Paint the World Green

Thursday, March 2, 2006

What chance is there that the environmental revolution will reach the bottom of the wealth pyramid wherever it may be found, from Chicago to Calcutta, from London to Lahore? Will the future be driven by “trickle down,” “trickle up,” or something more akin to what would have happened if the fabled Dutch boy had taken his fabled finger out of the fabled dike?

The real problem today Prakash-Mani [from SustainAbility’s Emerging Economies program] stressed, is that industrialized countries are trying to export an unsustainable economic model to developing countries like Brazil, China, and India — or, at least, such emerging economies are embracing our economic and business models, regardless of how unsustainable they may be. She relayed the comments of one Windsor attendee, who noted that China is racing to replace its “bamboo” past with a “plastic” future, bulldozing land and building its 21st century infrastructure around the private car, rather than public transit. Sound familiar?

Jodie Thorpe, who has led much of SustainAbility’s work in countries like Brazil…said the problem is that the rich North expects the poor South to leapfrog to a sustainable lifestyle — if not an impossible goal, a notion that’s stymied by the fact that very often the South aspires to the northern model. (The story may be apocryphal, but it is said that during the height of Lebanon’s civil war the gunfire periodically faded as gunmen retreated indoors to watch the latest episode of Dallas.)

Developed countries must not underestimate the appeal of unsustainability built on economic prosperity. On the other side of the coin, they have to be acutely aware of how their own attempts at sustainability look in poorer parts of the world. The North’s well-intended “food-miles” campaigns, for example, which emphasize buying local, can look uncomfortably like trade barriers in the making from a southern perspective.

For the full article click here.

Source: Alternet (link opens in a new window)