Two sides of the same coin: Environment and poverty

maxresdefaultYou just need to take a break from your perennial thoughts pertaining to job, stability, career, girl/boy to observe the surroundings. And when you do, you see that a lot has changed. The three basic life forces i.e. air, water and food; have turned poison. The rising number of deaths, nearly one in four global deaths owing to unhealthy conditions (according to new estimates from WHO) corroborates the veracity of the above statement.

The foundation of an economy is laid on natural resources. Ideally speaking, each one of us irrespective of nationality, social status, religion or culture should enjoy equal rights on them but we all know the reality.  It can’t be overlooked that, over the past few years, average living standards have risen (Yeah.. Kudos) but the gap between the rich and poor has also broadened (Ah.. depressing). Resources which were meant to be enjoyed by all are at the disposal of few. (Yeah that..”Aao kabhi haveli pe” people.. wink.. wink..)

Many international publications have declared that environment and poverty are interrelated. But how? Isn’t the environment is concerned with interaction between human and nature, management of natural resources and life sustaining treasure i.e. air ,water and land while poverty is lack of means to meet even basic necessities of life (acc. to wikipedia).

But to my utter surprise, these publications made sense. Let’s see how poverty is leading to environmental degradation and how poverty is being impacted by environment.

Around1.6 billion people (mostly poverty stricken people) across the globe depend on forest products for their livelihoods and due to high demand, insufficient knowledge and unconventional planning they are unable to properly manage their practices, leading to massive deforestation.  Also, immoderate usage of wood for cooking, heating and housing is creating its shortfall, thus making it more expensive to buy, enhancing the downward spiral of poverty and environmental degradation.

Do you know, what is the major cause of deforestation? Any ideas?

It is the agriculture. According to

“When natural vegetation is cleared and when farmland is ploughed, the exposed topsoil is often blown away by wind or washed away by rain.
Erosion due to soy production, for example, sees Brazil lose 55 million tons of topsoil every year.  This leads to reduced soil fertility and degraded land.
Other major crops that cause soil erosion include coffee, cassava, cotton, corn, palm oil, rice, sorghum, tea, tobacco, and wheat.”

With time, agricultural land often loses its productivity and rendered useless(becomes barren), so the farmers keep on moving to more productive land (usually arable forest area). Globally, the land used and abandoned in the last 50 years may be equal to the amount of land used today.

“4500 acres of forests are cleared every hour by forest fires, bull dozers, machetes etc.”

These publications also attributed air pollution, soil pollution and water pollution to the poor production techniques and damaging economic assets employed by poor people. The enormous pressure on a land leads to land degradation, soil erosion and concomitant food production decline and endangered fisheries. Again this is not out of will but due to lack of knowledge, lack of government involvement in providing environmental friendly technologies and lack of capital at their disposal

It is said that “You reap what you sow”. Absolutely true, there is no denying in that fact. But it is to be noted that poor people are reaping what we all are sowing. It is the poor who is being persecuted in the hands of development. People engage in insalubrious professions, more out of need than out of will. Often they are exposed to toxic atmospheres prone to myriad of life threatening diseases ranging from asthma to cancer. With meagre earnings leave medical bills they are even unable to provide one healthy meal for their family. Often residing in squalid ghettos ,unhygienic conditions ,they are the ones facing the brunt of environmental catastrophes like Hurricane katrina, flood ,malaria, dengue ,human made tragedies like the Exxon Valdez,BP oil spill.and remembered only during “democratic elections”

 “A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing”.

A lot of poverty stricken people are still living in “dark ages” with no or limited access to education, knowledge or information leading to poor management of available resources (deforestation), environment degrading production methodologies, overuse of chemicals ,soil erosion, land degradation etc. This not only affects the environment but also effectuate income loss for poor farmers and exacerbate there piteous condition. But what could they do? Their utmost priority is to arrange basic necessities i.e. food, clothing and shelter for their family. Their entire energy is devoted in the pursuit of these necessities, in the “pursuit of happyness”. Thoughts of sustainable practices, environment protection are not expected from them.

What is required is to instil the faith of poor farmers in sustainable practices like rain water harvesting, integrated pest management ,cover crops etc., to make them believe that they too can reap benefits from such practices This can be done by making them aware of the latest environment friendly technologies, providing them education and vocational training. A world wide approach encompassing national and international organizations, government bodies, community and society is essential to alleviate destitute, to empower needy and to make this “pale blue dot” a better place to live in.

P.S.: Also, We have an opening for an editor the current one is real pain in the ass (obscene middle finger gestures).


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