| While attending the world summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, we spoke about ways of preserving the environment. Yes, cutting down of the rainforests should be stopped. Yes, some industries should be stopped or improved so prevent damage to the environment. Yes, farmers should stop using ineffective and unsustainable methods of farming. Animals should definitely stop being poached and shame on you if you support the burning of fossil fuels.
All of these ideals were expressed strongly, and although they are wonderful ideals that should be adhered to, an environmental scientist from Bahrain made me realise otherwise. She sat quietly at the end of a row during the daily Youth Caucus meetings and caught my attention. We were soon drawn into a long conversation. She spoke about how even though people know that these things should be stopped, many often have no choice because it's their only source of income and they don't know anything else.
Take farmers in poverty-stricken regions for example. Because of lack of supplies, equiment and more often, knowledge. Farmers have no means to use a method of farming that would yeild more food and less damage to the environment. There is pressure on the government of such a region to abolish this so that an end to the destruction may stop. However, doing this means taking away everything a farmer will have. He will end up living in poverty and as a result, the general economy could go down. What's the alternative to this? Well, if governments dedicated more time to funding education on more effective farming methods as well as providing more suitable farming equipment, then it would be easier for the farmers to do this and in the long run benefit the economy.
The same sort of situation can apply to the farmers in Brazil expanding their land into the Amazon forest, or the industries causing pollution that would provide employment for hundreds to thousands of people.
What alot of people don't realise is that abolishing the things that are causing damage to the environment without taking into account the millions of people that are dependant on them for a living, we're compromising global economy (which in the long run can lead to even more environmental damage) for ecological improvement and limits our own ability to protect the environment. The challenge however, is making governments and local communities see how they, too, could benefit from bringing change in their lifestyles. Nevertheless, there must be motivation and proper funding and backing up so that bringing ecological sanctuary without compromising economy, otherwise we will be limited in bringing about those changes to further propel the potential of a brighter future into a more concrete reality.
So to that environmental scientist from Bahrain, I wish you luck wherever you may be and hope the best for you. We definitely need more people like you.
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| Nov 4th, 2002
You bring up some good points. I have a friend who has done a lot of work in east Africa with anthropologists and environmentalists, trying to find a compromise between environmentalist ideas, and the needs of the locals. Often these days the fights of the left are portrayed in a black and white manner- but it's good to see a somewhat more realistic view.
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