Information and stories about environment.

Bumblebee Retirement Home
The Bumblebee Retirement Home is a retirement home for bumblebees. Flying Flowers, a flower store in the United Kingdom (U.K.), created a sanctuary to bring light on declining bee populations and provide bees with a resting area. Along with Flying Flowers’ efforts to raise awareness about the declining bee population, other organizations and bee activists are attempting to aid the bee population while simultaneously fighting poverty.

Bee Retirement for Efficient Pollinators

The Bumblebee Retirement Home looks like a dollhouse and features miniature walking canes, bloom-filled rooms and a sugar-water fountain. “Retired” bees can “watch” tiny televisions and rest on comfy beds after pollinating 5,000 plants a day.

In addition to bumblebees, Flying Flowers also creates “hotels” for solitary bees, the most efficient pollinators. Solitary bees do not live in colonies; some live in snail shells, and travel to find food or nests. However, with a decline in wildflowers, it is often difficult for them to find habitats. In fact, compared to honeybees and bumblebees, these solitary bees pollinate 120 times more flora.

Bee retirement homes create a safe environment for bees to live and pollinate. Flying Flowers provides detailed information on bees, their importance and how to help save bee species. Honoring bees and their dedication to pollination is the goal of Flying Flowers and many bee advocating organizations.

The Decline in Bee Species

Although about 20,000 species of bees exist globally, detailed international data indicates that there have been no sightings of around 5,000 species — a full 25% of all species — since 1990.  This is significant because about 35% of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. In fact, scientists believe that bees, butterflies, moths and other pollinators are responsible for one-third of the food people eat.

The Connection Between Bees and Poverty Elimination

Bees are vital to the world’s food source, which makes their disappearance a significant issue for poverty elimination. Various circumstances including pesticides, habitat loss and disease cause the decline of pollinator species. Without pollinators, food sources will decline and bring massive consequences.

Bee deprivation is especially detrimental to developing countries, since they “are more reliant on pollinators than almost anyone, standing to lose important income, livelihoods, nutrition and cultural traditions if pollinators decline.” Low-income areas use agriculture as their main income source. That puts people at risk of poverty when crops do not yield high-quality plants in large quantities. Not only does bee deprivation impact incomes, but the lack of food crops robs millions of people of micronutrients like Vitamin A and iron. That is why scientists say that crop loss results in “millions of years of healthy life lost.”

Bee Activists Working to Combat Poverty

Luckily, there are organizations throughout the world promoting beekeeping and in doing so, fighting global poverty. For example, Bees for Development, founded in the U.K., is a global charity that promotes beekeeping and biodiversity to combat poverty. It gives people in the poorest communities in the world a consistent income by making them beekeepers who raise bees and sell honey. Bees for Development sends resource boxes that donors sponsor to these beekeepers. Bees for Development is only one of many organizations aiding those in poverty and bee populations.

How Individuals Can Help

Creating bumblebee retirement homes may not be realistic for many, but there are other ways to support bees and thus people and our planet. People can buy or build a simple bee hotel for solitary bees using a hollow wooden tube. Helping bees can be as easy as putting a bowl of water in one’s yard, such as a bee bath. Individuals can also plant flowers with open petals because these make pollination easier for bees. Possibly the most important way to help bees is to stop the use of pesticides since the mass decline of bees due to agricultural pesticide overuse. It is vital that the world acts now to protect our pollinators before it is too late.

Whether it is a bumblebee retirement home or beekeeping, aiding this cause is crucial. Communities living in poverty and the environment depend on innovative ideas for improvement. Bees can be part of the solution for both poverty and a sustainable environment. To learn ways that individuals can help, visit the websites for Flying Flowers or Bees for Development.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: With Permission from Flying Flowers

Air pollution in Sub-Saharan Africa 
Air pollution is the release of pollutants into the air that are harmful to human health and the environment. Such pollutants could be gases, particles or biological molecules. The slightest increase or decrease in the structure of gases could lower the survival chances of any living thing. Air pollution in sub-Saharan Africa is a particular challenge that requires attention.

Why Are Low-Income Populations Home to Air Pollution?

“Air pollution is a threat to health in all countries, but it hits people in low-and middle-income countries the hardest,” said World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The relationship between poverty and air pollution in sub-Saharan countries is evident since poor people are most likely to be exposed to higher concentrations of air pollutants. In contrast, high-income countries seem to have a lower rate of exposure to air pollution.

Environmental experts Paul Mohai and Robin Saha conducted a study in 2015. It examined the U.S. communities before and after hazardous waste facilities were present. The study found that facilities between 1966 and 1995 chose to locate in areas with low-income family populations.

Mohai and Saha believe that facilities move into low-income areas because of the cheap land cost, low cost of labor and minimum community resistance. The presence of these facilities and air pollution leaves low-income countries to face the consequences.

What Are the Health Effects of Air Pollution?

Air pollution holds the largest environmental impact on human health. It can cause a reduction in lung growth and function, respiratory infections and aggravated asthma in any child exposed. According to CNN, all adults are at risk for developing cancer, chronic bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory diseases.

More specifically, cardiovascular disease is an ailment that plagues sub-Saharan Africa due to household air pollution. Solid fuels for cooking, heating and lighting are the main perpetrators of this disease.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), household air pollution (HAP) was responsible for 4.3 million premature deaths in 2012 from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and cancers. Research proves that the level of HAP surpasses the recommended WHO guidelines and the number of people exposed to pollutants has increased from 333 million to 646 million.

Respiratory ailments are very common amongst children in cities with high concentrations of pollutants. According to the Open Knowledge Repository, this impairs their learning and development capabilities. Unfortunately, as adults, they end up with minimum qualifications and skills. With little education and experience, they struggle economically and live life in poverty.

Treatments are available for many of the ill-health issues that occur with air pollution. However, living in low-income countries makes access to affordable health care impossible. The relationship between ill-health and poverty seems inevitable because of this fact.

Disadvantaged people are unable to afford health care, making poverty an obstacle to overcome before receiving adequate care. As a result, families have to deal with the loss of income from out of pockets fees. To care for relatives, some family members may have to quit school or their jobs. Thus starts the never-ending cycle of struggling low-income families.

Air Pollution Monitoring

There is a significant problem with air pollution. However, the exact extent of the problem is unknown and immeasurable due to the lack of monitoring. Aware of the situation in 2019, Dan Westervelt, an associate researcher at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory received funding to install an air-pollution monitoring network in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Kampala, Uganda; and Nairobi, Kenya. Westervelt believes that the problem of air pollution cannot reach a resolution without quantifiable data.

Monitoring provided data in Kinshasa, depicting the average fine particulate matter level to be five times greater than the normal level. Like Kinshasa, more data will be provided in the other two megacities and studied in order to address the air pollution epidemic.

Updated WHO Air Quality Guidelines

Luckily, the World Health Organization provides guidelines to ensure good health. After 15 years, WHO updated its guidelines to improve air quality. The new guidelines specify the damage that air pollution causes the human body. Their solution to revitalize human health is to reduce levels of key air pollutants and emissions.

Six pollutants could have major impacts on health if exposed to them. Those pollutants are “particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide.” Fossil fuels, wildfires and agriculture produce particulate matter.

Ground-level ozone comes from the emittance of cars, factories, plants and even some solvents. Burning fossil fuel produces nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide pollutants. Incomplete combustion containing fuel creates carbon monoxide pollutants.

If countries stay below-suggested air quality guideline levels, significant health risks could decrease. Although this may have a small impact on communities with low rates of air pollution, it would immensely impact those suffering from higher rates. With lower rates of air pollution, disadvantaged communities could have a higher survival rate and fewer health challenges.

Air pollution dominates those who are unable to afford higher quality living. Additionally, to that inability, health issues burden them further which in return starts the cycle of some poverty in sub-Saharan Africa countries.

WHO’s updated air quality guidelines have a goal to eliminate future problems of air pollution and save millions of lives. With these guidelines, air pollution in sub-Saharan Africa should reduce and sub-Saharan countries could inevitably see improvement in their quality of life.

– Destiny Jackson
Photo: Flickr

EU Energy Poverty
Rising prices for gas and electricity have prompted the EU to appeal to its member countries to subsidize customers and businesses as it deals with the negative impact of its decisions regarding climate. Seeking to deter energy poverty, EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simon spoke of measures that target select customers at most significant risk of energy poverty with direct payments, cutting energy taxes and shifting energy taxes to general taxation. Simon said to the EU lawmakers that mitigating the social consequences and protecting households most at risk is of 
“immediate priority.” He also suggested that businesses engage in longer-term power purchase agreements while not ruling out the possibility for relief through state aid. Here is some information about energy poverty in Europe as well as programs to alleviate energy poverty.

Energy Poverty in Europe

Energy poverty is prevalent across Europe, where anywhere between 50 and 125 million people cannot afford proper indoor heat, according to a 2009 publication by the EU. Member states have acknowledged the gravity of the issue and its ramifications in health issues and social isolation. Energy poverty marks low household income, high energy costs and inefficient energy houses, where an increase in revenue, management of energy costs and more energy-efficient infrastructure are solutions. Energy poverty affects Sub-Saharan Africa significantly, particularly in the medical sector, with limited time for health care activities and thus increasing risk for patients. Europe is not immune to these issues and should not overlook them, even if the potential scale is not as significant.

EU Plans Backfire and Exacerbates

According to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, behind the rising energy prices afflicting Europe today are the EU’s “Green Deal” policies. President Vladimir Putin of Russia shares the same opinion. The Green Deal initiative aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to levels seen in 1990, on the way of eliminating emissions by 2050. One of its strategies involved discouraging the usage of long-term purchase agreements for gas, coal and nuclear energy in favor of short-term pricing to deter its use. LTPAs are not sensitive to market prices and are therefore a more cost-effective option than purchasing gas if one is doing it for the long run. This discouragement has left EU member countries scrambling for alternative gas options amid the energy shortage, exacerbating the already low levels of energy poverty.

Programs to Alleviate Energy Poverty

Various projects have developed across Europe with the common aim of ending energy poverty. Horizon 2020 Energy Efficiency voiced themselves in 2018 and granted around 6 million euros to three projects responding to energy poverty: STEP (Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty), EmpowerMed and Social Watt. STEP, for example, has created a model that includes a call to organizations and consumer groups that specialize in issues affecting those who are energy-poor. It wants to educate energy-poor consumers in nine European countries they have identified as the most energy-poor and share their methods and policies with other EU countries.

STEP

In Lithuania, for example, the Alliance of Lithuanian Consumer Organizations partnered with STEP following inquiries by ALCO into organizations that revealed concerns by consumers regarding energy poverty issues. The Association of Social Workers, an amalgamation of social workers across many organizations, which also happens to be ALCO’s principal partner, received an introduction to the STEP project. This led to several social workers’ interest in receiving the required training to become efficient energy advisors.

EmpowerMed

EmpowerMed, a slightly more nuanced project than STEP, is also addressing energy poverty in Mediterranean coastal areas with a focus on women, gender and health. Its name has an association with numerous publications on energy poverty training, policy and reports. This is part of a constitution of other efforts such as energy workshops, advocacy campaigns that gender-neutral stress policies and energy visits to select households.

Social Watt

Social Watt tasks itself with providing parties exhorted under Article 7 of the Energy Efficiency Directive in Europe to engage with strategies to alleviate energy poverty. Integral and endemic to the function of Social Watts are its features. The Analyzer feature of Social Watts is a downloadable tool that facilitates consumer data observation to identify risk houses. The Plan function identifies optimal solutions that accommodate any nuances in the energy conservation dynamic. The Check tool serves as a verification function to ensure the endeavors of Social Watts are without errors or negative ramifications. 

The ramifications of energy poverty constitute adverse health effects, educational delay, medical impedance and economic disruption. While COVID-19’s economic consequences have exacerbated Europe’s energy poverty, programs to alleviate energy poverty have been able to offer hope to the most vulnerable and, at a minimum, prevent social unrest.

– Mohamed Makalou
Photo: PublicDomainPictures

the-implementation-of-revised-lacey-act-provisions
The Lacey Act, which received amendments in 2008, makes it “unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase either in interstate or foreign commerce any plants.” There have been amendments to provisions under the Lacey Act that went into effect on October 1, 2021, under Phase VI that requires plant import declarations pertaining to wood imported into the United States.

When a company or an individual is in violation of the Lacey Act, they will be subjected to penalties, fines and possible prison time. There are penalties that government penalties determine. Those in violation of the Lacey Act may face additional penalties or fines, with civil penalties costing $10,000 per violation and criminal penalties amounting to $20,000, as well as a possibility of up to 5 years in prison.

How Does the Lacey Act Help End Global Poverty?

The Lacey Act protects against illegal plant exports, including illegally sourced timber. The act can alleviate the negative impacts of illegal logging, which can “cause environmental damage, costs governments billions of dollars in lost revenue, promotes corruption, undermines the rule of law and good governance and funds armed conflict in timber-producing countries,” such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

Benefits of the Lacey Act

One advantage of the Lacey Act is that it addresses two long-term development goals. The first is Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, which aims to protect terrestrial ecosystems while also providing sustainable forest management. The second goal is SDG 12, which is about sustainable production and consumption. Through enforcement of the Lacey Act, the legislation can protect jobs, protect the environment and help countries establish a rule of law and eliminate corruption.

The Lacey Act Can Protect Jobs

The Lacey Act protects foreign markets from illegal logging by preventing illegally sourced foreign wood and wood products from entering the U.S. The World Bank Group published a 2019 paper that found “illegal logging, fishing and wildlife trade have a combined estimated value of USD 1 trillion or more per year.” Due to illegally sourced plant products, developing countries “forego an estimated USD 7-12 billion each year in potential revenues.”

The Lacey Act Helps Protect the Environment

As a result of the loss of biodiversity and other environmental damages, deforestation is a major contributor to global warming. With “40% of all logging coming from illegal logging,” deforestation is only going to get worse. The Lacey Act requires developing countries and companies exporting to the U.S. to combat deforestation. They must also ensure they legally and environmentally carry out logging.

The Lacey Act gives countries the incentive to establish a rule of law and eliminate corruption. Illegal logging undermines basic rule of law in developing countries because loggers must rely on police, prosecutors and judges to keep them from being punished. Illegal logging and corruption have been linked in Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries. By preventing illegal logging through the Lacey Act, corruption can reduce or disappear entirely.

The Lacey Act and Global Poverty

As previously mentioned, the Lacey Act helps countries establish a rule of law and crackdown on corruption. Corruption is one of the leading causes of poverty, since it can “lower economic growth, as well as reduce foreign and domestic investment and increase income inequalities.” The Lacey Act has already seen an increase in due diligence assessments and demand for certified wood products as a result of reducing illegal logging.

Illegal logging costs developing countries $10 billion annually. By eliminating illegal logging, money can help provide vulnerable communities with programs and services that help alleviate global poverty.

– Grace Watson
Photo: Flickr

forest-bathing
For the first time in human history, humans are increasingly turning away from wild spaces. By the year 2050, expectations have determined that nearly 7 billion people or two-thirds of the human population will live in urban areas. Meanwhile, half of the world’s poor already live in Earth’s most populous areas where access to natural space is dwindling. Re-imagining the value of nature is alleviating symptoms of urbanization that disproportionately impact the world’s poor. In Japan, the practice of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) serves as a functional detox from the unnatural environment. The practice presents a fresh perspective on humanity’s relationship with nature and provides insight into the importance of nature in sustainable development.

The Environment and Health

Throughout human history, the natural world guided people in their daily lives. However, urbanization is reducing human exposure to nature and increasingly introducing citizens to harmful pollution that exacerbates illnesses that disproportionately affect the poor.

In developing nations, illnesses are most associated with hazards of the urban environment carries. In Dharavi, India’s most densely populated and poorest community, a lack of clean water and sanitation or trash disposal systems are among the issues contributing to a lower quality of living. Despite this one square mile area housing close to 1 million people, there are no parks, trees or wildlife besides disease-carrying rodents and stray pets. In addition, summer temperatures soar and monsoonal rainstorms find just enough room for flooding to spawn mosquito-borne illnesses. Neighborhoods such as Dharavi depict a negative relationship between the urban environment and health.

Health and Forest-Bathing

Poverty often has links to mental illness. This means many of the symptoms of a polluted urban environment contribute to a higher likelihood of stress. Socio-environmental factors as a whole play a large role in determining the health of individuals. However, studies often overlook the tangible effect that the physical environment plays in development. Shinrin-yoku, the Japanese term for forest-bathing, provides insight into what humans are missing in an absence of nature.

Japanese health officials examined the relationship that exposure to natural places has on human health. While studying the practice of forest-bathing and bodily responses to nature, scientists discovered a direct correlation between health and exposure to nature. For example, studies determined that exposure to nature promotes health benefits, including “lower levels of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure,” more than urban exposure. Responses often lead to a lower likelihood of developing serious illnesses that are too expensive for poor nations to address. This begs the question: Do the environments citizens live in hold them back?

The Economics of the Wild

Nature adds a quantifiable impact on economies across the globe. This is especially important for poorer communities that experience direct impacts from the environments they exist in. Singapore, one of the most urbanized nations in the world and previously home to poor communities comparable to Dharavi, is integrating various forms of nature into urban design through the Singapore Green Plan. Sustainable developments feature the city’s main attractions and are helping to alleviate poverty. This means more revenue for the local economy and higher incomes, coupled with an improved quality of life. Comparably, a modern appreciation of nature is proving rewarding across the globe in alleviating symptoms of urbanization. In terms of health, Singapore’s increased greenery also improves the quality of living by negating the urban heat effect and air quality.

For similar reasons, outdoor recreation constitutes one of the most rapidly growing industries worldwide. Japan’s forest bathing is a cultural phenomenon in which citizens escape to natural space. For the United States, hiking and action sports such as mountain biking and skiing are becoming increasingly popular. A whole economy centers around this type of recreation. According to the Outdoor Recreation Association, recreation centered around the U.S. outdoors generates $887 billion annually. The wild is a source of wellbeing, economic development and cultural significance for millions. However, for the developing world, nature is still largely inaccessible, especially for impoverished citizens in urban areas.

Sustainable Development

Uncontrolled development is not the only cause of the environment in poor nations. Rather, the environment in poor urban areas is often responsible for the area’s poverty in the first place. Unsustainable development exacerbates symptoms of poverty. The absence of nature in urban areas holds poor communities down.

Singapore is not the only one incorporating sustainable development into its future planning. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) describes environmental aid as “necessary for improving economic, social and political conditions in developing countries.” Sustainable development and wellbeing increasingly look to nature as a fundamental aspect of development.

Increasing Access to Natural Spaces

Historically, access to nature by means of escape is recreational freedom for privileged, fully-developed nations. In developing nations, the environment is a determiner of the quality of life. Unfortunately, urban areas including Dharavi and Singapore do not have the same access to nature as Japan’s forests. This means that forest bathing is a distant dream for millions living in the most densely populated areas of the globe. Increasing accessible natural spaces and integrating nature into an urban design is fundamental to increasing the quality of life for developing nations.

Investing in poor communities is not separate from investing in the environment. The health, wealth and development of communities remain largely dependent on natural space. Regardless of status, forest-bathing in Japan presents an often overlooked benefit of nature that surrounds all of human life. Poverty and the environment are two heavily interconnected issues that can be and currently are receiving attention.

– Harrison Vogt
Photo: Flickr

Bees Reduce PovertyBees are an essential part of global agricultural systems. Additionally, bees reduce poverty around the world as they are responsible for pollinating 80% of the world’s plant species, including 90 different types of crops.

Study by the FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) studied 344 plots of land in parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia. The plots revealed a positive correlation between the number of bees that visited a particular plot of land and its agricultural productivity. For small farms with a landmass of fewer than two hectares, the study concluded that farmers could increase their crop production by an average of 24% by increasing pollinator traffic.

The results of the FAO study could affect approximately two billion farmers worldwide. Because of their importance to agricultural production, increasing the number of bees on agrarian lands could improve global food security. Bees also provide a valuable way to reduce rates of poverty. Bees can be especially valuable to people living in rural poverty, a very important issue to address as approximately 63% of people in poverty worldwide live in rural areas.

5 Ways Bees Reduce Poverty

  1. Beekeeping helps households increase their income. Rural families living in regions with poor agricultural yields may struggle to make ends meet. However, raising bees can help these families earn more money. In addition to potentially increasing their annual crop production, bees produce honey and beeswax which families can sell. For example, Bees Abroad and the Poverty Abroad for the Poor Initiative taught farmers living in extreme poverty how to run bee farms. As a result of this training, 30 of those farmers went on to run their own bee farms afterward, which helped increase their incomes.
  2. Beekeeping creates opportunities for entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs use bee by-products to make commodities such as shoe polish, candles and ointments. More importantly, beekeeping presents opportunities for entrepreneurship, which helps people escape poverty and support themselves and their families. Entrepreneurs are finding ways they can use bees to reduce poverty and improve living conditions.
  3. Food insecurity and poverty are linked. Poverty is the main driving factor behind food insecurity worldwide. Across the world, roughly 80% of chronically undernourished people live in rural areas of developing countries, making food insecurity a particularly important aspect of ending rural poverty. Increasing bee populations can enhance food security by increasing crop yields. By improving food security, bees reduce poverty in a way that is especially beneficial to rural communities.
  4. Beekeeping is an effective form of occupational therapy. Occupational therapy helps people with disabilities accomplish goals such as working and attending school. People with disabilities are disproportionately affected by poverty, which makes addressing their needs critical to reducing poverty. Additionally, inaccessible work and education opportunities are major contributing factors to this problem, which occupational therapy can help address. Fortunately, beekeeping requires little capital and helps occupational therapy participants become financially independent, making it an effective form of occupational therapy.
  5. Protecting the global environment keeps people out of poverty. Environmental degradation can increase levels of poverty. For example, the loss of natural resources to environmental degradation leaves communities with fewer means to support themselves. However, bees are critical pollinators that support ecosystems and natural resources across the globe. Additionally, bees can even improve habitat restoration efforts. So, by preserving and restoring vital resources, bees reduce poverty.

Overall, bees provide unique benefits that have the potential to reduce global poverty. By garnering the help of pollinators, impoverished communities can rise out of poverty.

– Caroline Kuntzman
Photo: Flickr

Environmental Solutions to PovertyChanging ecosystems from economic development have increased the risk of poverty and food insecurity around the world. Informal sectors, which mostly exist in lower-income countries, sidestep environmental regulations. This further degrades the environment and puts more people at risk of poverty. However, these high-risk environments also provide an opportunity to implement environmental solutions to poverty and lower the risk of environmental destruction.

Demi-Lune Agriculture to Stop Desertification

In the past century, deserts have expanded rapidly due to industrialization and rising global populations. This threatens millions of people living on the periphery of deserts who farm for a living, people who may see their crops dry up in coming years. Environmental solutions to poverty often focus on stopping the expansion of deserts.

For example, farmers on the periphery of the Sahara Desert have adopted a new style of farming to adapt to the desertification of their farmland: half-moon agriculture. This environmental solution to poverty, introduced in the 1980s, has many benefits.

Half-moons retain water much more efficiently than traditional agricultural techniques, an important feature in water-scarce climates. Farmers can easily understand and execute the process, which only requires basic tools, increasing its usability in communities with poor education and literacy.

In West Africa, half-moon agriculture has led to an incredible transformation of the landscape, with formerly arid land now covered in grass, trees or crops. Binta Cheffou, a farmer in Niger, planted half-moons in the 1990s when her community’s land was bare and unproductive.

Now, according to Cheffou, “Many people are no longer hungry” due to increased livestock yields and more agriculture. Communities using this environmental solution to poverty have witnessed a large increase in biodiversity as well, a useful safeguard against ecological disasters.

Planting Trees to Reduce Landslides

Natural disasters pose a large barrier in the fight against poverty, causing $210 billion in damage in 2020, according to major insurers. Landslides, a common disaster in developing countries, kill nearly 4,500 people each year, according to earth scientist Dave Petley. There are several environmental solutions to poverty and natural disasters, including a simple one: planting trees.

Landslides largely occur in environments where erosion is widespread and the ground can no longer hold its weight. These conditions often emerge just after deforestation and unregulated mining, where people extracting resources leave hillsides barren and organic structures rotten.

The lack of organic structure holding the slopes together leads to these tragic natural disasters. Reverting the hillside to its natural state with biodiverse trees can provide the structure necessary to prevent landslides while also providing revenue to those caring for the trees.

This strategy, popularized worldwide in the past few years, has seen major success in preventing landslides and reducing poverty. In Ethiopia, studies in communities with tree-planting initiatives noted a dramatic increase in community income and food supply. In Indonesia, research confirmed a decrease in landslides where trees were present. The study found that coffee trees prevent landslides especially well with the added benefit of providing coffee beans for communities to harvest and sell. This would decrease the motivation for unregulated logging and mining, further reducing landslide risk.

Cleaning Rivers for Clean Water

Rivers serve as key assets for countries to fuel their development. Rivers can provide power, food, drinking water and trade routes. Furthermore, recreational activities on rivers provide economic stimulation. However, many of the world’s key rivers, especially in developing countries, are experiencing a crisis of pollution and wastewater. This pollution costs countries billions of dollars. As such, key environmental solutions to poverty should focus on cleaning rivers and ensuring proper wastewater systems to prevent pollution.

In Indonesia, where riverway pollution costs $6.3 billion each year, or 2.3% of GDP, the government aims to make river water drinkable by 2025. Indonesia is implementing several strategies to address river pollution and protect the environment, including tree planting to combat erosion and regulations to ensure water factories produce drinkable water from rivers. Indonesia also focuses on environmental education as many people discard domestic trash in rivers without considering the consequences.

India also suffers from polluted rivers. The Ganga River, sacred to Hindus, serves almost 400 million people, providing water for drinking, irrigation and industry. It also deposits significant amounts of plastic into the Bay of Bengal and is filled with damaging pollutants which cause waterborne diseases that kill 1.5 million children per year.

The Indian government is focusing on the tributaries to the Ganga, ensuring clean water flows into the major river for a long-term cleaning strategy. So far, the government has spent $3 billion on cleanup initiatives since 2015 and has doubled sewage capacity.

The Future

These environmental solutions to poverty can increase both wealth and living standards. Studies show that access to a green and clean environment can boost mental health and life expectancy. Clean rivers, green hillsides and re-purposed desert land can provide access to these benefits worldwide. Going forward, governments should focus on innovative solutions to both improve the environment and reduce poverty.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

women for bees programAngelina Jolie is widely considered one of the film industry’s most successful and famous stars. In 2020, she was the second-highest-paid Hollywood actress, earning more than $35 million for her work in films such as Marvel Studio’s “Eternals.” Additionally, Jolie’s humanitarian work has received a lot of attention, partnering with the U.N. Refugee Agency and launching the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative. She built her reputation as an advocate for global human rights and women empowerment. Recently, the actress joined forces with UNESCO and French perfume company Guerlain to jumpstart the Women for Bees program.

Women for Bees Program

Beginning on June 21, 2021, the global “female beekeeping entrepreneurship” program will send 10 women each year “to a 30-day accelerated training course” in beekeeping at the Observatoire Français d’Apidologie’s (OFA) Domaine de la Sainte-Baume in Provence, France. After five years, the 50 total course participants will have gained a solid foundation of beekeeping skills.

Participants will also form a strong global network of fellow female beekeepers. Furthermore, participants will all be able to run their own professional apiaries, bringing in an income to sustain themselves for years to come. Jolie was appointed “godmother” of the Women for Bees program and will track the progress of the beekeepers. The collaboration between UNESCO, Guerlain and Jolie aims to promote biodiversity and support bees’ crucial role as pollinators while simultaneously empowering women in female entrepreneurship. According to UNESCO, the program “aims to enable women’s social emancipation through an expertise-driven sustainable professional activity.”

As the female participants progress through the Women for Bees program, they will be able to gain critical skills for long-term economic enhancement for both themselves and their larger communities. The initiative will involve UNESCO’s biosphere reserves located in areas such as Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, France, Italy, Russia, Rwanda and Slovenia. About 2,500 hives are set to be built within 25 UNESCO biosphere reserves in the next four years.

World Bee Day

On World Bee Day, Jolie generated buzz for the Women for Bees program by partaking in a National Geographic photoshoot with bees roaming her face. Dan Winters took the portraits as a photographer and amateur beekeeper himself. The photos aim to raise awareness of the importance of bees and the ability of the beekeeping industry to contribute to economic growth. During her interview with National Geographic, Jolie spoke about the connection between saving bees and supporting women’s entrepreneurship. Jolie explains that pollinating insects are “an indispensable pillar of our food supply.” Therefore, bees contribute to global food security. The Women for Bees program protects bees while “empowering women in their livelihoods.”

Jolie’s collaboration with the Women for Bees program is a strong example of a celebrity utilizing their social influence to promote social good. Her efforts with the Women for Bees program are sure to help the environment, global food security and the livelihoods of the many women involved.

– Nina Lehr
Photo: Unsplash

Agbogbloshie Dump in GhanaThe Agbogbloshie dump in Ghana is a massive e-waste dumpsite. While many discarded electronics found in “the digital dumping ground” come from wealthier countries in the developed world, Ghana creates much of its own e-waste. Imported e-waste usually consists of reusable electronic products. E-waste contaminates the air and soil with detrimental toxins. Despite the environmental and health impacts of improperly managed e-waste, the dump is booming with entrepreneurial activity.

The E-Waste in Agbogbloshie

Ghana imports almost 150,000 tons of electronic goods per year, which contributes to the excessive e-waste buildup in Agbogbloshie. The e-waste dump is now a vital source of income for impoverished Ghanaians and electronic scraps serve as one of the limited resources in the region. Some of the e-waste is burned, some of it is recycled and other electronic products are repaired or refurbished and resold. The problem is not necessarily the business endeavor itself, but the lack of formal recognition and regulations. Formally recognizing the dump as an entrepreneurial hub and implementing regulations could address environmental and health impacts.

The Health Impacts

In the Agbogbloshie dump in Ghana, workers strip electronic cables in order to uncover “gold, silver, copper and other valuable metals.” Workers resort to “acid leaching and cable burning” to more easily and economically strip cables, but these practices release harmful chemicals and byproducts that impact the health of people and the health of the environment. Researchers from the WHO Collaborating Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at the University of Queensland in Australia confirm the detrimental health impacts of exposure to e-waste. The research confirms the link “between e-waste exposure and thyroid dysfunction, adverse birth outcomes, behavioral changes, decreased lung function and adverse changes that can be seen at the cellular level.”

Reducing E-Waste Globally

On an individual level, it is possible to reduce the amount of e-waste produced. In doing so, consumers can decrease the amount of e-waste that inevitably ends up accumulating at the Agbogbloshie dump in Ghana. People can refrain from discarding electronic products in the trash, thereby reducing the electronic material imported to countries like Ghana. Instead, the goal should be to reuse old products and recycle them if they cannot be reused or repaired. If personally reusing the goods is not an option, the goods can be donated to charity or passed on to family and friends.

International waste reduction is a step in the right direction, but it cannot be the sole response to the issue of e-waste. The United Nations Environment Programme states that Ghana and other countries in West Africa create 85% of the e-waste in Ghana and West Africa. This means that reducing the export of electronics from developed countries will not be enough to address the hazards of the e-waste in the Agbogbloshie dump. Since many people rely on the dump to make a living, a solution must be approached with the locals in mind and their situations of poverty.

Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP)

A Ghana-based organization called the Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP) takes this idea to heart. The organization encourages people relying on the Agbogbloshie dump to create and repair e-products instead of making a fast profit from recycling materials. This global network helps people create new inventions out of used products and reduces toxic waste in the process. The AMP imparts knowledge and gives advice on how to safely work with e-waste. The organization also developed the AMP Spacecraft, which is a simple blueprint for people to build affordable mobile workshop spaces. Maker Kits are “3D digital downloads of tools and instruments” for crafters to use in their inventions and repairs.

The AMP provides the support needed to ensure that impoverished people relying on the e-waste dump can still make an income in a safe and improved way.

– Esha Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

Environmental Poverty in Mongolia
The biosphere is rapidly deteriorating and nomadic life in Mongolia is paying a high price. Those who lose their livestock to severe weather conditions also lose their main source of revenue and safety. Many abandon their farms to pursue a life in the cities, where other calamities await. Today, the situation of environmental poverty in Mongolia has grown direr than ever.

The Problem of Landowners

Mongolia’s abrupt transition from a Soviet satellite state into a free market economy left little room for nomads to enjoy fiscal mobility. Shortly after lands were privatized, opportunists secured farmlands and promptly overexploited them. These elites would excessively hoard horses, sheep and yak, who would subsequently mow the grounds down to bare land. Nomads, who had lived as if the land was shared and had known how to properly cultivate and harvest from their farms, were left in the dust. Today, 80% of the country’s livestock belongs to the richest 20% of owners.

The agricultural inexperience of many of these owners came at environmental and economic costs. “Herding is a skill that you learn over a lifetime,” says Dr. Timothy May, professor in Eurasian Studies at the University of North Georgia. “Being a nomad looks like you’re just raising animals and the animals know what to do, but you have to know how to manage the animals. What would work with their pastures and so forth.”

Natural Catastrophes

Overfarming and other sorts of extraction, such as mining, have grown into large-scale issues like pollution and public health conditions. Gers, tent-like structures that serve as portable houses, are often heated by burning raw coal and cheap minerals. Particulate air matter or dust particles clog the air and damage respiratory systems. As a result, pneumonia is currently the leading cause of death in the country.

Possibly the most devastating climate crisis, however, is the largest determinant of nomadic poverty. Dzuds are various natural catastrophes specific to Mongolia’s shifts in weather and are only growing in size and severity. Of the five types of dzuds, the most commonly known is a tsaagan dzud. During these, a layer of ice or snow blocks animals from reaching food or water, leaving them to die in mass groups. In 2010, 20% of the country’s animals were wiped out as a result. This year, many experts are suggesting the risk of a dzud is unnervingly high.

Environmental Poverty on the Rise

With each environmental change, nomads are increasingly vulnerable to the clutches of poverty. Cities like Ulaanbaatar are already saturated with public health concerns like food insecurity and urban populations are still growing. Maternal mortality and water scarcity are further complicating the issue.

Not all hope is lost, however. Dr. May suggests that by empowering skilled nomads, they could start to untangle the economic and environmental damages. “Nomadic lifestyle is better not only for the animals but the quality of the product, there is an industry that can be there,” he says, “because there’s plenty of money to be made with the nomadic life….They can feed the country — they can be self-sufficient, and with plenty to export.” These recommendations, among other solutions, are important to addressing the cycle of environmental poverty in Mongolia.

– Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr