If you have to attend a convention on climate change, be thankful that it is in Cancun, Mexico. The 16th Conference of Parties for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change met for one week in the resort city and spent their days enjoying the natural beauty of the area and discussing heavy environmental issues. On the table were the topics of technical options for protecting and restoring ecosystems as well as how Latin American countries can adapt to the effects of global warming.
Unlike other countries that are looking to cash in on the prolific bamboo goods market, Latin America is focusing on how to utilize bamboo as an environmental weapon against global warming. Perhaps it’s because these countries already have such rich trade products such as cattle, coffee, cocoa and bananas. Or maybe it’s because these countries have experienced firsthand the severe and intense weather disasters that stem from global climate changes.
Already some Latin American countries use bamboo (with its incredible tensile strength) for building. Emergency housing made from bamboo was quickly erected in Ecuador in a response to heavy rains and flooding caused by the El Nino climate phenomenon. More than 100,000 of these homes went up to put a roof over people’s heads as they rebuilt their devastated region.
The Peruvian city of Ica used more than 40,000 bamboo poles to build the Paracas hotel, an eco-friendly hotel in a country that is looking to build on its tourism industry by introducing eco-tourism to potential visitors. In the northwestern Ecuadorian province of Esmeraldas, the U.S. hotel chain Royal Decameron also used bamboo as a construction material.
With $200,000 in financing from the World Bank, INBAR is planning 15 prototypes of bamboo houses in Ecuador and will launch a similar initiative in Peru this January.
“The aim is that the governments of the two countries will each finance the construction of 1,500 homes. “We are developing a technology to manufacture roofing from bamboo instead of zinc,” said Coosje Hoogendoorn, head of International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)
While the member countries could not agree on a treaty to combat the climate crisis, there was much discussion on the use of bamboo as a tool to fight global warming. While many people consider bamboo a pest, INBAR is working hard to educate the countries on the environmental benefits of the bamboo plant.
A comparative model from INBAR shows that In 10 years, one hectare of moso bamboo (Phyllostachys pubescens) in China captures 30 tonnes more carbon dioxide – - the leading greenhouse gas — than one hectare of China fir trees (Cunninghamia lanceolata).
“Sustainable management and the appropriate use of bamboo can increase the quantity of sequestered carbon through changes in management that increase the storage capacity within the ecosystem in the short term,” says the study.
Other areas in Mexico are looking to bamboo to help correct years of soil erosion caused by the heavy rains. According to the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, “Commercial bamboo crops are one of the options that could more efficiently compensate and correct environmental deterioration in territories with warm, humid climates and with year-round rains.”
It’s not to say, however, that the meeting countries wouldn’t mind making a profit while they’re helping the environment. Already the Mexican Congress has asked President Felipe Calderon to establish a bamboo development program.
“In Mexico there is great interest in promoting the use of bamboo,” said Alvaro Cabrera, INBAR’s regional coordinator for Latin American and the Caribbean. On the international level, the bamboo trade already reaches 7 billion dollars annually and with 34% of the 1000 bamboo species growing in their region, Latin America is poised for success.
There are many avenues for bamboo use – the bamboo fiber itself produces soft and luxurious items such as bamboo sheets and bamboo clothes. With a world of consumers clamoring for more environmentally-friendly options, it would be hard to argue against developing such a potential cash crop.
Make sure to visit Green Earth News section on Bamboo’s Worldwide Impact for more stories on how bamboo is making a change!