as northwestern India, northeastern Pakistan, northeastern China and the western States in the US.

Integrated Water Management

In order to address the current and future challenges posed by the water problem, it is necessary to develop and strengthen integrated water management as well as appropriate monitoring tools.

Currently, of the 263 international freshwater basins, around 158 do not yet have cooperative management frameworks.

The lack of sufficient information, the lack of comprehensive monitoring systems and water safety indicators that allow trends to be followed over time are other obstacles to better water management.

Related policies include those associated with the implementation of economic and financial instruments that strengthen areas such as water governance, as well as improved information on water quality and quantity.

Marine Pollution

Little progress has been made in preventing, reducing or controlling pollution of the marine environment.

The number of dead coastal areas has increased dramatically in recent years. Only 13 of the world's 169 dead coastal areas are recovering, and 415 coastal areas are eutrophication.

About 80% of marine pollution is caused by land-based activities.

Of the twelve seas analyzed between 2005 and 2007, the South-East Pacific, the North Pacific, the East Asian Sea and the Caribbean contain the largest amount of marine waste.

Despite some gaps in its implementation, the ratification of the MARPOL Convention by 150 countries resulted in the reduction of ship pollution.

The governance of the cross-border marine areas is weak and fragmented.

Extreme Events

GEO-5 emphasized the need to strengthen work to prevent and mitigate the impact of extreme events, such as disasters caused by climate change. River channeling, loss of rainwater plain, urbanization and new land uses are important environmental factors that increase the impact of floods and droughts.

Floods and droughts increased by 230% to 38%, respectively, between the 1980s and the 2000s, and the number of people exposed to flooding increased by 114%.

The coast's adaptation to climate change is estimated to cost between $26 billion and $89 billion in the decade beginning in 2040, depending on sea level rise.

Land Management

Little progress has been made to address desertification and droughts, some improvements in access to food have been achieved. Excessive demand for food, feed, fuel and raw materials intensifies pressures on land, leading to deforestation.

Progress has been made on deforestation globally. Thus, forest loss fell from 16 million hectares in the 1990s to 13 million hectares between 2000 and 2010. Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean are jointly responsible for the loss of more than 7 million hectares per year between 2005 and 2010. Yet that number has drastically increased in the 2010s. 50 million hectares are in danger of being destroyed this decade, a drastic change to the zero deforestation pledge of the 2000s.

Improving governance and building capacities are key to implementing more sustainable land management systems.

Agricultural development, fossil fuel and mineral extraction, forestry, urban development, increased tourism in coastal and other areas, as well as land tenure systems, must be addressed from the scope of the effective land management policies that prevent soil degradation and to re-enable those that are deteriorated.

Chemicals and Waste

Progress has been made on heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants and radioactive waste.

However, more than 90% of water samples and fish extracted from aquatic media are contaminated by pesticides. Persistent organic pollutant (POP) contamination has also spread and particularly affects remote areas, such as the Arctic and Antarctica.

New issues calling for attention include the urgent implementation of appropriate electrical and electronic waste management systems and the challenges posed by endocrine disrupting chemicals, plastics in the environment, open burning and the production and use of nanomaterials in many common products.

Regional perspectives

There are a number of key issues and examples of effective policies that, if urgently expanded and implemented, can contribute to the transition to a Green Economy.

Population growth and increased consumption are common problems in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. In Africa and Asia and the Pacific, they are aggravated by a rapid urbanization process that puts greater pressure on the depletion of natural resources.

Climate change is a global problem.

Examples of success—from a new understanding of the value of forests to ecosystems in Kenya to the introduction of payment for ecosystem services in Vietnam or the adoption of policies that have reduced deforestation in the Amazon— show, that you can move forward on this path.

Europe and North America maintain unsustainable consumption levels. In North America, in particular, the growth of the renewable energy industry has slowed.

European policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as the congestion tax, show that change is possible. The same is true in North America, where the electricity grid has been flexed to expand the introduction of renewable energy and taxes on carbon taxes have been applied in Quebec and British Columbia.

West Asia faces worsening water scarcity, soil degradation and sea level rise, but may be inspired by some policies being implemented elsewhere, such as water resource management in Yemen , Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, or the rehabilitation of grasslands in Syria.

GEO-6 included a regional chapter on Latin America and the Caribbean, which proposed policies which generated improvements, Areas addressed reflected environmental issues in five priority areas: biodiversity, water, land, climate change and environmental governance.

Countries in the region share a number of common environmental challenges despite their heterogeneity. These include climate change, biodiversity loss and concern about water and land management. Coastal and marine issues, urbanization, poverty and inequality are also a high priority.

Policies in the region can only be effective if they succeed in reducing the gap between science and policy-making. Such research should include, where knowledge is relevant, local and indigenous wisdom, an important feature of the LAC region. Researchers and policy makers must continuously work together to acquire relevant knowledge and innovation information to apply to environmental decision-making.

The policies and instruments on display require a solid environmental governance base to ensure their effectiveness. To achieve this favorable condition, strong institutional adjustments and appropriate policy frameworks are needed, while public participation, monitoring and evaluation, education and a culture of environmental awareness are fundamental to their successful operation.

To be sustainable, the region's natural capital must be managed in an integrated way across all sectors. To respond to the region's complex nature of the environment and its opportunities and challenges, policies must be designed and implemented in a way that transcends the traditional compartmentalized approach based on sectoral rapprochement. This will help the region with some of its persistent environmental problems and other associated socio-economic problems, including social, poverty and inequality conflicts.

Plans have been developed and implemented which produce good examples of transformation allocated approaches and policies. These are usually at the national and sub-national levels and offer opportunities to be replicated, both inside and outside the region. Its characteristics generally include the effective incorporation of scientific information, knowledge and best practices; links between strong governance sectors and mechanisms, stakeholder participation, and political will and support.

Development need not be achieved at the expense of the environment or the populations that depend on it, and GEO-6 describes some potential paths that can be followed to avoid it. In fact, many of the projects it analyses demonstrate that a greater understanding of the value of natural resources can serve as a stimulus for development.

A new definition of the concept of wealth that goes beyond gross domestic product and includes indicators of sustainability is the best way to increase the standard of living and well-being of all communities, especially those of developing countries.

The report makes the following specific recommendations:

More reliable data is needed to make informed decisions about environmental resources and to measure progress towards internationally agreed targets.

  • Clear long-term environmental and development objectives are needed, as well as greater accountability for international treaties.
  • Capacity building to support environmental information, especially in developing countries, should be significantly strengthened.
  • Changes must be made both in the short term and include technological, governance and investment measures, as well as changes based on a shift in mindset towards values based on sustainability and equality.
  • Achieving transformation requires an accelerated, gradual and constant transition process. While some strategic innovations are already taking place, they need to be generalized.
  • International cooperation is essential, as environmental problems do not address borders. Global responses can play a key role in setting goals, creating financial resources, and making it easier to share best practices.

Although responses at the national and regional levels have been satisfactory, only equitable, efficient and effective results will be achieved from a polycentric governance approach.

Improving human well-being depends on the ability of individuals, institutions, countries and the global community to respond to environmental change.

Global Environment Outlook provides an opportunity to assess achievements and weaknesses, as well as to foster global responses to transformation.

Further Reading