Biodiversity & Food Security

Reconciling Food Production, Biodiversity Protection and Human Wellbeing.

A strand of my research and writings attends to the challenge of reconciling biodiversity conservation and food production in Brazil [22, 28, 36]. It discusses how Brazil’s current development model and associated cultural proclivities generate food, water and climatic (in)security [37-41]. It subsumes research focused on the Brazilian Cerrado (savanna), which contains biodiversity of extraordinary quantity and socio-ecological and climatic importance, yet it is being rapidly devastated by development. Related INPE-led research involves participatory sustainable future scenario development with stakeholders in the Cerrado and uses back-casting models to help define realistic pathways for achieving the consensually defined scenarios.

The Role of (the Political Economy of) Mass Media

This research also subsumes attention to relevant media coverage and relevant political economic aspects, such as media policy, ownership, democratic controls, and public participation and empowerment. The relevance of these topics for food and climate security becomes evident in light of the fact that meat production in Brazil is linked to well over half of national emissions, yet Brazilian media’s climate coverage rarely discuss the country’s meat-centered development model and diets as a problem in that connection. Brazilians consistently express the highest levels of concerns about climate change and about preserving national biodiversity-rich biomes and their forests. Yet they are not helped translate these concerns into policy and lifestyle changes.

Analyzing Brazilian newspapers’ climate coverage leading up to 2010, my first published article on this topic [30] shows that climate change was framed as an energy problem, although energy is a significantly smaller part of the country’s emissions compared to emissions from land use change and agriculture. During the years 2007-2008, only 0.14% of climate change-mentioning articles in the prominent newspaper Estado de São Paulo were dedicated to meat as a problem in the context of climate change. The topic was underdeveloped and approached in ways that reduced attention, concern, and agency on the part of Brazilians to steer the country towards a new, more sustainable development path. Political economic structures that sustain this taboo should be a focus of policy and action on climate change. Research and articles in the pipeline confirm that the above pattern continues to mark climate coverage in Brazil’s two most circulated newspapers (O Globo and Folha de São Paulo) after 2010.

See below for video of lecture presenting this work (Where is the beef? Climate Change Knowledge and Communication in Brazil,” Science, Technology and Environment Policy Program (STEP), Princeton University, 19 Sept. 2016). For a more recent recorded lectures, see “Latest News.”


1.           Lahsen, M. and C.A. Nobre, The challenge of connecting international science and local level sustainability: The case of the LBA. Environmental Science and Policy, 2007. 10(1): p. 62-74.

2.           Lahsen, M., G. de Azevedo Couto, and I. Lorenzoni, When climate change is not blamed: the politics of disaster attribution in international perspective. Climatic Change, 2020. 158(2): p. 213-233.

3.           Lahsen, M., et al., Influential Organizations in Brazil’s Climate Policy: Integrated Method Reveals Underrecognized Industry Strength. Manuscript in development, forthcoming.

4.           Lahsen, M., M. Bustamante, and E. Dalla-Nora, Undervaluing and Overexploiting the Brazilian Cerrado at Our Peril. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 2016. 58(6): p. 4-15.

5.           Michelini, J. and M. Lahsen, Implicações da pecuária brasileira para a segurança alimentar: a ciência e o discurso do setor produtivo. Sustentabilidade em Debate, 2016. 7(3): p. 112-126.

6.           Nolasco, C.L., et al., Scenarios of Vegetable Demand vs. Production in Brazil: The Links between Nutritional Security and Small Farming. Land, 2017. 6(3): p. 49.

7.           Nolasco, C.L., M. Lahsen, and J.P.H.B. Ometto, Segurança Alimentar e Mudanças Ambientais Globais: uma análise crítica no contexto da sociedade brasileira. Sustentabilidade em Debate, 2016. 7(1): p. 29-43.

8.           Marques, A.R., et al., Water governance in Vale do Paraíba Paulista: Network of actors and socioecological systems. Ambiente & Sociedade, 2020. 23.

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