Conservation and Development
Foreign aid and development are often focused on bringing people out of poverty and creating stable economies to keep them healthy and successful. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), however, has a different focus. CEPF defines itself as a “global leader in enabling civil society to participate in and benefit from conserving some of the world’s most critical ecosystems”. CEPF works to target biodiversity hotspots and goes directly to civil society groups to create working alliances among diverse groups.

By protecting these biologically diverse areas, CEPF is also protecting and promoting those who live in the areas, often small local farmers. Empowering these communities to protect their environments creates a sense of reinvestment in the land and helps foster cooperation across borders.

Putting emphasis on ecosystems promotes the health of those that reside nearby as well. By working to stop the threats to these hotspots, CEPF is working to create communities that thrive based on their environment. Creating and supporting societies based on conservation can help to improve agriculture and economic stability.

CEPF’s goal is not only to preserve the planet and its ecosystems but to provide people with safe and healthy environments for the future. Conservation should go hand in hand with development and foreign assistance, because the healthier the land and the people, the more stable and successful they will be.

– Sarah Rybak

Sources: Huffington Post, CEPF
Photo: CEPF

Neglecting Environment Prolongs Global Poverty

The actions and decisions of humans have had negative effects on the environment and the world’s natural resources. However, research suggests not all humans deplete resources unnecessarily; the poor are often best at sustaining the environment because they recognize its direct connection to their survival. According to The Centre for Science and Environment, wealthier nations are to blame. The Centre speculates that if impoverished nations developed and consumed at the rate of the West, two more planet Earths would be needed to produce enough resources and absorb the waste.

So, if wealthy nations are consuming at an alarming rate while poorer nations excel at sustaining their environment, why is the latter suffering economically?

The answer is simple, but sad; industry frequently exploits less developed countries. They send their most environmentally unfriendly ventures to the Third World to circumvent the high cost of doing such work in the developed world. As a result, large-scale deforestation occurs to make land available for lease to international companies. Prime agricultural land is damaged by harsh pesticides and fertilizers to produce cash crops for wealthier countries and ten times the amount of water a typical Indian family should consume in one day, if they get water at all, is used for meat breeding for richer nations.

Disregarding the environment when addressing poverty leads to an incomplete solution because the two are directly related. The natural resources needed to lift people out of poverty, though sustainable, are not unlimited. Thus the environment can only sustain us for as long as we sustain it.

– Dana Johnson

Source: Global Issues
Photo: UN

1% for the Planet“The economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.” –Senator Gaylord Nelson

Formed in 2002, a growing network of businesses has been committed to giving 1% of their sales to improving the ecology of the planet. As businesses have aligned themselves with the vision of 1% for the Planet and joined the growing network of businesses of all sizes, their self- and net-worth have risen.

In addition to getting companies to commit to giving back, 1% for the Planet has also organized the music outreach program. Musicians such as Jack Johnson, G. Love, Submarines, Kaiser Cartel, Josh Ritter and many others contribute to the project. The collaboration of 1% for the Planet and the musicians led to an album featuring many exclusive or rare versions of songs. Sales of the album support NGOs work on environmental issues. Jack Johnson was the first huge hit for 1% for the Planet, which fueled the explosion of the 1% network.

The 1% for the Planet network is 1,400 businesses in 38 countries giving $15 million annually to 2,000 global environmental groups. Companies join to gain the network, recognition and morality of the group. Once the business signs the licensing agreement and membership dues are paid, they are free to use the 1% logo. The logo is similar to the certification of environmentally sustainable business practices. However, the 1% group does not look into the practices of the business.

1% does not collect money, other than the membership dues, from the companies. The member companies donate directly to the environmental group of their choice. Recipients are chosen from the list of approved 501(c)(3) organizations (or internationally equivalent) with a high degree of successful projects. The preservation of the Madison River in Montana. 1% of donations prevented the famous angler river from being developed by real-estate. This project was initiated by the first two members of the 1% business network: Yvon Chouinard owner of Patagonia Inc and Craig Matthews owner of Blue Ribbon Flies. Other businesses that are members include Cliff Bars, Sweat Pea Bicycles, New Belgium Brewing Co. Chickamaw Organic Farm Ranch and Wildlife, 3 Forks Insurance, 5 AM (Japan), 7zerolab (The Netherlands), 8Bottles and many, many more.

Katherine Zobre

Photo: 1% for the Planet

Is Small-Scale Mining a Sustainable Livelihood?Artisanal or small-scale mining practices provide income to millions of the world’s poorest people. A lack of knowledge, policy, and regulation in the industry means that most small-scale miners operate illegally and without organization or oversight. A recent report by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) aims to shed some light on the issues of small-scale and artisanal mining.

Much small-scale mining takes place in remote areas with poor living and working conditions. It is known for its severe pollutant production and subjection of poor and marginalized workers, including women and children, to unsafe working conditions. However, since identifying areas for improvement in the industry, IIED hopes to work with policymakers to improve lives and local environmental impacts.

IIED will accomplish this by connecting miners, their families, and communities with other stakeholders, including authorities on the local, national, and international levels. The organization will gather information and data and coordinate with policymakers to foster dialogue and address challenges. The IIED believes that with greater transparency in the industry, small-scale mining can become a sustainable and safe livelihood for many.

Historically, governments and institutions have overlooked small-scale mining as an industry worth investigation, investment, or support, choosing instead to focus on large-scale mining and small-scale operations in other industries such as forestry and agriculture. Part of the reason for this is the stigma against small-scale mining as a problematic and undesirable practice. But neglecting the industry does nothing to improve its conditions. Authorities must recognize economic realities and focus on improving workers’ lives and working conditions.

The widespread practice of artisanal mining is driven in no small part by the global demand for minerals such as tin and tungsten, for use in gadgets like your smartphone. Despite the rapidly growing technology market, little progress has been made in developing sustainable mining practices over the last decade.

It is estimated that 20 to 30 million people derive the majority of their income from small-scale mining: ten times as many people as large-scale, industrial mining. The income from those 20-30 million supports an additional 100 million people. With so many people relying on these traditional practices for their livelihoods, more must be done in the sector to improve efficiency and working conditions, provide education and resources, and reduce negative environmental and health impacts.

– Kat Henrichs

Sources: IIED, The Guardian
Photo: IIED

In order to end poverty, it is vital to look at the big picture. A group of Australian scientists have recently published a study about the importance of environmental issues in the fight against world poverty.

The group declared that world governments need to be stricter when it comes to environmental regulations and limiting pollution. Two of the major concerns they identify are: protecting clean air and radically decreasing the amount of water taken from rivers. Environmental agencies like the EPA are responsible for limiting pollution from industry, and more developed countries follow some type of air protection doctrine but these scientists believe that the regulations are not nearly strict enough. The researchers admit that one of the biggest changes that must be made is not so much a change in policy so much as a change in the public mindset. The global community cannot continue to view the Earth as a provider of infinite resources. While unregulated resource extraction helped many to escape nationwide poverty in the past with materials such as coal and oil, that is no longer the case. The changing climate and ever-growing pollution that the world faces today produce a series of difficulties for those living in severe poverty. Air, water, and soil pollution all pose a threat to food production and sustainability.

The study comes at a time when the member countries of the United Nations are preparing to work out a new fifteen year plan to replace the Millennium Development Goals that will end in 2015. The authors of the study believe that the new plan, that will end in 2030, must view environmental protection and poverty reduction as two issues that must be addressed together, not seen as separate crises.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: ABC-CBN News
Photo: Promasys

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), a European non-profit, recently published a report entitled “The Unpaid Health Bill,” which elucidated the costs that coal-fire plants impart on citizens’ health. The study concluded that burning coal contributes to over $50 billion in lost resources annually, partially due to the over four million sick days required as a result of coal-fire plants. Even more shockingly, there are over 18,000 premature European deaths each year which can be attributed to this dirty form of energy.

HEAL’s Executive Director, Genon Jensen, urged that these findings “be taken into account when determining energy policy,” especially in consideration of the increasing levels of coal use in Europe. Her organization’s goals are to cease all production of coal-fire plants, and to completely end European use of coal by 2040.

Part of the reason alternative, cleaner energy sources seem so expensive when compared to conventional fossil fuels is because of an economic concept called “externalities,” which are essentially “side effects.” The costs associated with using coal go far beyond extracting the material and burning it; there are negative externalities such as the pollution of the atmosphere, which affects everyone breathing the air. If coal companies were forced to pay for all the costs of their business, they would be charged for the carbon they put into the air, in order to offset the costs everyone else has to bear. The positive externalities of renewable energy sources, like a reduction in medical costs and benefits to wildlife, can often go unrewarded. If governments recognized the amount they could save by switching to clean energy, and used part of those savings to subsidize the installation of such energy sources, then there could be an economically feasible plan for abandoning fossil fuels forever.

Jake Simon

Source: DW

Green Energy Can Fight Poverty and PollutionAccording to a new study, green energy is the only sustainable solution in eradicating poverty for a large number of the world’s poor and preventing “a climate disaster.”

The study, released by the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, warns that the widespread use of clean energy, as opposed to fossil fuels, is the only way to prevent further damage to the environment and to eradicate poverty throughout the world. The World Bank, International Energy Agency, and other major institutions have also given similar warnings.

The UN has implemented a program called the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4All) that aims to “double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency” by 2013, double the amount of renewable energy used, and bring electricity to more of the world’s poor. Joeri Rogelj, who worked on the study, says that meeting these goals and also preventing widespread deforestation is the only way to prevent a climate crisis.

Rogelj’s study confirmed that the SE4All initiative’s funding would actually cost less than the current subsidies the fossil fuel industry is given, which are estimated to be about $523 billion in 2011 alone. Comparatively, the funding for SE4All is slated to be around $30 to $40 billion per year. The study also asserts that the conversion to clean energy would also aid in making the Millennium Development Goals of downsizing poverty and promoting international development.

Thus far, several countries are on track to switch much of their energy sources to renewables – Iceland uses 81% clean energy and Scotland has a mandated 100% clean energy by 2020. Denmark is also following suit to become 100% dependent on renewable energy in the near future.

The study concludes that “achieving the three SE4ALL objectives could put the world on a path toward global climate protection,” and that getting rid of fossil fuels would eliminate the health hazards associated with pollution in many developing countries and low-income communities, as 1.5 billion people worldwide still live without electricity.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Business Mirror

A new study led by Harvard Medical School researcher Matthew Bonds is linking an environment’s biodiversity and public health, namely its susceptibility to the spread of disease. Bonds found that countries with decreased biodiversity “will have a heavier burden of vector-borne and parasitic diseases,” an assertion which has drastic implications for public health systems worldwide.

Previously, some might have suggested that a lack of funding is the biggest roadblock to protecting people from pathogens. These new findings indicate that governments may be well-served in their quests for healthy citizens by protecting natural ecosystems. Bonds explains that “the more organisms you have out there, the more things there are that can interrupt the life cycle of disease, and the less concentration you’ll have of any vector.” When humans urbanize an area, many species are forced out of their natural habitats and end up dying off in large numbers. Pests and other disease-carrying creatures breed freely, resulting in a much greater risk of exposure for humans.

The United Nations estimates that one out of every three species on Earth faces extinction. Bonds uses this statistic to demonstrate how a country like Indonesia faces a grave threat from losing its biodiversity: given a 15% decline in this metric, the country would face a 30% larger disease burden. By elucidating biodiversity’s link to public health, Bonds demonstrates yet another area in which undamaged ecosystems provide major benefits to humans who can exist alongside natural cycles, instead of in place of them.

Jake Simon

Source: NPR
Photo: About Indo