Why you already care about World Environment Day
Yesterday was World Environment Day. Oaktree celebrates awareness days that bring visibility to important issues, even if not strictly about poverty. Did you know that the environment has a cyclical relationship with other social patterns, and if climate change is addressed, we address the nexus of all other challenges in the justice space?
Poverty and the environment
Thinking about the future is a luxury for those of us not experiencing poverty. People experiencing poverty often have to meet immediate needs like shelter, food and water. This also means that they have limited means to plan how they use these resources because people simply don’t have the extra time and energy it takes to plan. This might mean not taking care of the land where crops are grown, or replanting trees chopped down for firewood.
The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific gives the example of China, whose increased population in the mid-20th century put substantial stress on farmers and “exacerbated land degradation and led to a decline in agricultural productivity and income.” It was only “improvement combining erosion control with improved crop and animal raising practices [that] reduced soil erosion and increased rural incomes.”
Waste and the environment
Ever wonder what happened to our computer monitors from the 2000s? They may have wound up in an e-waste dump in Ghana. Old electronic equipment from Australia has become, despite being illegal, continuously shipped to economically poor countries such as Ghana, with up to 500 container loads of electronics shipped every month to the country’s capital.
The waste is incredibly hazardous to the immediate environment. When it rains, ash from fires can fall into nearby water sources used by both locals and their cattle. Lead and mercury that are burnt can have serious effects on major organs, the nervous system, and the immunity system. Some scrap metals, such as copper from cables, can be burnt and reduced to metals that can be bought and sold.
Disability and the environment
According to Christian Blind Mission (CBM) 20% of the world’s poorest people have a disability. Climate change causes food insecurity and clean water scarcity, so if people are disabled and unable to travel long distances or carry large amounts of weight such as water tanks, their resources are further limited. CBM comments that ‘climate change is causing an ‘erosion’ of services, infrastructure and shelter’. If people lose out on immunisation services, the most vulnerable people to these disease are affected first.
Climate change can also create disability; increasingly warm weather conditions spread the habitat of mosquitoes, increasing malaria contraction. This can create a number of cognitive impairments for children in particular, including speech impairments or loss of coordination (CBM, 2012).
If you’re outraged or simply surprised by some of these environmental connections, we encourage you to continue learning about these issues this World Environment Day.
If you want to learn about how climate change disproportionately affects women and girls, check out our post on the link between water and education. Or join the movement to receive email updates and actions in the fight against poverty.