Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sustainability, being "green" and how they relate to poverty

Children play around mounds of trash that surround their home in Nicaragua
(photo courtesy: pushplayproductions); and closer to home in the U.S, Katrina survivors struggle to be heard (photo courtesy: Craig Morse)

Global warming, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, environmental responsibility...these are big and hip words to use now, particularly in this era of greenwashing. But they have everything to do with the poor in the developing world.


Well, we live in a world of shared resources. For the most part, the "developed" world has used a lion's share of these resources (air, water, minerals, etc) to get the quality of life we enjoy now, often in not the most sustainable or environmentally responsible way; and the "developing" world is trying desperately to catch up. But the people who bear the brunt of this large-scale environmental destruction or lack of social goodwill are the poorest (even in the developed world). Their land is strewn with pollutants of every kind - from garbage and hazardous waste, to water and air pollution; their rights are rarely protected; their voices rarely heard; and they are never compensated for any thing. In fact, all they have to show for it is a struggle for survival.

Being "green" and sustainable means taking responsibility for easing the burden off the poor. It means sharing our resources, and showing better, more improved methodologies and technologies that the developing world can emulate (we can also learn a lot from the developing world). Being "green" here, translates to cleaner air, water, and land here and there. It means not allowing countries like India, China and others following in their path to massive industrialization to repeat the mistakes we made. It means just doing our part for a better world, not because anyone is making us, but because it is the right thing to do and because ultimately its good for us and them. And ultimately, poverty will slowly and surely be less punishing.

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