Does Poverty ProduceDegradation?

This past week we talked a lot about the different causes and effects of environmental degradation. One thing that really stuck out to me is the article about how poverty and environmental degradation are related. This article discussed two main views: how living in poverty could result in unsustainable practices, and how living in an environment that doesn’t practice sustainability can result in poverty. A part of me whole-heartedly agrees with these statements, but another part of me is still skeptical.

One thing that really stuck out to me was the author’s definition of poverty. So many people measure poverty as the total amount of income, but in fact, poverty is not a measurement of any one thing, but rather a lifestyle. It’s not about making a certain amount of money- it’s about living your life in a constant cycle of fear, vulnerability, and powerlessness.

I had never thought about poverty in this way, but it really does make a lot of sense if you stop to think about it. In developing countries, money=power. So it makes sense that if you have no money then you loose all sense of power, resulting in little or no confidence or voice.

This means that when a large oil company tells you to give up your farm, you’re forced to do it. Or when you loose your job, you take up another in the only option left- a coal mine. At this point, you’re not worrying about whether or not your job is good for the environment- you’re just trying to make money. You’re not concerned with whether or not your clothes or food were sustainably produced- your just thankful to have them.

Some people think this means that whenever a person is living in these conditions, they result to unsustainable practices. For example, there might be a family-owned farm doing everything exactly right, but then a major company finds large deposits of fossil fuels under their land so the family is pushed away from their home. Yet, others believe that living in an environment full of degradation leads to poverty. For example, this would mean that if the main source of income in your city is through working in underground mines, then that is the only way you can make money so you have to live with very low wages.

I’m still not sure which opinion I agree with more- the idea that poverty leads to environmental degradation or that environmental degradation leads to poverty. But I think one things certain- both of these beliefs have substantial credit to them, I think it definitely shows that there is a correlation between poverty and environmental degradation.

 

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