International Development, climate change, environmental exploitation

I think about the work non profits do a lot, for some obvious reasons: I used to work for one, Greenpeace NZ, and I helped start another one, Engineers Without Borders NZ. Even for causes and purposes that aren’t particularly interesting to me, non profits are still close to my heart.

I appreciate the special something it takes for someone to decide they want to dedicate a massive amount of effort to something for a reason greater than just money.

But that’s not really what I want to write about.

What I’ve noticed recently is that the link between environmental issues and development issues is often over looked.

To be more specific - since no one knows what the hell ‘environmental issues’ or ‘development issues’ actually are! - I’m talking about the link between environment damage, destruction of habitats, pollution, climate change, etc.. and poverty, disease, hiv, political persecution, repression, etc.

So how are these linked? It’s seems likely that all these issues are the result of the same mindset. But I’d suggest its actually a more direct link then that. First just take a look at where a large amount of environmental damage is done, by whom its done, and who bears the brunt of the cost. It often occurs in developing countries, funded by governments or large corporations in developed countries. And poor and underpriveleged communities often bear the worst cost: destruction of their home and the environments they need to survive.

People in poverty have little power (in our current world model anyway), and have little ability to protect their environment. They’re also sometimes desperate enough that they will take a short term deal to make it through… even if it makes things worse for them later.

If these people had more power - it would be much harder for us to live the way we do, exploiting them and their resources. We do terrible damage to our own countries environments. but not on the scale (and without being noticed) that it is in developing countries.

I used to think these problems were separate. And weigh up supporting environmental charities against development charities. Usually deciding to support those fighting climate change. Reasoning that there wasn’t much point helping developing countries, if our eco system just stopped functioning. But really, you can’t have one without the other. We need to have both.