A 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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