Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sustainable Development

By the year 2200 there will be a lot more people living on this planet then there are now. Estimates range anywhere from 15 to 36 billion people. Where will these people live? How will they live? The answer is sustainable development. Sustainable development, "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. " It also, "requires meeting the basic needs of all peoples and extending to them the opportunity to fulfill their aspirations for a better life. A world in which poverty is endemic will always be prone to ecological and other catastrophes." Sustainable development is being ignored in Chile, the Philippines, and Siberia, practiced in Madagascar and in Alaska, and examined in the Lake Baikal region of Russia. These Countries must learn from each other's failures and success to discover what sustainable development involves in their own country.
Sustainable development has three divisions, economic, environmental, and social. If sustainability is to occur it must, meet these three divisions. In Chile, none of these divisions is being met. Economically speaking, almost 40% of the population is poor and as a result many make a living directly from the land clearing forests. In the IVth region of Chile, forest regions are being depleted at an amazing rate. This depletion of the forest in this region results in two main things, one, people must spend increasing amounts of energy traveling to the site of present cutting and two, the removal of the trees over time has lead to soil erosion and rapid desertification of the area. This soil erosion also removes many nutrients from the soil making the land poor for agriculture. The third division, social, is not met here either. The lack of organizations to relieve the negative effects of poverty on the environment have only contributed to the problem.
In the Philippines the environmental degradation is similar in nature but more catastrophic in result. There in the province of Leyte 6000 people were killed when flash flood ripped through Ormoc City in 1991. The floods were a result of logging of a forest in that region and conversion of that area into commercial farming practices such as sugarcane. This in itself did not cause the floods, the conversion of the forest into farming left the heavy rain from a typhoon with nowhere to go. Normally the forest would have stopped any flash floods as it would have held the water let it out slowly, but with the forests gone there was nothing to delay the water from exiting the system. The economical effect of this that land and buildings were destroyed causing millions of peso's worth of damage. The social impact is easy to discern, those who lost loved ones, friends, and family can never get them back.
In Madagascar the same type of thing was happening. Locals were cutting down the forest and planting rice and cassava. It was estimated that this process of deforestation was costing the country between, "100 and 300 million a year in decreased crop yields, the loss of productive forests and damage to infrastructure." Something needed to be done, the government implemented a plan to, "protect and improve the environment while working for sustainable development."
The approach integrates all aspects of sustainable development. Socially, a public education programme explains why locals shouldn't cut down the tree's and why it is economically more important that they don't. Environmentally, the forests will not be lost now. And economically some cutting is still down however it is sustainable cutting. New jobs were also created in this program. In order to persuade villagers that this was the best route to take, half of all fees paid by tourists to enter the parks within which the forests are, go directly to development projects for the community. They go to the community because of the "positive correlation between prosperity and environmental quality. This means that the more prosperous you are the more you can afford to clean up the environment. A poor country like Madagascar could not possibly invest as much capital as Canada could into the reduction of Air pollution or the clean up of contaminants in soil.
In the Russian north all aspects of sustainability were ignored. There in part of Siberia that stretches from the Ural Mountains in the west to the Novosibirsk in the south, [see appendix one, fig one] the environmental and social divisions of sustainable development were ignored for the economical. This region produces 78% of Russia's oil and 84% of it's natural gas. It also happens to be rich in fish and reindeer, the principle resources of the Yamal Nenets whom are the indigenous peoples of the area.
Under Stalin socialist plan of the 1930's, the Nenet's were forced to change their traditional way of life - one that was completely sustainable - to one based on collective farms. The children were put in state schools and lost much of their traditional knowledge. The creation of the massive oil fields and gas reservoirs were started. The pollution that these industries created in air, land, and sea, destroyed any hope of ever going back to anything like their traditional way of life. The massive plants took up to as much as a third of the summer grazing grounds for the reindeer, and the Ob river has been severely polluted from industrial centers in the south. The social aspect, that of destroying way of life of the Nenet's, the pollution caused by the plants is the disregard for the environmental aspect, and the economical aspect's importance was, by far, outweighed in terms of the other two aspects in terms of planning.
In contrast the U.S. has developed a different policy in it's North. Like Siberia, Alaska has a lot of resources centered environmentally sensitive lands. Similarly, Alaska also has it's own indigenous peoples, the Iñupiat Eskimo, who have, like the Nenet's traditionally had sustainable way of life. The ancestral calving grounds of Porcupine Caribou Herd, one of the largest in the world at 160000 animals, is located on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife reserve. The Iñupiat herd these animals and require this land to sustain their way of life. This also is the site for one of the largest possible oil fields in North America and as such there is much debate on the lands uses.
The Iñupiat want the money that the industry would bring in but fear the environmental implications as well. In 1971, the U.S. Congress passed a native land claims settlement act that meant that native groups had a much greater say in the possible land uses. Following the passage of the act, the Iñupiat formed the largest City in North America (in terms of Geography, see Appendix One, fig. two), the North Slope Borough, and began to tax any oil revenue made within the city. This revenue - in the millions of dollars - let the Iñupiat live a modern lifestyle and still engage in their traditional subsistence practices. The Iñupiat also retained a greater control over environmental rules and regulations, which they used to make sure little pollution occurred. In this example, all three aspects of sustainable development were used. Economically, everyone made money, socially no group was adversely effected, and environmentally there is little or no pollution, certainly nothing like that in Siberia.
Siberia may also be the place for trying a new method of sustainable development. This new method created by George D. Davis hopes to be a, "rational compromise between the economic needs of a people and the ecological needs of their land." It employs a method of zoning an area or region as to it's possible land use's. The area that this new method is being tested on is Lake Baikal, the biggest, oldest, deepest repository of freshwater on the planet, one fifth of the worlds total freshwater is found in Lake Baikal. This lake is also home to more than 1800 species found nowhere else on the planet. To save such an unique place on earth it was necessary to account for all three area's of sustainability. This was accomplished by zoning the entire Lake Baikal watershed into 25 different types of zones ranging from farmland to industrial parks. A total of 52 million acres were set aside as parks, reserves, greenbelts, and landscapes. As well as zoning the entire basin, an agreement was struck to reduce and hopefully end the pollution that enters Lake Baikal's watershed. In this way, not only was the environment saved, but so were peoples jobs and thus the social and economic well-being.
The Lake Baikal zoning method is an example of how new methods of sustainable development are always being created. Countries like Chile, the Philippines, and Zimbabwe all can learn a lot from examples such as Madagascar, the United States, and the zoning method in Russia. In fact all countries can learn a lot from the success and failures of each other. In every successful case of sustainable development the three aspects were met, economical, environmental, and social. In every failure at least one or more was missing. The lessons learned now can only help us as we enter the next millennia, and over 15 billion people.


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