Poverty and the environment: how achieving a sustainable environment is crucial to end world poverty.8
December 15, 2015 by Cláudia
We may ask what the relevance of environmental sustainability is when it comes to ending poverty. The answer lies in a very disturbing yet very real fact, which people tend to close their eyes to or pretend it isn’t as important as it seems: nowadays, people are consuming far more natural resources than what the planet can sustainably provide. If current consumption and production patterns remain the same, by 2050 we will need three planets to continue to live the way we do right now.
If we neglect the environment, other attempts at reducing poverty will soon become worthless. If we continue destroying our planet and using more resources that it can provide, the resources will start to run low. This will tremendously increase the inequalities that already exist in our world because only the wealthier will be able to access those resources (that will become rarer and rarer) leaving the poor even poorer.
I am not claiming that environmental issues are the cause of poverty: no, that’s a structural problem that goes back to the beginning of civilization. But it is certainly impossible to change this system while destroying the planet we live in. In truth, we won’t have a society to worry about if we destroy the environment so whatever difference we want to make in the world, we first need to make sure there will still be a world for us to improve.
In order to achieve environmental sustainability, we need to ensure that businesses make responsible decisions, starting by reducing the amount of waste they produce and reducing the energy they use. But the ultimate goal is to develop completely sustainable processes for example using 100% renewable energy or operating through a zero waste system. It may seem idealistic to picture major businesses making environmentally responsible choices but if Governments gave incentives to these practices, like achieving financial benefits, slowly change would happen.
Through education, we can spread the environmental awareness and change individual habits. Although it is true that a singular action doesn’t make much of a difference in the worldwide context, a mass movement of people having green lifestyles would certainly make a different. Furthermore, the more people aware of this, the more it encourages other people to join the movement. As many authors have stated, achieving sustainability requires a massive mind shift. Slowly, mentalities will change from a profit-oriented attitude to a genuine concern about the environment.
At last, the Governments would also have a major part in this shift. Firstly, by taxing non-renewables, these will immediately decrease and cause companies to rethink their policies. Simultaneously, it should encourage culture that promotes sustainability. Furthermore, Governments should take direct action on these matters by restoring ecosystems, by starting a widespread use of solar panels etc.
Environmental sustainability isn’t an idealistic goal, it is a necessity if we want to continue to live on this planet. It isn’t a wild guess or an alternative lifestyle, it is the only way to prevent life from becoming unsustainable and, ultimately, impossible. To ignore this is just suicidal.