Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Envirnmental Poverty and the Ecosystem

Both environmental degradation and poverty alleviation are urgent global issues that have a lot in common, but are often treated separately. Consider the following:

  • Human activities are resulting in mass species extinction rates higher than ever before, currently approaching 1000 times the normal rate;

  • Human-induced climate change is threatening an even bleaker future; At the same time, the inequality of human societies is extreme:

  • The United Nations 1998 Human Development Report reveals that, “Globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures—the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%”

  • To highlight this inequality further, consider that approximately 1 billion people suffer from hunger and some 2 to 3.5 billion people have a deficiency of vitamins and minerals

  • Yet, some 1.2 billion suffer from obesity

  • One billion people live on less than a dollar a day, the official measure of poverty

  • However, half the world — nearly three billion people — lives on less than two dollars a day.

  • Yet, just a few hundred millionaires now own as much wealth as the world’s poorest 2.5 billion people.

Ethics and words such as “Rule of law. Rights. Liberty. Justice. Opportunity” do not feed hungry mouths!

and hungry people would be more than glad to replace democracy with food. and they won't have a moral boundary to use their land and natural resources to sustain themselves or escape poverty.

a clear example would be of what happened to the Amazon Rain Forests where trees used for timber and paper production were replaced by palm trees that would produce palm oil which is of a more economical importance than timber, but on the expense of the native flora and the natural biodiversity, it even led to spread of Chaga disease.

food is a major issue effected by poverty, and in huge populations such as India and China, the governments were in dilemmas balancing the exports of rice and grains with the domestic demands, and that threatened the supply of rice to Gulf countries such as Kuwait and the UAE. The ban on export of rice by some countries indicates that they are trying to protect their population from the food crisis at the cost of other countries. which violates the spirit of globalisation. but since Globalisation is also a concept that doesn't put food in front of the poor automatically, these countries will try to solve the crisis in the most convenient ways.

the convenient way to solve this dilemma or crisis can be tricky, the governments need to lower the price of rice for the sake of the poor, making it affordable, while at the same time provide incentive to farmers to grow more rice. It is widely accepted that developing countries cannot achieve both objectives unless they have inexhaustible resources. They have to prioritise one of them without undermining the other.

but keep in mind one thing, what are the effects of growing more rice on the ecosystem? because of non-availability of land for expansion, transfer of agriculture land for other uses, and limited scope for further increasing cropping intensity (both are responsible for soil degradation and environmental pollution) leading to depletion of biodiversity and wearing out the ecosystem, which will lead to more poverty and famine.

Biological diversity allows a variety of species to all work together to help maintain the environment without costly human intervention. We benefit because the environment sustains us with the variety of resources produced.
However, there is often a mainstream belief that for poor countries to develop, environmental concerns have to be sacrificed, or is a luxury to address once poverty is alleviated.
Therefore, the approaches to such issues require rethinking. The overloaded phrase “sustainable development” must recognize the interconnectedness between human beings and the environment if true environmental and social justice is to be obtained.

so what do we need to do:

  • Reduce poverty through improved and diversified rice-based systems.

  • Enhance household food security and income in rainfed areas of Asia through improved varieties and management practices that can double yield and reduce yield variability under stress conditions

  • Ensure that rice production is sustainable and stable, has minimal negative environmental impact, and can cope with climate change.

  • Improve agroecosystem resilience through enhanced biodiversity.


important publication to read: Poverty and the Environment(PDF)

if the poor world were to develop and consume in the same manner as the West to achieve the same living standards, “we would need two additional planet Earths to produce resources and absorb wastes … and good planets are hard to find!”

Blog Action Day 08- Poverty Posters can be found here.

see you next year....!!!

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