Dylan has shared with us her experience in regards to the FAO and ERM presentation of January 12, 2012
“On the morning of January 12, 2012, me and my twenty fellow Poets had the distinct opportunity to speak with Dr. Alejandro Flores-Nava, a representative with a special background in aquaculture from the Food and Agriculture Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations; and Dr. Alfrido Wagner-Manslau, the managing director of Argentina and Chile at ERM, a multinational environmental consultancy firm. These two visits were special for many different reasons. First off, this was the first and only times where representatives from a multinational organization came to us, the eager to learn, students of Whittier College at our hotel in the Congreso district of Buenos Aires, a hearty trek for both parties. Secondly, these were two organizations, one for-profit and one, not for-profit, that specifically tackled (or was at least primarily focused on) global social and environmental responsibility.
The idea of an international organization regulating and working towards sustainable
food and agricultural practices was first born in the late 1800s, leading to the creation of the International
Agricultural Institute in 1905 at an international conference held in Rome. It wasn’t until November, 1945 – with FDR’s support and encouragement, that the Food and Agriculture Organization held its first international conference. The FAO’s ultimate mission is to achieve food security for all, making sure that people have consistent access to “enough high-quality food to lead active, heathy lives” in an effort to defeat world hunger (http://www.fao.org/about/en/). To do this, the FAO focuses on improving
the levels of nutrition and the lives of rural populations, increasing agricultural productivity,
and play as much a part as possible to the growth of the world economy. The new General Director,
José Graziano da Silva, (appointed January 1, 2012) announced on Jan. 3 that his most important
consideration is the total eradication of world hunger and undernourishment
Dr. Flores-Nava broke down what FAO Argentina does at its most basic level: share best information and knowledge and use what limited resources are available (human capital and money) to minimize the worst case scenario and respond to current conditions of distress. Flores-Nava made it a point to say that the FAO doesn’t interfere with sovereignty of a country on the country’s beliefs on GMO’s or environmental regulations. The FAO is strictly an information based agency that labels access to food as the real problem with hunger and malnutrition worldwide. According to Flores-Nava, if all currently available foodstuffs was evenly distributed around the world, everyone would have the ability to eat. The FAO has two major tasks with regards to the information it collects and distributes and those are to generate the actual knowledge through research, statistics, and trends and to assist with technology for those countries in need. Overall, Flores-Nava’s visit helped us more fully understand the difficulties when a NGO deals with host country regulations, and definitely made me respect the role of the scientist in global operations. ERM was no different.
The Environmental Resources Management (ERM) is an environmental for-profit consulting firm that guides the world in its efforts to develop sustainably. They provide environmental, health, safety, risk, and social consulting services to various firms in key sectors such as oil and gas, mining, power, manufacturing, chemical, and pharmaceutical. The representative we had the pleasure to speak with was none other than the managing director of both Argentina and Chile, Alfrido Wagner-Manslau. Wagner-Manslau’s scientific background in geology really made it obvious that these weren’t just business men looking for the greatest profit margin, but the cool lab-geeks who want to do good in the world (and look good while doing it!).
Environmental Resource Management takes a geocentric approach to its business, addressing the different needs of different branches, but with an international perspective from a large full-service organization. For example, Argentines are in Argentina because they more fully understand the culture, environmental regulations, and environmental needs by their clients doing business in Argentina. What surprised me was that ERM isn’t just a consultancy firm that says ‘do x,y, and z to become more environmentally friendly/function more sustainably,’ but they actually diagnose the problem, offer treatments, and then treat. These are actual scientists carrying out projects. Manufacturing, chemical, and pharmaceutical firms are ERM’s best clients and make up 40% of sales, another extremely interesting tidbit of information considering how much more well-known oil and gas firms and mining firms are for environmental degradation.
All in all, a very interesting and busy morning, full of looking beyond the direct responsibility to the shareholder, and thinking about what it actually takes to feed and keep from further abusing the planet and the obstacles we, mankind, face to do so.”