Gambling Everything for More: The earth that development built | Sustainability

Please download to get full document.

View again

of 16
All materials on our website are shared by users. If you have any questions about copyright issues, please report us to resolve them. We are always happy to assist you.
Information Report
Category:

Documents

Published:

Views: 5 | Pages: 16

Extension: PDF | Download: 0

Share
Related documents
Description
The environment forms the basis of all global social and economic systems, and the substrate for all development activities. This paper reviews the current state of the global environment. Whilst debates about the limits to growth continue, several inter-related indicators suggest that limits do exist, and are being dangerously exceeded. While all of earth's inhabitants depend on the environment for survival, poor people often depend very directly on the natural resource base for their livelihoods. Areas of particular concern from a development perspective include climate change, water resource management, and agriculture. Marginalised groups - such as indigenous peoples and women - are often the first to experience the impacts of environmental degradation, yet lack the political influence to redress them. Failure to meet the environmental Millennium Development Goals looks inevitable, in turn putting the achievement and sustainability of the other MDGs in jeopardy.
Transcript
    Gambling everything for more: the Earth that development built  Antonio Hill The environment forms the basis of all global social and economic systems, and the substrate for all development activities. This paper reviews the current state of the global environment. Whilst debates about the limits to growth continue, several inter-related indicators suggest that limits do exist, and are being dangerously exceeded. While all of earth’s inhabitants depend on the environment for survival, poor people often depend very directly on the natural resource base for their livelihoods. Areas of particular concern from a development perspective include climate change, water resource management, and agriculture. Marginalised groups - such as indigenous peoples and women - are often the first to experience the impacts of environmental degradation, yet lack the political influence to redress them. Failure to meet the environmental Millennium Development Goals looks inevitable, in turn putting the achievement and sustainability of the other MDGs in jeopardy. The author argues that although individuals can bring about change, the world needs active citizens to participate in decisions about the political and institutional forces that shape consumption pattern the world over, and governments can and should do more to stimulate and facilitate this participation. This background paper was written as a contribution to the development of From Poverty to Power: How Active Citizens and Effective States Can Change the World , Oxfam International 2008. It is published in order to share widely the results of commissioned research and programme experience. The views it expresses are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Oxfam International or its affiliate organisations.    Gambling everything for more: the Earth that development built From Poverty to Power - www.fp2p.org   1 1. Introduction The natural environment matters to poor people and the development enterprise for two fundamental reasons. First, as the basis of our economic and social systems, it matters deeply to all  of us, rich and poor (see Figure 1, below). 1  To the extent that environmental constraints and natural resource degradation limit the scale or threaten the integrity of these systems, they undermine the possibility that economies can be expanded or sustained in ways that include the half of humanity that is still largely excluded from the wealth and well-being they generate. Second, poor people generally depend on the natural resource base more, and more directly, than the rest of society. Poor people are affected first and worst by the loss of environmental resources, and so are more likely to fall deeper into poverty when these are degraded. Since the limited assets that poor communities have available to finance their development and lift themselves out of poverty are more likely to be environmental goods and services, this also means that environmental degradation undercuts their potential to escape poverty – even assuming it is not sufficiently severe to undermine the integrity of the wider economy. These simple fundamentals create a useful lens for analysing poverty-environment linkages and are central to an understanding of why ‘…development policies aimed at reducing poverty that ignore the impact of our current behaviour on the natural environment may well be doomed to failure.’ 2  They also help understand the implications of the current state of the environment, described briefly in Section 2. Key debates surrounding questions of environmental quality are laid out in Section 3. Section 4 reviews trends and dynamics central to change in poverty-environment conditions. 1  In addition, the environment matters to many people, including poor people, who value its ‘intrinsic’ and other non-use values. That is, ecosystems, species and other resources matter in their own right, independent of their functional value to human systems. The emphasis on economic values in this paper, due to limited space, does not deny these additional values. Recognition of cultural, spiritual and intrinsic values of the environment only strengthens the arguments presented. 2  Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), ‘Living Beyond Our Means: Natural Assets and Human Well-being,’ Statement from the Board, p. 19.    2. State of the environment Dominant and influential global discourses may differ in their analysis of how serious environmental problems are or who is to blame for them – oblivious rich consumers or fast-growing populations of ‘poverty-stricken masses. But they all agree problems exist. 3  Global scientific assessments are unanimous in their message: the atmosphere, forests, wetlands and other freshwater resources, coral reefs, marine environments, and the life they all support are being destroyed at rates that seriously threaten the well-being of present and future generations ( see  Table 1, below). Despite all the rhetoric about sustainable development over the past two decades, it remains most elusive in the area of environmental conservation. Table 1: Selected global environmental assessments         2        0        0        6   State of the World, 2006, Special Focus: China and India , Worldwatch Institute ‘The rise of China and India illustrates more clearly than any development in recent memory that the western, resource-intensive economic model is simply not capable of meeting the growing needs of more than 8 billion people in the twenty-first century.’ Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis , Millennium Ecosystem  Assessment ‘At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning. Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.’ Environment and Human Well-being: A Practical Strategy , UN Millennium Project, Task Force on Environmental Sustainability ‘60% of Earth’s ecosystem services – freshwater provision, soil nutrient renewal and productivity, and biodiversity – are being rapidly degraded or used unsustainably. Climate change may be the single greatest driver of environmental change. Tens of millions of people will be displaced as a result in coming decades.’         2        0        0        5   World Resources 2005: The Wealth of the Poor  , WRI, UNDP, UNEP and World Bank ‘Poor people must necessarily depend on natural resources to escape poverty, but they lack access, control and power over these resources to realise their economic potential due to an array of governance failures.’ Living Planet Report, WWF Populations of terrestrial, freshwater and marine species have declined by 40% since 1970; the intensity of renewable natural resource use in 2001 was 2.5 times larger than 1961.         2        0        0        4   Limits to Growth: The 30-year Update , Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows. ‘…We are much more pessimistic about the global future than we were in 1972. It is a sad fact that humanity has largely squandered the past 30 years in futile debates and well-intentioned, but half-hearted, responses to the global ecological challenge. We do not have another 30 years to dither. Much will have to change if the on-going overshoot is not to be followed by collapse during the twenty-first century.’         2        0        0        3   World Development Report 2003: Sustainable development in a dynamic world , The World Bank ‘Past patterns of growth worldwide have generated costs that are not sustainable… ensuring sustainable development requires attention not just to economic growth but also to environmental and social issues. Unless the transformation of society and the management of the environment are addressed integrally along with economic growth, growth itself will be jeopardized over the longer term.’ 3  For a useful review of poverty-environment, discourses see : Adger, W. Neil et al. (2001), ‘Advancing a Political Ecology of Global Environmental Discourses,’ Development and Change, Vol. 32, 681-715. Gambling everything for more: the Earth that development built From Poverty to Power - www.fp2p.org   2            2        0        0        2   Global Environmental Outlook (GEO3) , UN Environment Programme (UNEP) ‘…a growing world population… is exacerbating the demand on resources and services, and increasing the generation of wastes to meet many of these demands. Overall, policy measures have not been adequate to counteract the pressures imposed by increasing poverty and uncontrolled consumption. [There is] indisputable evidence of continuing and widespread environmental degradation.’         2        0        0        1   Climate Change 2001: Third Assessment Report , Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ‘Projected global warming in 2001 (+1.4 – 5.8 ° C) is significantly  higher than the 1992 (1.0 – 3.5 ° C by 2080) estimate. Rising surface and lower atmosphere temperatures and melting of glaciers, snow cover and permafrost are attributable to greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.’         1        9        9        8   Human Development Report 1998: Consumption for Human Development , UN Development Programme (UNDP) ‘Today’s consumption is undermining the natural resource base. It is exacerbating inequalities. And the dynamics of the consumption-poverty-inequality-environment nexus are accelerating. If the trends continue without change… today’s problems of consumption and human development will worsen.’ Building on the layer-cake image in Figure 1 (above), the fundamental problem is that the top two layers (market economy) are growing at the expense of the bottom layer (natural resource base). As an indicator of the state of the bottom layer, the Living Planet Index reports a decline of approximately 40% in populations of terrestrial, freshwater and marine species worldwide since 1970. 4  The current rate of species extinction is up to one thousand times that of the fossil record, and experts forecast this rate could increase tenfold within the next fifty years. 5  In simple terms, the dynamics of the problem can be understood in terms of two flows between these layers: resource extraction and waste production. Each of us, and the economies we are part of, consume resources from the natural resource base in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the structures we live in, the transport we use, and all the other products and activities that support our subsistence and leisure. At the same time, economic production and consumption processes based on these inputs of raw materials generate pollution and wastes, which must ultimately be absorbed or processed by the natural resource base. Together, the full complement of provisioning and processing services that nature provides is known as ‘ecosystem services’. As these services are diminished, the viability of our economies is undermined. It is tempting to think that we can escape this tight dependence on the natural resource base with modern technologies. It is true that technology continues to make dreams realities – we can now produce biodegradable plastics from plants – but our lives and economies will continue to depend wholly on the natural environment for the foreseeable future. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is unambiguous on this point: ‘these are dangerous illusions that ignore the vast benefits of nature to the lives of the 6 billion people on the planet. We may have distanced ourselves from nature, but we rely completely on the services it delivers.’ The volume of resources that is cycled through the economy is known as the material ‘throughput’. Because the natural resource base has physical limits, the human economy that depends on it also has limits in terms of throughput. Ultimately, our economies cannot exceed the planetary limits of ecosystem services or stocks of non-renewable resources. The scale and reach of human impacts on the natural environment is sometimes hard to appreciate, but the figures are shocking. Nearly a quarter of the Earth’s entire land area has already been converted from natural forests, savannas and grassland 4  Jonathan Loh and Mathis Wackernagel (2004), ‘Living Planet Report,’ WWF, UNEP-WCMC and Global Footprint Network (this needs to be up-dated b4 publication with the next report, out in 2006). 5  Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), ‘Living Beyond Our Means: Natural Assets and Human Well-being,’ Statement from the Board. Gambling everything for more: the Earth that development built From Poverty to Power - www.fp2p.org   3
Recommended
View more...
We Need Your Support
Thank you for visiting our website and your interest in our free products and services. We are nonprofit website to share and download documents. To the running of this website, we need your help to support us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

No, Thanks