The first concrete action to be taken in setting up a hotspots activity is
to decide on an operational definition of hotspots, and then to define
it more specifically in the context of the adverse interactions between
agricultural activities and environmental processes.
It will be necessary to distinguish hotspots from flashpoints, critical
zones (or areas of concern (AOCs)), and areas where land is transformed as
a result of agriculture-related activities. It is important to keep in mind
the fact that not every interaction between agriculture and the environment
is a negative, zero-sum interaction, where either the environment or
agriculture wins and the other loses. For example, mixing agriculture
and forested areas could be beneficial for both agriculture and the
environment. Mixing livestock rearing and cultivation has also proven
to be beneficial to both activities, as well as to the environmental
setting in which they are taking place.
The overriding objective of a hotspots focus is to avoid creating
them where they do not yet exist. A hotspot of environmental change
(such as degradation) encompasses only a portion of a continuum of
the full range of environmental changes.
While the hotspots portion of that continuum is the one that usually
captures the attention of the media and policy-makers, in fact it is
the portion of the process of change that precedes hotspots - the
AOCs - that deserves more attention. Intervention in a potentially
emerging hotspot can provide the most timely and least costly response
to environmental problems.