Post-WW2 Development Policies and the Environment
Early development focused on developing at whatever means necessary –industrialization, cash crops,
resource extraction, etc.
o The increase of for-profit agriculture led to deforestation and use of pesticides and herbicides
TNCs developed in places where they would not be held accountable due to lax regulations
o This has increased dumping, oil spills, deforestation, etc.
o Especially seen with oil companies in the South
Development projects funded by the World Bank and other institutions have also caused destruction because
of their push for large-scale infrastructure projects such as dams that disrupt rivers and countless breeds of
flora and fauna
More than 400 000 square km of forests have been flooded by dam projects
o This affects all animals, fish, etc.
The global governmental institutions are less eager to support these large scale projects and have put stricter
regulations in place
Changing Perspectives on Environment and Development
The Limits to Growth Debate
The Limits to Growth (1972) questioned sustainability of development strategies
o They put forth the argument that unless consumption, production, and population growth were
constrained the world wouldn’t sustain itself past the 21 century
Developing countries contend that restrictions on the use of their environmental resources are unfair
o Especially because developed countries didn’t have any restrictions placed on them when they were
developing –it would maintain the divide between the two “worlds”
Predictions of the limits to growth model have not come to pass
o Standards of living have increased and new technologies have decreased the impacts on the
As resources become scarce, prices rise, and consumption declines
o Seen in things such as oil (even though it hasn’t become scarce, it was just said to be scarce)
Economic growth might cause environmental degradation in the short term, but as incomes rise,
environmental conditions improve
o People will only address the environment once their livelihoods are secure –what about the people
whose livelihoods depend on the environment though?
Environmental Kuznet’s Curve
What is the relationship between improved standards of living and the environment?
UN 1983 World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED)
o They met to discuss the impacts of various forms of development on environmental resources
o This included a discussion on how environmental degradation can actually impact the economic
security of some people
Our Common Future (1987) argued that poverty as much as industrialization was responsible for
o Brought about the idea of sustainable development Sustainable Development is defined as development that meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs
Sustainable development is now a central concept in development policy
Poverty and the Environment
Earth Summit (1992) placed human beings at the centre of sustainable development and emphasized the
connection between poverty and environmental degradation
Alleviating poverty is also a pre-requisite for environmental sustainability
The struggle for survival forces poor people to overexploit natural resources
o Farmers reduce fallow periods, forests disappear for farming space, etc.
Some of the poorest peoples live in ecologically-marginal areas that can only support a bare subsistence life
o Sub-Saharan Africa, China’s plateaus, etc.
Women often suffer the most from the impacts of environmental degradation
o Women are often tasked with cooking and fetching water as it disappears they fail to provide for their
families –they have to travel further, eat less nutritious food, etc.
Sustainable Development in Practice
Sustainable development initiatives focus more on managing rural resources rather than on urban or
industrial pollution, sanitation, and waste disposal problems
Changes are taking place with a focus on land tenure and property rights
As well, there is more emphasis on decentralized, participatory approaches
Well-defined property rights are needed for individual economic benefits as well as for environmental
o Property rights are claims to a resource that are allocated to a particular person or group by a larger
authority –such as the state
o Important because this way people are able to control their o