Maple syrup -- global science shows it's not just for breakfast

Maple syrup -- global science shows it's not just for breakfast

Aug. 25, 2015

James Roche is a member of the Hal and Jean Glassen Scholars Program working with the Michigan Sea Grant Extension Program Office.  

Some would argue that the ultimate goal for the human condition is understanding. If we could truly understand how the world works and interacts, maybe then we could find the answers to the biggest issues we face.

During my time with Michigan Sea Grant Extension here at MSU I have tried to do just using the telecoupling framework developed here at MSU by Jianguo "Jack" Liu. Telecoupling seeks to examine the environmental and socioeconomic systems that occur in local areas and how our global interaction over long distances must be understood in order to develop a more sustainable world. In my first attempt to apply telecoupling to the Great Lakes, I turn to the mainstay of any great breakfast, maple syrup.

The majority of the maple syrup we use in the United States originates from the province of Quebec in Canada due to the perfect climate for large quantities of maple sap-producing trees. Next time you go to aCanadian Maple Syrup, photo by Jan Smith diner and order a stack of pancakes, take a look at the bottle, if it is real maple syrup, more likely than not it will be from Quebec. Here in the states we have the capacity to produce massive quantities of fresh fruits that are unable to grow in the Canadian climate which is better suited for maple syrup. An exchange takes place between the United States and Canada where we send large amounts of fresh fruit to the Canadian market and in return receive quality maple syrup.

But it is not as simple as exchanging one good for another. There are environmental and human implications counterintuitive to sustainable development with the maple syrup trade. By using the telecoupling framework we can see how the current maple syrup trade impacts our atmosphere and how local economies here in the United States lose out on a lot of potential revenue.

While maple syrup is not something that Michigan Sea Grant traditionally deals with, it is a great example of telecoupling and the potential for the development of sustainable international trade. 

Michigan Sea Grant 

Using telecoupling framework helps promote sustainability in global trade


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