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poverty and pollutionPollution impacts people’s air, water and food worldwide. In general, pollution affects impoverished individuals the most. Many individuals in developing countries already struggle to find clean water, edible food and good healthcare. Unfortunately,  pollution only exacerbates these pre-existing issues. The city of Nairobi, Kenya is a prime example of this. Its largest garbage dump surrounds and pollutes churches, schools, shops and places of business. As such, poverty and pollution are closely related. Eliminating pollution may be able to help eradicate global poverty. 

Poverty and Pollution

Runoff from factories, farms and towns has made drinking water sources dangerous because of contamination. In some places, the effects of pollution also decrease the crop yield and increase food prices, as runoff also contaminates farm land. Additionally, imported food products are often tainted with bacteria, thus making these food products dangerous for consumption. These circumstances could increase the number of people suffering from malnutrition, especially in developing countries. Poverty and pollution are therefore connected through causation: high food prices and food insecurity can both contribute to poverty. Indeed, pollution could contribute to the number of people living in global poverty increasing by 100,000 million.   

Pollution and Hunger

There are currently 815 million people around the world suffering from chronic undernourishment. Importantly, one of the main causes of malnourishment and undernourishment is contaminated food. India, for example, lost an estimated 24 million tons of wheat in one year due to an airborne pollutant. More recently, India may also lose 50% of its rice production because of the same pollutant. On a global scale, studies have found that air pollutants decrease the production of staple crops like wheat, rice, maize and soybeans from 5% to 12%. Experts estimate that this is equivalent to the loss of up to 227 million tons of crops, which equals $20 billion in global revenue lost.

However, food is also becoming contaminated through industrial runoff in the ground. Pollution via industrial run-off affects crops in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and South America. In these regions, access to foods that are high in nutrients is low and irrigation runoff is high. Runoff especially impacts Africa, where farmers depend on subsistence farming to feed themselves and their families.

Both of these types of pollution can increase food insecurity and hunger. In these conditions, individuals cannot use their land to grow clean food for themselves and their families. Worldwide, 33% of children who come from middle- to low-income countries already endure chronic malnutrition. This contributes to the fact that 45% of all children’s deaths are due to undernutrition or a related cause. Furthermore, there are at minimum 17 million children worldwide who are acutely malnourished, resulting in the death of two million children each year. Thus, pollution and poverty are related through the issue of hunger, which is fatal for children around the world.  

Pollution Clouds the Water

Unfortunately, pollution does not only amplify the issue of hunger, it also contributes to a lack of clean water. Globally, 844 million people do not have regular access to clean water. The vast majority of these people live in extreme poverty. In Uganda alone, there are 28 million people who cannot readily access clean water. These Ugandans must drink water polluted by sewage, mudslide debris and other contaminants.

Due to these conditions, 70% of all diagnosed diseases are directly linked to unclean water and poor sanitation and hygiene methods. These diseases include hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, diarrhea and dysentery. Unfortunately, these diseases kill 3.4 million people each year, 43% of whom are children younger than five. In Uganda, these illnesses force 25% of children to stop attending school each year. 

Poverty and pollution are directly related through water pollution. On a global scale, the world loses $18 billion when people are to sick with waterborne illnesses to work. Additionally, the time many people must spend finding water results in missed economic opportunities valued at over $24 billion worldwide. 

The Fight Against Pollution

Thankfully, many organizations are addressing these pressing connections between poverty and pollution. The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), based at M.I.T., received a $25 million gift from King Philanthropies to combat many issues that both poverty and pollution create. It plans to do so by launching the King Climate Action Initiative (K-CAI). The K-CAI focuses explicitly on helping those who live in extreme poverty. Its aims include reducing carbon emissions, reducing pollution, acclimating to the climate change and transitioning toward cleaner energy.

The K-CAI plans to accomplish these goals by creating and evaluating many smaller projects. Once the K-CAI determines which projects are the most impactful, it will implement them in impoverished countries on a large scale. Thus far, J-PAL has focused on improving the production of food, education, policy and healthcare in impoverished countries. K-CAI is using J-PAL’s successes to help determine the most efficient ways to achieve these goals 

The correlation between poverty and pollution is clear and direct. As such, pollution can make the fight to end global poverty more challenging. However, with promising initiatives such as the K-CAI, the global battle against pollution and poverty seem like a much easier feat. Defeating pollution will give the world a much-needed advantage in ending global poverty once and for all. 

Amanda Kuras
Photo: Flickr

Pollution in the Third WorldLevels of pollution in the third world are disproportionately impactful and the cost of this impact keeps rising. In 2015, 195 countries came together in Paris to discuss climate change. These countries eventually came to an agreement on what should be done to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

In previous climate summits, the agreements usually excused developing countries (including China and India) from implementing stricter greenhouse gas limits. This was with good reason; many of these countries had not contributed to the majority of GHG emissions throughout history. Consequentially, developing countries did not experience the same opportunities to grow as other nations.

However, the new accord mandates lower emissions regardless of a country’s economic status.

Countries like India and China, with growing populations and a rising middle class, are increasingly contributing to GHG emissions. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to be the largest, developed polluting country.

The impact of climate change is usually felt most by the poorest individuals, especially in third world countries. Pollution in the third world has major implications that are not often felt in developed countries like the U.S.

Many regions within Africa struggle against the adverse effects of climate change. As a 2010 World Bank article stated, “In Sub-Saharan Africa extreme weather will cause dry areas to become drier and wet areas wetter; agriculture yields will suffer from crop failures; and diseases will spread to new altitudes.”

In a 2016 U.N. aid summit, pressure rose to provide more funding to reduce the risks of natural disasters. The world’s poor faces a higher risk from adverse weather due to climate change.

Various government entities and private organizations have been fighting to mitigate the effects of climate change in impoverished countries. For example, the Red Cross is implementing forecast-based financing in Uganda, which “releases funding to communities according to agreed triggers such as weather predictions.”

Some developing African countries are even using solar power to access electricity. Gigawatt Global implemented a $24 million solar project in the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village within Rwanda.

The climate conditions within Sub-Saharan Africa are ideal for solar energy. This solar project also provides training and job opportunities for local residents. Rwanda’s solar energy plant provides hope for the future of clean energy and lower pollution in the third world.

According to scientists, the world has not yet reached the point of no return in terms of climate change. If the heavy reform recommended for high-emitting countries came to pass, future disasters might be avoided in third world countries like Kenya and Rwanda.

Saroja Koneru

Photo: Flickr

Why World Ocean Day is Linked to Fixing World PovertyThe ocean is one of the world’s most important natural resources. However, with the growing threats of pollution and over-fishing, the ocean and its species are at risk. Almost all of the water that falls to the earth’s surface as rain and snow are from the ocean, which makes up 97 percent of the earth’s water supply.

Why is it important to protect the oceans and water supplies? Well, water-related crises are noted as the top global risk as of this year.

Over 750 million people lack access to clean water sources and 2.5 billion lack clean sanitation. In Africa, the leading cause of poverty is related to unclean water sources. This can cause serious health issues from cholera to guinea worm. Diseases can spread faster.

Across the world, 1.7 billion people live in or near river basins. As populations increase and droughts occur, the water is used at a greater rate than it is being replenished. Eventually, this leads to water scarcity.

As ocean levels rise, coastal areas flood. People must move and find new livelihoods. They become refugees in their own country. Floods also destroy food sources like rice fields in Southeast Asia.

The fish population in the ocean provides billions of people with necessary protein and omega 3, as well as a $3 trillion global fishing industry that employs 200 million people. As fish populations are fished out, this industry will slowly disappear, leaving thousands without a livelihood.

World Ocean Day, June 8, is about raising awareness to protect the oceans and the effects of not protecting them. It is an event supported by the UN.

The UN Development Program works with oceans is meant to promote water resource management in an effort to ensure that water is used responsibly and sources have a chance to recharge. There are also relations with NGOs, local governments, etc. to provide clean water sources. Lastly, the UN creates functions to use water and its resources in a sustainable manner, so that for example, fish populations are not destroyed.

The goal of World Ocean Day is to address one of the issues that cause poverty and poverty-related problems like health. By committing to protect the largest water source, the ocean, people’s livelihoods are protected, crops won’t be flooded, there will always be a supply of food from the ocean and people can live.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: BBC, BBC, Global Partnership for Oceans, United Nations Development Programme, UN, The Water Project, World Oceans Day
Photo: Flickr

As recent events in the Ukraine have shown, former soviet satellites continue to struggle for self-determination and modernization. Often torn between ties to the European Union and Russia, the former Eastern Bloc lags behind the rest of the continent in major areas of development—and none more so than Bulgaria.

Even though Bulgaria is now a member of the E.U., the nation still struggles with high rates of unemployment and catastrophic pollution. As of 2013, the European Environment Agency reports that four of the top six most polluted cites in Europe are in Bulgaria. The tremendous amount of air and water pollution is particularly damning for Bulgaria’s most vulnerable citizens, who are forced to brave the environment in order to scrape by.

In fact, it seems that poverty itself is fueling pollution, creating a perpetual cycle. Old, fuel-inefficient cars, outmoded factories and desperate fuels sources for warmth in the winter (such as raw coal and tires) make Bulgaria’s air the most polluted in Europe.

Beyond environmental factors, the transition to free markets has had troubling societal impacts that often break along ethnic lines. Corruption and organized crime have a firm grasp in the cities, Britain’s Daily Express reports, while the Roma minority lives on the outskirts in abject poverty. The scenes described in the Express from outside the capital city of Sofia bring to mind the most abysmal realities of poverty from across the globe.

The Roma, an ethnic minority, have long been persecuted on the continent, and their living conditions in Bulgaria attest to just how much the country struggles to keep up with the times.

Unemployment in Bulgaria is reported at 12 percent. The BBC suggests, however, that it may be much higher than that. A number of sources claim that governmental corruption is so pervasive that very little of state provided data can be trusted.

In response to the depressed economic conditions, a rash of self-immolations were reported. Several men of varying ages are said to have lit themselves on fire in protest of their living conditions.

For the E.U., these catastrophes hit close to home. The fact that the E.U. has now incorporated Bulgaria has turned Europe’s attention to the humanitarian crisis on their doorstep. With major Western news outlets now reporting on Bulgaria’s woes, perhaps international support will be able to generate some relief for the ailing nation.

– Chase Colton

Sources: Express, Daily Times, BBC
Photo: Plastic Pollution Coalitio