Information and stories about environment.

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

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

What you wear tells a story
Reflect is a new brand founded by young entrepreneurs in Istanbul who believe that what you wear tells a story. The Borgen Project had the opportunity to catch up with Ece Altunmaral, one of the founders of the organization, and asked her questions concerning the origins of their organization’s story and what awaits them in the future.

What is “Reflect”?

How did the idea come up and what were you thinking of changing in the clothing industry?

“Reflect is a textile-oriented design studio, creating narrative products for both organizations and individuals. The studio operates with ‘storytelling design’ and ‘responsible production’ in its heart and relies on the power of stories that make feelings tangible and ideas memorable.

The idea came up as a reaction to the facts we heard about the dirty textile industry, and also as a realization that clothing is a great medium of communication and could be used for a good purpose. Although not widely known, the textile is the second most harmful industry to the environment, only after oil. The process behind our clothes is also kept opaque. We do not know where the fabrics of our clothes are sourced from, nor do we know how many people worked in the making of them.

On the other hand, clothes are the first thing we see when we meet a person. What you wear tells a story, and clothes are dialogue starters. So we thought, ‘why not use clothing as a medium to deliver a message, to highlight stories on social issues through a unique way of design?’ Radical change takes time, but we aim to challenge the current clothing industry by introducing transparency, responsible production and story-telling design.”

 Three Articles in Reflect’s Manifesto

Starting with the article “What You Wear Tells a Story,” would you mind sharing with The Borgen Project the meaning behind the three articles you picked for your manifesto?

  1. Article 1: What You Wear Tells a Story. Appreciating the value of involvement, engagement and different perspectives, we develop our products “together” with designers and brands. The design process starts with collaborative workshops, results in lacing the outcomes onto fabrics and turning them into narratives. Accordingly, we invite all of our clients to become a part of the solution by designing stories around “Sustainable Development Goals”, which focus on environmental, political and economic problems that the world faces.
  2. Article 2: Radical Transparency Establishes Trust. Embracing the worldwide movement of “slow fashion,” we reject being part of the damage that the fashion industry causes on the environment. We guarantee an ethical and transparent operation from production to distribution while only producing internationally certified sustainable products and assuring long-term use.
  3. Article 3: Every Purchase Is an Endorsement. This last article is actually the reason why we have started a company. Every dollar we spend makes an organization live a day more. We do hold the power in our hands by choosing to shop from responsible companies. As three co-founders, we wanted to create a better alternative for responsible consumption.”

Designing “Solidarity”

How was the designing process of your first ever product “Solidarity?” What does it reflect about your organization?

“In our first collection Solidarity, we identified our social challenge as ensuring inclusive and quality education for all. We focused on displaced Syrian refugee children living in Istanbul. We organized art therapy workshops in collaboration with a local NGO. Our creative art therapy workshops encouraged them to express their thoughts, feelings and experiences in a unique and subjective way through art. Their expressions have turned into the design of our garments. Our first organization is the leading example of our collaborative and participatory approach to communities around us as a brand.”

The Impact of the Organization

What kind of impact do you aim to bring to life and clothing industry by showing people that what you wear tells a story? What is the outcome of the desired social and environmental impact of the “Reflect” so far?

“Since our first day of operations (October 2016), we have reached out to 143 refugee children aged from 7-12, who live in Istanbul, to get empowered through our art therapy sessions. Through our sustainable production process for the manufacturing of our first two collections, we saved 53 percent of material waste and 77 percent of water compared to global industry standards. Furthermore, through partnerships with ateliers, we enabled the employment of 43 textile workers under fair-trade conditions.”

The Future

What waits for the organization in the future?

“For our products to be made accessible worldwide. We want to help increase the number of individuals who care about social and environmental causes across the world with our strong corporate commitment to the realization of sustainable development goals. We want more people to buy garment products manufactured sustainably and become part of the solutions that address such challenges through directly impacting vulnerable groups with every purchase they made from reflect.

We would scale up our impact through increased e-commerce activities and physical presence of Reflect products in major markets (European Union and North America). Moreover, we aim at expanding our market share in B2B partnerships for garment products. We are aiming to increase the number of long-term collaborations with mission-driven organizations. Also, we started our application procedure to become a Benefit Corporation (B-Corp) by fulfilling all the required criteria. By mid-2019, we want to become a registered B-corporation!”

Reflect is doing its part to provide sustainable clothing to the mainstream market. The organization is also reaching out to communities around the world, working with refugee children, supporting sustainable sourcing and working for a better future for our planet.

Orçun Doğmazer
Photo: Flickr

sustainable developmentNot so many people are aware that poverty exists in almost every place in the world, and not so many people realize what it means to be living in extreme poverty. Most commonly pictured is a group of poor, dirty people who are noticeably hungry and ill in their thin stature.

The sobering truth is, though, that many of the poorest people in the world actually live this kind of life. In order to improve such conditions, it is necessary to include environmental contributors to methods of sustainable development.

Health and Environment

The standard of living generally entails compilation and analysis to self-reports on the overall satisfaction of life, wealth and health statuses. A multitude of people living in extreme poverty report that they are unsatisfied with their living conditions. Around 25 percent of respondents to a survey said that a family member was in need of medical attention. Rates of people working more than one job, not having desired personal possessions and electricity were also gloomy.

Various ailments among those living with the lowest standards of living exist hand-in-hand with the state of that environment. For example, treating a patient for diarrhea is not too draining of a process, but finding the cause of diarrhea within that individual’s environment and eliminating that cause requires a higher amount of patience.

In the text below four examples of environmental inadequacies that exist in most areas of extreme poverty are presented, each with their own issues. Along with them is a key to moving forward in the sustainable development of these communities.

Water

Contaminated drinking water, poor hygiene and lack of sanitation are common water-related issues for people in many parts of the world. Unsafe water leads to many issues such as diarrhea, nausea, cramps, dehydration and other gastrointestinal related illness.

In order to implement safe water into sustainable development, proper infrastructure needs to be taken into consideration. Plumbing is a basic necessity to transport and store water safely.

World Vision is an organization that helps communities in need get working wells. SODIS is a solution that gives people a way to become self-reliant in preparing their own safe drinking water.

Indoor Air Quality

Air in homes or commercial areas unsuitable for breathing is frequently caused by the burning of solid fuels, smoke or other toxins. These conditions lead to respiratory infections, chronic pulmonary disease, asthma and even cancer. Such conditions lead to around 1.6 million deaths each year around the world.

Burning of safer (liquid) fuels would be the most effective and sustainable development solution to this condition. Other changes to occur would include ventilation systems and changes in heating and cooking appliances.

Pesticide Use 

Inadequate monitoring of dangerous pesticides has become an issue mostly only for underdeveloped areas. Due to the lack of regulations or means to enforce any regulations that are in place, struggling countries are ill-equipped to fight this battle. Contact with some of the most dangerous pesticides or contamination of foods, soil and water is poisoning people, causing as many as 335,000 deaths per year.

The most important way to combat this challenge is to educate policymakers and landholders in these areas of danger and offer a safer solution, such as approved pesticides.

Improper Land Use

Insufficient agriculture techniques, overhunting and deforestation all lead to disaster for those involved. When people are struggling for survival, sustainability becomes a luxury. When land is overused to degradation, there becomes an even more severe shortage of resources to compete for, meaning hunger and chronic malnutrition all can lead to a plethora of health issues.

Implementing more sustainable development for farming and agricultural can make a huge difference in this area. Programs such as the Global Food Security Act have been put into place to directly aid in global hunger.

Campaigns like The Borgen Project exist for the good of recognizing and reducing global poverty. Developed nations around the world have policies for foreign aid. Sometimes the goal is empowerment, education, improved health, decreased hunger or helping a nation enter the international market.

Every part of these goals is important to end poverty, and another concept of incorporating environmental awareness with health policies is becoming more popular when addressing sustainable development.

There is a multitude of treatable issues in undeveloped nations. For example, if people had access to vaccines for a given disease, then that disease could be directly managed by simple preventative care. Even though difficult health problems exist, undeveloped nations are making steady and sure progress towards truly improved health care.

– Heather Benton
Photo: Flickr

environmental degradation and poverty
At a historic United Nations Summit in New York in September 2015, countries from all over the world adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda aims to end poverty and inequality while protecting the environment and ensuring sustainable development. To do this, the agenda established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be accomplished by 2030. These SDGs emphasize the relationship between environmental degradation and poverty and how sustainable development is critical to achieving these goals.

Sustainable Solutions

Sustainable development is defined by the U.N. as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Such a practice involves using natural resources in a way that will leave future generations with a healthy planet and enough resources for survival.

Earth has only a limited amount of natural resources, and how people and countries currently use these are unsustainable. Current consumption patterns and national policies of developed and developing nations alike are severely damaging the environment and jeopardizing the future of the planet.

Inefficient use of resources, wasteful consumption, pollution and waste are all key factors in environmental degradation. These practices also contribute to global poverty; poverty, in turn, then damages the environment. This vicious cycle will not end unless countries and individuals change their practices.

How Countries and People Harm the Environment

Natural resources are currently allocated to meet the wants of the few instead of the needs of the many. Developed countries account for 24 percent of Earth’s population but consume 70 percent of the world’s energy and 60 percent of its food.

Though developed nations are more energy-efficient than developing nations, consumption is so high that they still contribute a great amount to pollution. The extremely high demand of these countries leads to extensive deforestation so more land can be used for agriculture.

Developing nations further contribute to environmental degradation through inefficient energy use and environmentally-harmful practices like resource stripping. Countries resort to these harmful practices for a variety of reasons. Natural resources account for a majority of many developing countries’ exports. In an attempt to grow their economies, countries overexploit these natural resources.

In addition, a large part of many developing countries’ budgets is used to repay their debt, leaving little money to fund sustainable development programs. Many nations “believe they cannot afford the luxury of environmental protection” and feel forced to accept long-term environmental damage to meet their immediate needs.

Many poorer individuals in developing countries feel the same. They depend on natural resources for their livelihoods, which leads many to deplete these resources in order to survive.

How Harming the Environment Harms People

This environmental degradation disproportionately affects the poor, particularly those in developing nations. Overconsumption in wealthy countries means many people in poor countries don’t have enough food. One billion people worldwide are hungry, yet 1.2 billion are obese.

Air and water pollution are health hazards. Lack of clean water and air and poor sanitation and nutrition leaves people vulnerable to diseases and causes extremely high rates of death among children.

Poor people are also more susceptible to natural disasters, as they are more likely than wealthier individuals to live in areas where earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires and other disasters are common. These disasters destroy people’s livelihoods and homes, often forcing people to move to other areas. These environmental refugees can cause overcrowding and environmental stress in the areas they move to, which worsens both environmental degradation and poverty.

Unless people and countries change their practices, both environmental degradation and poverty will worsen. Natural disasters are becoming both more extreme and more common because of industrialization and human actions. As the world population continues to grow, more and more people will be hungry, live in overcrowded conditions and ultimately, live in poverty. Promoting sustainable development is crucial to a better future.

How to Change

Governments, businesses, organizations and individuals: all have a role to play in the effort to protect the environment and end poverty.

Wealthy nations must change their policies that are detrimental to the environment. Expressing support for the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals and implementing policies that align with these goals provides an example for other nations and encourages them to behave the same.

Foreign aid to developing countries can stabilize their economies, make them more financially and technically capable of focusing on environmentally-friendly development and help them establish practices that are consistent with the SDGs.

Accountability and Responsibility

Governments should also encourage individuals to take more responsibility for living sustainably and educate people on how to do so: eat less meat, shop locally, reduce food waste, use less plastic, recycle, switch to alternative forms of energy — the list goes on and on. (See here for more ways you can live sustainably). Businesses can do many of these actions as well as change their practices to be more environmentally-friendly.

“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight” said Ban Ki-moon, the previous U.N. Secretary-General. “Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.” Environmental degradation and poverty are directly related; to end one, the world must address both.

Laura Turner
Photo: Flickr

developmental aid around the Aral Sea
The Aral Sea was once a large saltwater lake located in Central Asia. With Kazakhstan in the north and Uzbekistan in the south, both countries bordered the body of water. Fishing communities in the countries prospered for years, yet a decisive change in the 1960s led to the demise of these towns. The two countries experienced drastically different outcomes, all due to developmental aid around the Aral Sea.

Causes of the Aral Sea’s Water Loss

In the 1960s, the Soviet Union decided to redirect the water in the Aral Sea for agriculture, predominately for cotton. Previously, the sea was replenished by the water that rivers returned, making it a reliable source of income for neighboring fisheries. Over the past four decades, the sea has retreated about 93 miles, losing a surface area the size of Maryland. With salinity levels continuing to rise to more than seven times the normal amount, a once plentiful resource has run dry.

As the sea dried up, so did jobs. A reported 60,000 jobs disappeared in direct relation to Aral fishery shutdowns. Dust storms that swelled within the barren seabed contained various chemicals from the agriculture in the surrounding areas and caused irrevocable harm to citizens. Diseases related to poor air quality were rampant. Even the food produced in the area contained hazards for consumers, which forced thousands from their homes. Those that chose not to leave, despite the water and air pollution, were left living in poverty.

Intervention in Kazakhstan Improves the Lives and Livelihoods of Residents

In 2005, the World Bank intervened with a plan for developmental aid around the Aral Sea and partnered with the Kazakh government to install a dam. The plan cost $86 million and was designed to improve irrigation along the rivers and restore the sea. The dam primarily prevented water in the northern regions from flowing south. Additional measures to improve irrigation along the Syr Darya River made sure enough water flowed back into the North Aral Sea. Previously, as much as 40 percent of water was lost due to poor irrigation.

In 2006, the Kok-Aral Dam was constructed and saw quick success. As the surface area of the sea expanded, fish stocks were reintroduced. The replenishment of local resources meant that the economy, once built on fishing, could flourish and grow to its previous grandeur. The water and air quality also improved, meaning that residents no longer needed to move away from the area.

In 2006, the ports handled around 2,000 tons of fish and houses in the area were no longer empty; about 17 homes were occupied as opposed to eight. As the local fish diet improved, so did the ability to grow vegetables. The changes to the ecosystem led to more rainfall and fewer sandstorms. Life was reintroduced to the region.

Uzbekistan’s Focus on Cotton Deprives the Fishing Industry

A very different story played out in neighboring Uzbekistan, where government leaders are still insistent that cotton production is their “white gold”. The country ranks 12th in highest value of cotton exported in 2017. The enterprise brings in around $850.4 million and accounts for 1.6 percent of total exported cotton.

However, similar health risks and impoverishment are seen in areas previously home to fisheries. Many people migrated to agricultural regions to make a living farming and picking cotton. Conditions around cotton production in Uzbekistan remain questionable, with allegations of forced labor becoming rampant.

The Effects of Developmental Aid Around the Aral Sea on Poverty

Although both countries experienced high levels of poverty at the height of the Aral Sea’s reduction, the current state of poverty in the two countries is quite different. In 2005, 31.6 percent of the country lived in poverty in Kazakhstan, while in 2016, only 2.6 percent of the population lived in poverty. This reduction is directly related to developmental aid around the Aral Sea.

In Uzbekistan, the decline is much slower. From 2012 to 2016, poverty decreased from 15 percent to 12.3 percent. This progress is promising, yet slow compared to its neighbors. When the World Bank asked the Uzbek government if it wished to participate in developmental aid around the Aral Sea, like that in Kazakhstan, it declined.

The Future of Development in Central Asia

In partnership with World Bank, the Kazakh government provides an example of successful developmental aid around the Aral Sea. Currently, the World Bank is working with the Uzbek government to implement projects around horticulture. As new enterprises are explored, such as oil drilling in the south Aral Sea by Uzbekistan, avenues to combat poverty will vary. For Kazakhstan, working to reinvigorate a previously plentiful resource was the key to poverty alleviation.

This triumph in poverty reduction provides a hopeful message to those wanting to see a drastic drop in poverty through developmental aid.

– Taylor Jennings
Photo: Google

Eco-Friendly Measures Combat PovertyA common complaint about pro-environment actions is the cost they pose to the economy. But worldwide, eco-friendly measures combat poverty in new and sustainable ways. A clear link exists between environmental degradation and poverty, as a feedback loop is created between the two circumstances: by focusing on the environment, the world’s poor can also benefit. Several strategies have already been implemented with proven results that demonstrate that environmentalism can benefit the impoverished.

Five Ways Environmentalism Fights Poverty

  1. Green Energy Provides Jobs and Protects Health
    Green energy provides new jobs and opens up markets that were previously not beneficial. Additionally, according to The World Bank, pollution “stunts economic growth and exacerbates poverty and inequality in both urban and rural areas.” Poor people often feel the effects of pollution most severely since they cannot afford measures to protect themselves. Green energy lessens pollution and can provide relief to suffering communities.
  2. Environment Affects Livelihoods
    More than 1 billion people worldwide depend, to some extent, on forest-based assets for their livelihood. Low-income countries feel the effects of environmental problems more intensely, as environment-based wealth accounts for 25 percent of total wealth in such areas. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, warring parties depleted natural resources so that, according to the U.N. Security Counsel’s 2001 discussion, “The only loser in this huge business venture is the Congolese people.” Eco-friendly measures combat poverty in these cases by ensuring a community’s source of income does not disappear.
  3. Sustainable Farming 
    Globally, cooperatives have arisen that have produced organic food for markets everywhere and “revitalized traditional agricultural systems with new technologies.” Low-income communities producing organic and fair-trade coffee like this have created a rapidly growing niche market that is both sustainable and environmentally conscious. Additionally, many industries can create sustainable jobs for lower-income individuals by focusing on the environment. A Madagascar shrimp processing company created 1,200 permanent new jobs and focuses on keeping those jobs long-term by ensuring that the shrimp population in the area remains healthy. Such policies benefit all parties involved: the company, the environment and the impoverished.
  4. Recycling and Reusing Resources 
    A substantial concern in impoverished countries is developing ways to reuse scarce resources such as water. 99 percent of the time, death due to not enough water or unsafe water takes place in developing countries. In India, the company Banka BioLoo is placing more than 300,000 eco-friendly toilets in low-income areas, which creates jobs and eliminates harmful waste while providing desperately needed sanitation. The by-products of their system include water for gardening and methane gas for fuel. This innovative design is just one of many examples of how eco-friendly measures combat poverty and can improve human health.
  5. Helping Stop Exploitation of the Poor
    Governments can play a big role in combating poverty and protecting the environment with just one action. Corruption can often lead to inter-country conflict, which harms both the environment and the poor. Access to information and legal frameworks, as well as sanctions imposed by organizations like the U.N., can improve the situation in areas plagued by corruption.

These efforts require the non-poor and poor to work together. Since the non-poor have higher consumption levels, the degradation of the environment by poor people is often “due to the poor being denied their rights to natural resources by wealthier elites and, in many cases, being pushed onto marginal lands more prone to degradation.” However, the situation promises hope for the future; by working together, wealthier people have the ability to reduce environmental threats, and poor people often have the technical ability to manage resources. Together, these eco-friendly measures combat poverty.

– Grace Gay
Photo: Flickr