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Chapter 17

SOSC 1430 Chapter Notes - Chapter 17: Loess Plateau, Kuznets Curve, Narmada River


Department
Social Science
Course Code
SOSC 1430
Professor
Miguel Gonzalez
Chapter
17

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SOSC 1430
October 21st, 2015
Chapter 17: Environment and Development
-“There has been a growing realization in national governments and multilateral institutions
that it is impossible to separate economic development issues from environment issues;
many forms of development erode the environmental resources upon which they must be
based, and environment degradation can undermine economic development”
-Formal development efforts to boost productivity and economic growth worldwide appear to
have contributed to overall increased life expectancies and better standards of living for
many, but deforestation, desertification, drying rangelands, depleted fisheries, dwindling clean
water supplies, and industrial pollution affect the health and livelihoods of millions worldwide
-Some see economic development and globalization as the solution to these environmental
problems - others argue that development is the cause of environmental degradation
-State policies, national and international economic systems, cultural beliefs, social and
political institutions, population pressures, available technologies, and the type of ecosystem
itself all influence the ways in which people make their livings and how environmental
resources are used
-National governments, international organizations and NGOs, private enterprises, and
regionally and locally situated individuals all have contributed to the condition of the world’s
natural environment today
Post-World War II Development Policies and the Environment
-Early development policy focused primarily on stimulating economic growth and
industrialization in developing countries at the national level
-Some did not have the means to industrialize immediately and turned to production of cash
crops and resource extraction
-Production of agricultural exports such as coffee, cotton, cocoa, tea, and beef contributed to
deforestation throughout the South - the increased use of irrigation and chemical pesticides
and fertilizers has resulted in salinization of agricultural lands and the contamination of soils
and water systems
-Transnational corporations (TNCs) often brought in to set up factories and run resource-
extraction operations - corporations often not held accountable for the adverse environmental
impacts of their operations
-Shell Oil Company in Nigeria - example of how national economic development efforts and
corporate irresponsibility can lead to environmental and social disaster - one of the main
sources of government revenue in Nigeria - poorly maintained above-ground network of
pipelines resulted in 2,976 oil spills, destroying vast stretches of farmland - soot and air
pollution also big problems - Ogoni people whose lands were impacted protested against the
environmental and economic damage - many executed by government
-Development projects funded by international organizations such as the World Bank also
have long history of producing adverse environmental and social impacts
-Many projects focused on large-scale, centrally designed infrastructural development
programs expected to boost national productivity - roads to provide access to natural
resources, transportation of raw materials and agricultural produce to urban centres and
world markets, migration to previously inaccessible regions
-Construction of large hydroelectric dams throughout world illustrates many of the human and
environmental problems that have arisen from large-scale, centrally managed development
projects - provide environmentally friendly supply of badly needed electricity and also control
flooding and provide freshwater supplies for urban populations and irrigation water to
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SOSC 1430
October 21st, 2015
increase agricultural productivity - but as many as 40-80 million indigenous peoples and other
poor rural dwellers lost their lands, homes, and livelihoods to accommodate reservoirs and
roads, and 60% of world’s river ecosystems adversely affected
-Patrick McCully - more than 400,000 square kilometres of forests and wetlands have been
flooded by reservoirs created by hydroelectric dams - flooded lands and associated resources
have been lost - rivers have become fragmented - surrounding ecosystems also affected -
many plants and animals cannot adapt to new conditions
-Decomposition of submerged vegetation has lead to increased levels of mercury in reservoir
fish - Hydro Quebec’s La Grande 2 Dam and the Cree people
-Deforestation increases - new roads to dam sites facilitate access to the region by loggers
and other developers
-Local people - typically poor rural peasant or indigenous communities - most directly affected
by the construction of large dams seldom have been consulted about the process - late
1980s - series of dams along Narmada River in western India - funded by World Bank and
Japanese government - submerge tens of thousands of hectares of land and disrupt lives of
millions - yet affected communities received little or no information about the loss of their
lands or compensation
-Displaced communities, environmentalists, human rights groups, and environmental NGOs
began to pressure national governments and international organizations to halt construction -
World Bank and other international funding agencies now less keen to support large-scale
dam projects and have developed stricter social and environmental guidelines for
construction
-Reservoirs of large-scale dams emitting greenhouse gases sometimes higher than coal-fired
power generators - continue to be built as world demand for energy continues to rise
Changing Perspectives on Environment and Development
The Limits to Growth Debate
-Adverse environmental impacts of hydroelectric dams and other projects designed to
stimulate economic growth led many to question the sustainability of such economic
development initiatives
-“The Limits to Growth” - argued that unless rates of population growth, production, and
consumption were quickly constrained, we would face catastrophe and collapse - argued that
carrying capacity would be exceeded by middle of 21st century
-Many developing countries argued that because industrialized countries had not been held to
these same standards when they were developing their economies, it would be unfair for the
international community to now restrict developing countries’ use of environmental resources
in their efforts to raise standards of living
-Critics say standards of living around the world have improved, yet changes in technologies
and price mechanisms ultimately have been able to minimize the impacts of production and
to regulate consumption
-Economic growth might cause environmental degradation, but as incomes rise,
environmental conditions improve - once people’s standards of living rise and they feel more
secure about their livelihoods, they begin to address environmental problems
-Environmental Kuznets Curve - need to continue to focus efforts on improving incomes in
developing world
The Chipko Movement
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SOSC 1430
October 21st, 2015
-Hill peoples in northern India protesting the loss of rights to their forests - roots go back to
colonial era when British began to explore as a source of timber and forest products
-Commercial forestry brought in much revenue but both colonial and post-colonial forest
policies were ‘at the expense of the hill peasantry and their life support systems’
-Idea of hugging the trees - drew attention of ENGOs - prime minister Indira Gandhi imposed
ban on cutting live trees in the Himalayan forests and ‘net deforestation in India is being
arrested’
Sustainable Development
-UN General Assembly - established the World Commission on Environment and
Development - “Our Common Future” - with caution, economic growth and industrialization
could be achieved without causing irrevocable damage to environment, but poverty was as
responsible for environmental degradation as was industrialization
-Sustainable development - idea rooted in earlier environmentalist movement in 1970s -
“meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to
meet their own needs” - central concept in development policy worldwide
Poverty and the Environment
-Rio Agenda 21 - declaration of principles placing human beings at centre of concerns for
sustainable development and emphasized the relationship between poverty and
environmental degradation
-Alleviating poverty is not only morally imperative but “a prerequisite for environmental
sustainability” (World Bank)
-Most of the world’s poor depend on use of natural resources for survival - often must resort to
overexploitation of natural resources - growing populations and attempts to increase incomes
exacerbate demands on natural resources - for those struggling to survive from day to day,
conserving resources for some distant future is seen as a luxury they cannot afford
-As environment becomes further degraded, people have fewer productive resources to
support themselves - required to further exploit few resources or new areas - unending
downward cycle
-Women often suffer most - responsible for providing domestic needs for families - fetching
water, gathering wood - must go father and farther - take away time from productive activities
and affect nutritional status - ‘less nutritious foods which need less fuel to cook or can be
eaten raw’
Landscape Restoration on China’s Loess Plateau
-Home to 50 million people - one of world’s most degraded environments
-Chinese government in conjunction with World Bank - restoring sustainable vegetative cover
over 35,000km of 600,000km plateau
-Results have been encouraging - completed in 2005
-Recognizing importance of forest landscape in combatting climate change and environmental
degradation, attempts made to replicate project in similarly devastated regions in Kenya and
Ethiopia
-While the Loess Plateau project provides evidence that it is possible to repair large-scale
ecological damage, large-scale landscape restoration is a complex process involving local
ecologies, economies, and politics and may not be easily replicable
Sustainable Development in Practice
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