Information and stories about environment.

Bernie SandersBernie Sanders, a Senator from Vermont and a 2016 democratic presidential nominee, announced his candidacy for the 2020 presidential election on Feb 19, 2019. This popular candidate spoke to the younger generation with his ideas about healthcare, raising the minimum wage and free college education for students. However, Sanders’ stance on global poverty issues has not been as much in the forefront. Here are some facts about Bernie Sanders’ stance on foreign aid and global poverty.

Foreign Aid

In the past, Sanders has both supported and rejected bills relating to foreign aid. An example of Bernie Sander’s support is with the HR 5501 bill that involves providing funding to eliminate tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria. As a result of this bill, $48 billion was sent to the Global Fund to help developing countries eradicate HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Another bill that Sanders has supported, in fact, co-sponsored, is the Harvest for Hunger bill, which provided relief to sub-Saharan Africa for famine victims. Overall, based on his voting history, Sanders supports foreign aid to developing countries in order to reduce conflict around the world. He has acknowledged that efficient foreign aid can be an effective national security defense.

In regards to his rejection of bills involving foreign aid, Sanders rejected the S Amdt 5077 bill, which would have reduced the HR 5501 bill to $35 billion. Sanders also rejected the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, which would have provided emergency foreign aid to countries in need. This act ended up providing $82.04 billion in emergency support to the Defense Department and tsunami relief.

Clean Water and Air

Sanders has consistently supported bills and other initiatives to protect the environment and ensure that clean water and air is available for all. One example of this would be the Water Resources Development Act of 2013. This act ensured increased research for health management and the sustainability of oceans around the world. In the past, Sanders has also spoken out against drilling in seas such as the Chukchi Sea, which could result in oil spills.

Overall, Sanders has supported several bills and initiatives that would help eradicate global poverty and other associated issues. He mostly addresses poverty in the United States by his policies on taxing the wealthiest 1 percent, raising the minimum wage and decreasing college debt for students. Sanders also advocates for foreign aid bills as an effective national security defense as this can help reduce conflict in developing countries.

Bernie Sanders’ stances on foreign aid and issues that impact global poverty prove that he could continue to be a powerful ally for the world’s poor if elected president in 2020. Only time will tell if Bernie Sanders is elected president, but his commitment to foreign aid will continue.

– Maddison Hines
Photo: Flickr

Land Demarcation Rights
Within hours of being sworn in as the new president of Brazil this past January 2019, Jair Bolsonaro removed land demarcation rights from the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) and transferred that power to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Under the 1988 Brazil Constitution, it is illegal for agricultural companies to lease land inside indigenous reservations for the growing of commercial crops. However, with the transference of land demarcation rights to the Ministry of Agriculture, the agribusiness sector of Brazil may be allowed to cultivate land inside of indigenous territory – because they will be the ones defining what constitutes “indigenous land.”

This was a controversial decision, but not a surprising one for Bolsonaro. During his campaign, the far-right president-elect of Brazil promised to open up indigenous territories – which make up 13 percent of Brazilian land – to agricultural and mining interests. The Parliamentary Agricultural Front endorsed him, a congressional lobby which represents the agribusiness sector of the Brazilian economy and whose members make up more than a quarter of the nation’s Senate.

Bolsonaro and Indigenous Rights

In addition, Bolsonaro has been a vocal opponent of indigenous rights throughout his political career. The indigenous rights organization, Survival International, created an archive of various speeches, interviews and social media posts where Bolsonaro made racist remarks or proclaimed his intent to remove the rights of indigenous peoples, especially where land demarcation was concerned.

The list extends as far back as 1998 when Bolsonaro said that it was “a shame that the Brazilian cavalry hasn’t been as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated the Indians.” (from the newspaper Correio Braziliense, April 1998). In February 2018, Bolsonaro announced his intent to remove land demarcation altogether: “If I become President, there will not be a centimeter more of indigenous land.”

For many indigenous groups, the fulfillment of these claims is all but a declaration of war against them by the government. The indigenous territories of Brazil are home to approximately 900,000 people from 305 different ethnic groups. These groups range in size from tribes of 50,000 or more to dwindling groups that consist of only a few families; at least one tribe in the Amazon region consists of a single, unnamed survivor. Some of these groups have never made contact with the outside world. If the Brazilian government is to allow their lands to be opened to industrial interests, any of these people could lose the land that they have inhabited for centuries.

Opponents of land demarcation, including President Bolsonaro and the new Minister of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina Dias, have argued that indigenous groups would benefit from being exposed to agricultural and industrial interests.

Indigenous Rights Activists

Nevertheless, indigenous rights activists maintain that the original inhabitants of Brazil have a right to stay on their own land with their own cultures. In a letter to President Bolsonaro, representatives from three different tribes – the Aruak, the Baniwa and the Apurina – stated their opposition to the forced opening of demarcation lines: “Who is not indigenous cannot suggest or dictate rules of how we should behave or act in our territory and in our country. We have the capacity and autonomy to speak for ourselves. We have the full civilian capacity to think, discuss the paths of indigenous peoples according to our rights… Our way of life is different. We are not against those who opt for a Western, capitalist economic model. But we have our own way of living and organizing in our lands and we have our way of sustainability. Therefore, we do not accept development nor an economic model done in any way and exclusive, that only impacts our territories. Our form of sustainability is to maintain and guarantee the future of our generation.”

Bolsonaro’s new policies have sparked protest by indigenous rights activists, who refuse to give their land up without a fight. The “Red January” movement, led by the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), has denounced Bolsonaro’s anti-indigenous and anti-environmental stances in Brazil and all over the world. In the words of activist Rosilene Guajajara of the Amazon Guajajara tribe, “We’ve been resisting for 519 years. We won’t stop now. We’ll put all our strength together and we’ll win.”

Environment Impact of Agriculture on the Amazon

Aside from the threat posed to indigenous groups, the environmental impact of agricultural overtaking the Amazon could be devastating for the entire planet. Sometimes referred to as “the lungs of the planet,” the Amazon Rainforest produces more than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen. It is also home to nearly 10 percent of the world’s wildlife, including 427 mammal species, 1,300 bird species and nearly 40,000 different plant species – including many that no one has discovered or named yet.

Since 1970, around 700,000 square miles of land – 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest – have been cleared away for use in cattle ranching, soy plantations and other agricultural ventures. The rate of disappearing land decreased drastically between 2004 and 2012, but in recent years deforestation has seen an increase. Recent research shows that the Amazon rainforest is currently absorbing a third less oxygen than it was a decade ago.

This increase in deforestation is in part due to the prominent agricultural lobby in Brazil pushing for more control over indigenous territory – the same agricultural lobby that endorsed Bolsonaro as he promised to strip indigenous tribes of their land demarcation rights.

Whether or not the combined resistance of Brazil’s indigenous peoples can put a stop to President Bolsonaro’s attempts to industrialize their land remains to be seen. Organizations like APIB and Survival International are attempting to save land demarcation rights by spreading the word about the plight of indigenous peoples in Brazil.

– Keira Charles
Photo: Flickr

Clothing brands that pay a living wage

In the age of fast fashion, headlines about clothing brands often highlight unfathomably low wages and inhumane working conditions. Companies like Nike have been accused of using sweatshops in Southeast Asia to produce their clothing and shoes on and off since the 1970s. Documentaries like The True Cost have increased public awareness about the grueling working conditions in Asian garment factories, often illegal even when workers’ rights laws are far from comprehensive, all to yield excessive profit margins for large American- or European-based clothing brands. However, some clothing companies have made ethical production a key component of their business, and they prioritize living wage for their employees over excessive profits. This article will highlight five clothing brands that pay a living wage, exemplifying ethical and transparent production practices in garment factories in developing countries.

5 clothing brands that pay a living wage

  1. Matter is a Singapore-based clothing company that sources its materials directly from rural artisans in India and Indonesia. Its philosophy is to serve as a link between these rural artisans and the global market, thus adopting a hybrid supply chain model that combines hand- and machine-woven garments. Matter’s garment factory is closely monitored to live up to international compliance standards and provide its workers with a living wage. It also exclusively uses eco-friendly and natural dyes to protect the environments of the communities where its artisans live and work.
  2. Grana’s business and production both take place in Hong Kong, modeling ethical manufacturing in a metropolis known for its sweatshops while minimizing global shipping costs to maximize affordability for the consumer. Designing, manufacturing, and shipping from Hong Kong allow Grana to pay its workers a living wage while still having a mark-up of less than half of that of most brands. Its factories are visited regularly to ensure that they live up to the company’s high ethical and safety standards. Grana is dedicated to using the highest quality materials sourced from around the world, such as Peruvian Pima cotton, Mongolian cashmere, and Chinese silk, and all these high-end fabrics are produced by workers receiving a living wage.
  3. Everlane is exceptionally transparent about its production practices. Its website shows every single factory where its clothing is produced, which of its clothing is produced there, the number of employees, and a promise that this factory lives up to international ethical production standards. Every factory the company selects to produce its clothing has received a score of 90 out of 100 or better on providing fair wages, reasonable hours and a good environment for its employees. Its website also details the exact breakdown of production cost and profit for every piece of clothing, ensuring that consumers know they are paying a fair price for an ethically produced and high-quality item.
  4. Tonlé, a clothing brand based in Cambodia, is built on the philosophy of zero-waste clothing. Its website details the exact environmental impact of every item produced, which is always significantly lower than the waste created by conventional production of the same item. To live into its zero-waste philosophy, the company either uses all of a material to create a product, or it produces the product entirely from scraps. Its products are handmade without machine assistance, and the company exclusively uses natural dyes. On top of environmental sustainability, Tonlé is also dedicated to paying its employees fairly. In a 45-hour work week, the garment workers in its Phnom Penh factory make between 1.5-2.5 times what the average Cambodian garment worker makes in a 60-hour work week. Tonlé also ensures that factory conditions are safe, and it provides healthcare benefits, free lunches and paid vacations to its garment workers.
  5. Patagonia is one of the most well-known outdoor clothing brands in the United States, and it also prioritizes transparent and sustainable production practices. Every textile mill and factory it uses, from Sri Lanka to Nicaragua, is listed on its website with information including the number and gender breakdown of employees and the items produced there. Patagonia vets all of its factories to ensure that they are “safe, fair, legal and humane,” and it additionally pledges at least one percent of sales to grassroots environmental protection groups.

These clothing brands that pay a living wage are part of an ever-growing movement toward safe, ethical and sustainable clothing. While fast fashion is far from dead, many companies are choosing living wages over profits, a crucial step toward reducing global poverty and creating a more equitable global economy.

– Macklyn Hutchison
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in MauritiusMauritius is a beautiful island nation located in the Indian Ocean, just off the coast of Southern Africa. Long-renowned for its beautiful beaches, Mauritius celebrates a vibrant history and complex mix of cultures. Vestiges of Portuguese, French and British control and long periods of labor migration left clear marks on the current society. Recent decades have been transformative for the country, starting with its independence in 1968. To grasp a better idea about how life evolved on the island, keep reading to learn 10 facts about living conditions in Mauritius.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Mauritius

  1. Mauritius was once a country with high fertility rates, averaging about 6.2 children per woman in 1963. A drastic decline in fertility rates took place, dropping to only 3.2 children per woman in 1972. This shift comes as a result of higher education levels, later marriages and the use of effective family planning methods for women. This is especially important for the island nation, as space and resources are limited.
  2. Mauritius has no indigenous populations, as years of labor migration and European colonialism created a unique ethnic mix. Two-thirds of the current population is Indo-Mauritian due to a great influx of indentured Indians in the 1800s, who eventually settled permanently on the island. Creole, Sino-Mauritian and Franco-Mauritian make up the remaining one-third of the population. However, it is important to note that Mauritius did not include a question on its national census about ethnicity since 1972.
  3.  The population density in Mauritius is one of the highest in the world, with 40.8 percent of the population living in urban environments. The greatest density is in and around Port Louis, the nation’s capital, with a population of 149,000 people living in the city proper alone.
  4. Close to the entire population of Mauritius has access to an improved drinking water source. In urban populations, 99.9 percent of the population has clean water access. There is a negligible difference in rural populations, with 99.8 percent of people accessing clean water. This is essential for the health and protection of populations from common waterborne diseases, like cholera and dysentery.
  5. In 2012, the government allocated 4.8 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to health care. For this reason, an effective public health care system is in place, boasting high medical care standards. The government committed to prevent a user cost at the point of delivery, meaning that quality health care and services are distributed equally throughout the country regardless of socioeconomic status or geographical location.
  6. Non-communicable diseases accounted for 86 percent of the mortality rate in 2012, the most prevalent being cardiovascular diseases. This contrasts with communicable diseases, like measles and hepatitis, which accounted for 8 percent of all mortality in that same year.
  7. Since gaining its independence in 1968, the island’s economy underwent a drastic transformation. The once low-income and agriculture-based economy is now diversified and growing, relying heavily on sugar, tourism and textiles, among other sectors. The GDP is now $13.33 billion. Agriculture accounts for 4 percent, industry 21.8 percent and services 74.1 percent. Government policies focused strongly on stimulating the economy, mainly by modernizing infrastructure and serving as the gateway for investment into the African continent.
  8. Currently, 8 percent of the 1.36 million Mauritian total population is living below the poverty line. Less than 1 percent of the population is living on $1 a day or less, meaning that extreme poverty is close to non-existent. In the hopes to fully eradicate poverty, the government has implemented the Mauritius Marshall Plan Against Poverty which works with poor communities to give greater access to education, health, and social protection measures.
  9. Many environmental issues threaten the island nation, including but not limited to water pollution, soil erosion and endangerment of wildlife. Main sources of water pollution include sewage and agricultural chemicals, while soil erosion is mainly due to deforestation. In the hopes to combat negative outcomes, the government created and published the Mauritius Environment Outlook Report. It recognizes the importance of environmental issues and acknowledges its integral link to the pursuit of sustainable development in the country.
  10. In 2017, the education sector received 5 percent of GDP. Approximately 93.2 percent of the population over the age of 15 can read and write. Gender disparities do exist, as 95.4 percent of males and 91 percent of females are considered literate. Unfortunately, this disparity persists in the job market as well: female unemployment is high and women are commonly overlooked for positions in upper-tier jobs.

The island continues to prioritize health, education and boosting its economy, all of which are essential for the improvement of living conditions in Mauritius. With positive momentum building since its independence in the 1960s, the country propelled itself into a stable and productive future.

Natalie Abdou
Photo: Pixabay

Indonesia's Natural ResourcesIndonesia is a bountiful country full of natural resources, such as coal, copper, gold, oil and natural gas. However, regardless of the strides Indonesia has made toward lowering its greenhouse gases emissions, it has been a challenge for the country to become “energy- and food- secure while also protecting forests.” The World Resources Institute (WRI), an environmental think tank, supports the efficient use of Indonesia’s natural resources by assisting the government through analyses and advice for the most equitable way to use the county’s land.

Green Development

The premise of the green development framework is to keep current and ongoing development projects underway in order “to keep within this ecological “carrying capacity.” Propelling this shift in Indonesia’s natural resources paradigm is the government’s acknowledgment that the rate at which the country is plowing through its natural resources is not sustainable for the future.

Shortages in housing, water and food are just a few examples of the environmental and public health consequences that the current usage rate of natural resources has on development. Some concerns lie at the regional level rather than the national. For example, the islands of Bali and Java are at a critical level when it comes to their water resources.

The new course of development includes initiatives to hone in on major areas such as water, fisheries, energy and transportation, agriculture and peat. The key goal is to find “a balance between [economic] growth and environmental carrying capacity.” WRI Indonesia is working with the private sector to convert peat restoration into “viable” opportunity for business.

The Ocean

Being a well known marine nation, another pertinent Indonesian resource is the ocean. “The country’s waters support over 3,000 species of bony fishes and more than 850 sharks, rays and chimaeras,” and the fishing industry employs roughly 12 million Indonesians. Despite the many benefits of fishing, avoiding the exploitation and loss of fish needs to be a significant area of focus.

In some rural parts of the country, the water toxicity has increased significantly due to the runoff of pesticides and fertilizers as well as an increase in algae in the riverbeds. This has led to an unfortunate loss of marine life. To help solve the marine pollution crisis NGOs, activists and community groups have made efforts to clean Bali’s beaches. In 2017, volunteers collected 40 tons of trash from several different beaches. Further environmental reforms will be necessary to prevent toxicity from reaching the beaches.

Low Carbon Development

In an effort to account for its ecological carrying capacity, Indonesia has set in place the KLHs or Strategic Environmental Assessment. This assessment is carried “out prior to issuing permits for land or forest management”  as a way of weighing the environmental impact of the companies requesting the permits.

Indonesia has set a bold and challenging goal in its first-ever low carbon development and green economy framework. The plan will focus on the energy and land use sectors of five different areas. The end goal of the green development plan is to continue to grow economically, but find “a balance between growth and environmental carrying capacity.”

Research suggests economic benefits as high as $26 trillion are foreseeable if strong stances are taken in climate change. These benefits include “new jobs and better health outcomes globally.” The new green development framework could propel “rapid economic growth, reduce the poverty rate and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.” The way forward for Indonesia’s natural resources and economic development goals could be further improved with support from other nations.

Without a doubt, Indonesia’s natural resources play a major role in the country’s economy and livelihood. The pledge to transition to a more sustainable economy and green development characterizes the brave nation that is Indonesia. The green development framework paves the way to preserve and celebrate the history of the country for generations to come.

Karina Bhakta

Photo: Flickr

Apps Help FarmersAccording to the Thinus Enslin, founder and owner of AgriPrecise, one of the biggest issues facing farmers is the high cost of over-fertilizing, leading to negative effects on the environment. The company’s AgIQ app aids the productivity of African farmers. With the help of the app, farmers can now use more efficacious methods to grow crops. The app aids farmers in using the right amount of fertilizer for crops to grow well. Because of the app, farmers can decrease the cost of growing crops and boost crop production.

AgriPrecise

The company AgriPrecise is located in Potchefstroom in South Africa. The primary purpose of the company is to gather and make sense of fertilizer and soil data. For 20 years, AgriPrecise has worked in agriculture, having worked in Zimbabwe and Zambia for 7 years. AgriPrecise has also worked in South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

The company provides services in areas such as agronomy and consulting, data analysis, grid soil sampling, soil classifications, NDUI imagery and monitoring and data processing. Over the past 8 years, AgriPrecise has changed much of its work to IT. IT is helping in another part of its mission, which is to promote sustainable farming methods and practices.

AgriPrecise’s software development partner is the Centurion-based technology solutions company Moyo Business Advisory. To assist farmers, AgriPrecise utilizes satellite imagery and conducts accurate soil sampling. The farmer will have access to a location-based visual display of his or her farm, fields and the conditions and will also be able to gather data on crops and pests. Then, data scientists carry out analytics and send the findings to the farmers.

AgriPrecise’s AgIQ App

Out of 1.166 billion people, more than 60 percent of people in Africa live in rural areas. Much of the economy in Africa is dependent on agriculture. In fact, 32 percent of its GDP is from agriculture. AgriPrecise’s AgIQ app meets a large part of Africa’s economy. The app aids the productivity of African Farmers through a number of steps. First, the app makes an assessment of the data and then finds the integral parts,  showing a farm, field and soil analysis. Lastly, it gathers information on all the kinds of crops ranging from vegetables to sugarcane.

The AgIQ app aids the productivity of African farmers through a sensor attached to a tractor that measures the amount of nitrogen needed to grow crops, so it can spread the right amount of fertilizer. The sensors on the tractor face down on each side of the bar on the roof of the tractor. The sensors measure the greenness of and the density of the crops below it. Facing up are the light intensity sensors that check the level of ambient light. The greenness measures plant health through analysis of the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves. This way the correct amount of nitrogen can be used to help grow crops.

One of the areas that the app helps gain information on is crop yields. The goal of AgriPrecise is to pick up patterns in growing crops to increase production, boost the quality of the crops and lower cost of growing them. The app has helped farmers increase their crop production by 2 percent, which has led to a 10 percent increase in profits.

One of the issues facing farmers that AgriPrecise’s AgIQ app aids the productivity of African farmers by helping farmers with is the cost of production and amount of crops grown. The app helps decrease the cost of growing crops and increase crop production. The app also diminishes negative effects on the environment by reducing over-fertilization. With the creation of the app AgIQ, farmers can take positive steps towards carrying out sustainable agricultural practices.

Daniel McAndrew-Greiner

Photo: Unsplash

Indigo dye in indiaIn 2017, the people in Mumbai, India saw something strange happening with the stray dogs of the city. The dogs all seemed to be turning a light blue color. People reported to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board that a company in the Taloja Industry area was dumping indigo dye, which was primarily used by that company, in the local Kasadi river. The dogs were hunting for food in the area and, consequently, their fur was turned blue. Authorities quickly shut down the factory to prevent more dye from entering the river, but the question remained about how toxic this dye is not only to the animals but the locals as well? With the long history of indigo dye and India, why has this only recently become a problem?

Indigo Dye in India

Indigo is a natural dye, but unlike most natural dyes, indigo dye penetrates clothes directly when heated. Indigo dye and India are correlated because the country had been using it naturally for centuries. Now, however, most factories use a chemical agent called mordant to increase the number of clothes produced in less time. Mordants can be just acidic, not necessarily toxic, but most companies choose to use mordant with aluminum and chromium. Both of these can cause great damage to the ecosystem. Factory wastewater can poison rivers, killing plants, animals and poisoning drinking water for the people of India.

Even without mordants, natural indigo dye is not great for the environment either. It is slow to decompose and darkens river water, so flora and fauna starve from lack of sunlight. That is why the dogs of Mumbai turned blue upon entering the river. The best approach to preventing toxic dyes from entering and poisoning the rivers is prevention and filtration. If factories used local plants for dyes, that would help filtration. Prevention is tricky. Scientist Juan Hinestroza is working on using nanotechnology to apply dye directly to cloth fibers. If this is successful, it would make toxic dyes and mordants obsolete.

Water Pollution

Groundwater, rivers and streams are being severely affected by this fashionable color. With such a high demand for cheap clothes in indigo, like denim jeans, factories and workshops find cheap, quick ways to produce products at high volumes. Tirupur, India is home to many factories specifically used for making and dyeing clothes. These factories have been dumping the wastewater from production into rivers in the area. Despite tougher regulations, they continue the process, rendering local and groundwater undrinkable.

With dying waters and a rising population, India is struggling to clean up its rivers. The fight is far from over, and people have turned to the government for an answer. Activists are heading to court to get municipalities and states to rise and take action. They started with one demand for the restoration for the Mithi river, a river polluted with dye, paint and engine oil. Citizens started legal petitions then gathered volunteers to get other rivers in the area cleaned up. After a terrible flood in 2005, dams were built to reduce overflow, which was helpful because the rivers are now split it in two.

Back To Nature

India is one of the few countries that produce indigo and denim clothes at high volumes, so the ways of naturally applying indigo to clothing is a long lost art. However, one designer is working to change that. Payal Jain, a fashion designer in India, is bringing back the natural ways of getting indigo straight from the plant and onto the clothes. Using mud and intricate wood carvings, artisans use this method to print the color directly to the fabric. Bringing back traditional ways of dying could relieve the environment from toxic, synthetic dyes.

Blue dogs appearing in the streets, poisoned rivers and groundwater, crops dying and limited access to clean drinking water are all direct results of indigo dye waste being dumped into the rivers. As long as factories continue to dump dye waste into rivers, this problem will persist. The citizens of India are coming together to clear the neglected rivers and push for tougher regulations on clothing factories. With the government’s support and the use of new scientific methods to dye clothing, Indigo dye in India could remain popular without being dangerous.

Kayla Cammarota
Photo: Flickr

India's organic revolution In northeastern India, nestled between Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and West Bengal, lies Sikkim. Sikkim is an Indian state that has been making news since 2016 when it became the world’s first fully organic state. Sikkim won the prestigious U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Future Policy Gold Award, known as the “Oscar for best policies,” which honors achievements made towards ending world hunger. “An organic world is definitely achievable,” explained Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar at the awards. Could India’s Second Green Revolution be organic?

The First Green Revolution

Along with many other developing countries, India overhauled its agricultural systems in the 1960s and replaced them with a western industrial model that relied on expensive technology, GMOs and agri-chemicals. By narrowing the crop variety to mainly corn, wheat and rice, Asian countries doubled their grain yield and cut poverty in half. As time has passed, however, the Green Revolution proved to be problematic for many developing countries. Though it has spurred incredible grain production and increased income in rural communities, it has also polluted the environment, depleted the water table and created economic disparity.

Because genetically modified wheat and rice require more water than their organic counterparts, Indian farmers have been draining the groundwater supply, causing the water table to drop approximately three feet each year. Intensive farming has also exhausted the soil, depleting it of nitrogen, phosphorous and iron. Farmers now use three times the amount of fertilizer that they used to for the same crop yield. Many farmers find themselves in debt because they cannot keep up with the costs of new water pumps, patented seeds and fertilizer. This is why states like Sikkim are calling for an organic Second Green Revolution.

The Sikkim Revolution

Sikkim has reversed the industrial farming policies of the Green Revolution at a time when governments and philanthropists are calling for a Second Green Revolution. Chief Minister Kumars believes that countries should not “carry out any kind of development work and business at the cost of the environment.” Still, there has been much debate about what a Second Green Revolution should look like. Should countries increase reliance on genetically engineered crops and pesticides or move towards more sustainable but lower-yield organic practices?

The transition to organic farming in Sikkim has helped 66,000 families and increased rural development and sustainable tourism. A movement to invest in sustainable farming practices is growing around the world, leading institutions like the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to invest in organic farming. IFAD President Gilbert F. Houngbo has stated that reversing conventional farming practices can fight food insecurity while improving nutrition and alleviating poverty. Though organic farming systems produce 10 to 20 percent less than conventional systems, they regenerate the soil and create fewer environmental costs.

An Unconventional Compromise

With the world poised to reach a population of more than nine billion by 2050, there is debate as to whether organic agriculture can feed the whole world. Industrial technologies and pest-resistant strains of rice and wheat have undoubtedly helped feed a rising population and reduce global poverty over the last 50 years. A recent meta-analysis of 66 studies comparing conventional and organic agriculture found that a Second Green Revolution needs the best of both systems. Though organic farming greatly increases the productivity of soil, making it more resilient to climate change, genetically modified crops could also play an important role in certain areas since they are designed to endure droughts and saltwater intrusion from rising sea levels.

At the end of the day, conventional or organic, there is actually plenty of food to go around. Global agriculture produces 22 trillion calories every year. If food were distributed equally and not wasted, every person on the planet could consume 3,000 calories a day. Though this may never be the case, organic states like Sikkim are choosing to make their calories count, by making them pesticide free and environmentally friendly. Whether India’s Second Green Revolution will be organic is still unsure, but Sikkim is setting a powerful precedent, and other states and countries are following suit.

Kate McIntosh

Photo: Flickr

The effects of tourism on Honduras

Honduras has a population of over 9 million people. Tourism accounts for 10.4 percent of Honduras’ GDP, and this percentage has been continually rising in recent years. It is estimated that 1 million international tourists will visit the country this year alone. Tourism in Honduras has both negative and positive effects on the country’s residents. While tourism provides a boost for the economy, it can adversely affect the environment.

Negative Effects

In recent years, tourism has exponentially grown in Honduras. One such example can be seen in Roatán. Tourism in Roatán created a widening gap between the rich and the poor. As of 2016, 60.9 percent of the people of Honduras lived in poverty. Unless one works in tourism, it is likely he or she will be impoverished.

In addition, tourism can have harmful effects on the environment. Tourism in Honduras is no exception. From 1985 to 2004, development in Roatán increased overall by 300 percent. Due to this development, lush trees and mangroves were removed. Also, tourism can negatively impact coral reefs. Roatán is situated by the Meso-American reef.

Positive Effects

However, not all aspects of tourism are so bleak. Responsible tourism in Honduras and across the globe can work to mitigate the negative effects. For example, reusable water bottles can help eliminate waste. Additionally, supporting businesses that hire locals can benefit more people.

Agricultural jobs have decreased greatly in recent years throughout the Caribbean. In Honduras, during the past 20 years, nearly one-third of the revenue from agriculture has been lost. With tourism, people can switch away from an agriculture-based society. Indeed, tourism offers development and economic growth. In Honduras, tourism contributes to 14.6 percent of the economy and it creates numerous jobs. In the last five years, one in five new jobs in Honduras was in the field of tourism. Additionally, tourism accounts for 12.9 percent of jobs in Honduras. These employment opportunities provide a new outlet of work for people living in touristic cities.

Also, tourism raises awareness on issues that people may have never encountered before visiting the region. With increased knowledge, travelers can return home and work to implement positive changes. Traveling abroad is a wonderful learning experience. Tourists find themselves immersed in a culture other than their own. With such rich histories, tourism provides an excellent mode of hands-on learning.

Organizations Working to Combat the Negative Effects

Thankfully, there are organizations actively fighting the negative effects of tourism in Honduras and throughout the globe. For example, The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) encourages sustainability and conservation in tourist areas. This nonprofit organization offers classes in tourism management, ecotourism and sustainable growth. Through their certificate program, participants learn about conservation and responsible tourism.

The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), another non-profit, seeks to reform current tourism policies to protect the cultural diversity and people of tourist cities. CREST consults members of the tourism industry to share knowledge regarding ecotourism, stewardship, and innovations in tourism. In addition, the organization has projects promoting safe and responsible tourism based in countries across the globe, with their most recent project located in Cuba.

– Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Pixabay

PA Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Bhutan
Bhutan is only slightly larger than the state of Maryland, but the predominantly Buddhist nation holds a powerful place both in history and the future. For centuries, the Kingdom of Bhutan remained independent and resisted colonization. Though the country joined the United Nations in 1971 and began facilitating foreign tourism in 1974, Bhutan’s government has remained committed to its legacy of autonomy. In 2008, the country gained fame with its enactment of Gross National Happiness (GNH), a philosophy and an index which monitors collective well-being. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Bhutan show how quickly the country has developed since the first road was paved in 1961, opening the way to modernization.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Bhutan

  1. Poverty rates are dropping every year. In 2007, 23 percent of the population lived in poverty. In just five years, the number fell by half, and as of 2017, only 8.2 percent of the population lived below the national poverty line. Extreme poverty is nearly nonexistent, affecting less than 2 percent of the population. Despite these achievements, there is a disparity between rural and urban areas. Rural areas have a poverty rate of 11 percent while fewer than 1 percent of urban dwellers live in poverty.
  2. Bhutan’s economy is consistently growing. While agriculture is the main livelihood for 54 percent of Bhutanese people, the economy is also based on forestry, tourism and the sale of hydroelectric power (mostly to India). The GDP has skyrocketed from $0.14 billion in 1980 to $2.51 billion in 2017, and the economy’s average growth between 2006 and 2015 was 7.5 percent.
  3. Unemployment hits youth the hardest. Though the country’s unemployment rate is only 2.1 percent, 13.2 percent of youth (15 to 24 years old) are unemployed. Bhutan’s growing economy is largely driven by the hydropower sector, but the industry does not guarantee enough jobs for the growing population. Institutions like the World Bank recommend that Bhutan invest more in the private sector in order to diversify the economy and combat youth unemployment.
  4. Access to clean water is becoming a basic right. Over 98 percent of the population has access to improved drinking water, a huge success when compared to past decades. Improved water sources, however, do not always equate to safe drinking water. The Royal Center for Disease Control tested more than 5,000 water samples and found that only 44.3 percent were safe to drink. Still, the government remains committed to improving water quality for its citizens, and in 2016, developed the Bhutan Drinking Water Quality Standard.
  5. Public healthcare is free. Healthcare is a basic human right in Bhutan. Life expectancy is now 70 years old, a stark difference compared to the 1960s when life expectancy was 37 years old and only two hospitals existed in the country. Bhutan now has 28 hospitals, 156 basic health clinics and 654 outreach clinics. Nine out of 10 women have their children in hospitals or healthcare facilities, and the child survival rate is 93 percent.
  6. Seventy-six percent of the population is happy. According to the Bhutan Living Standards Report of 2017, more than 40 percent of the population is moderately or very happy. Every five years, 8,000 households are randomly selected to take a 3-hour-long happiness survey, with questions ranging from health, education, psychological well being, community vitality, etc. Participants are compensated for a day’s worth of work, likely increasing happiness.
  7. Education rates are low but rising. Bhutan has developed dramatically in the last decades, and education rates are reflecting this change. As of 2017, 95 percent of the population had completed primary school and 70 percent completed secondary school. Progress was slower because education is not compulsory, but primary and secondary education rates have drastically increased. In 1988, only 25 percent of the population had completed primary school, and still less (5 percent) got a secondary school education.
  8. Bhutan is committed to conservation and sustainability. Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world. Its constitution mandates that 60 percent of its land remains forested, an area that absorbs more carbon than the country produces. However, modern times have brought new struggles in regards to conservation. As the economy and population grow, more strain is put on the environment. WWF Bhutan Country Representative Dechen Dorji explains that “We need to balance the need for economic development – like hydropower and tourism – with the need to protect natural resources.”
  9. There are no McDonald’s in Bhutan. Though it sounds funny, this fact is symbolic of Bhutan’s commitment to protecting its cultural heritage and way of life. Bhutan understands that foreign influence is inevitable, but the country seeks to strike a balance between modernization, foreign investment and tradition. Consequently, Bhutan follows a “high value, low impact” tourism policy, which requires tourists to spend between $200 and $250 each day. This controls the influx of tourists and guarantees investment in the country.
  10. Bhutan is the 27th least-corrupt country in the world. According to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, out of 168 countries, Bhutan is one of the least corrupt. Bribes are almost nonexistent in the court system, and only 1 percent of companies feel that the courts inhibit business. Furthermore, as citizens of one of the youngest democracies in the world, Bhutanese people are guaranteed freedom of speech and of the press, which allows government corruption to be critiqued and exposed by the media.

Sustainable development and investment in health, education and happiness have set Bhutan up for a bright future. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Bhutan demonstrate the country’s commitment to growth and collective well-being. There is still room for improvement, and by partnering with institutions like the World Bank and allying with local nonprofits like the Bhutan Youth Development Fund, Bhutan is addressing its development goals on all fronts.

– Kate McIntosh
Photo: Flickr