Poverty and Landfills and TED Talks! Oh My!

This past week I was given the YES reading of Is Poverty Responsible for Global Environmental Degradation. It was very interesting for me to read because I have never thought about the connection between poverty and environment, or even that there was a connection. Now that I’ve read the article it makes a lot of sense. Places that have a large percentage of people living in poverty are generally places where people are given no other option than to participate in unsustainable practices, as Opschoor relates. In developing countries it’s very easy for companies to use these people for low cost labor in factories that contribute to greenhouse gases, acid rain and the use of nonrenewable resources. I believe it can be really difficult for people in those situations to even find the time or energy to care about their environmental impact. When getting food on the table is a daily struggle your environmental impact tends to take a backburner. I believe that it should be the government’s responsibility to put restrictions on practices that have negative impacts on the environment. In some cases the people aren’t given the opportunities or the power to educate themselves and decide what’s best for their home. In order to create a post-disposable future people have to be given the option of products that don’t contribute to environmental degradation and harmful chemical emissions.

 As Leyla talked about in her TED Talk every little decision we make, and every little thing that we buy, has an impact. Leyla also talks about how even though some products are labeled “biodegradable” or “eco friendly” doesn’t mean that they will biodegrade in a landfill that’s already covered in plastic and other non biodegradable things. Before biodegradable products are going to work the entire system of landfills needs to change. The creation and expansion of landfills is destroying ecosystems and rendering once healthy and useful land obsolete, not to mention the immense amount of greenhouse gases being produced by landfills. Going along with this Leyla explains that everyday products, like refrigerators, need to be designed differently so that people will simply use less and therefore waste less. Through Leyla’s TED Talk I learned that the solution isn’t necessarily that people need to make better buying decisions, though that does help, but that designers need to make products that make it harder for the consumer to contribute waste. In other words product designers need to think about how the consumer will use their product, and how it will impact the environment.

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