John Hoffmire: The Importance of Environmental Practices in Poverty Alleviation
Alleviating poverty is a worthy endeavor pursued by many organizations. However, studies show that in some cases there are unintended negative impacts upon the environment. The goal to alleviate poverty without environmental damage can be challenging.
For example, an organization might teach improved farming techniques and assume that if followed the effects will be positive. However, if the farmers are not knowledgeable on how to maintain measured control of the resources, there can be a short-term gain in economic prosperity and a long-term loss due to exploited and exhausted natural resources. Ignoring the environmental soundness of economic growth — even if this leads to short-run economic gains — can hurt the poor by undermining long-run growth and its effectiveness in reducing poverty.
Reduction of poverty and environmental protection can go hand in hand. There is a clear link between poverty and environmental degradation, which has been described as a self-perpetuating negative spiral in which poverty accelerates environmental degradation and degradation exacerbates poverty. In Pakistan, as in many other countries, environmental degradation is both a cause and a consequence of poverty.
Though that is a rather discouraging statement, this close relationship between poverty alleviation and the environment can also be leveraged in a positive way. Poverty alleviation programs are more efficient and sustainable when they include measures to protect the environment. Through careful planning and increased environmental consideration, this damaging negative spiral can be altered into a virtuous one.