Urban Sustainability and Poverty

Is there a conflict between the green agenda and the poor? The green agenda is future-oriented after all, while the poor need help right away.

MIT has produced a chart that shows what the two groups have in common--and where their differences lie. Both are concerned with we interact with nature. Both want to make our lives better. But in some areas, there could be conflict: one group may need access to clean water, while the other might want to save it for future generations.

What can be done? By looking for where both needs intersect. Two percent of the combined GDP of Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam is lost as a result of water-borne diseases. If money were spent on both saving water and keeping it clean, then it could be saved on health care.

Some groups try to improve the urban landscape while also employing the poor. In the Bronx, New York, one group employs the underprivileged and gives them training for future jobs, while also building bike paths and greenways. Another works to build green, sustainable homes in Columbia.  

Some say the world's slums need urban upgrading. After all, when we "upgrade" our slums, death rates plummet, health increases, and investment increases. In Guatemala, where a slum was upgraded and made sustainable, economic investment followed, and the community thrived. It's as if sustainable, clean places have tended to attract investment all on their own--or at least they haven't repelled it the way slums have. 

But to make a lasting change, something big might be required. The UN earlier this year issued a report that stated that if the world population were to invest about two percent of its GDP--about 1.3 trillion dollars in key sectors of the economy, we could make giant strides toward a low-carbon, sustainable economy that also reduced poverty. There would some job losses, however--some fisheries would be closed as we moved toward sustainability. But overall, the poor would see their lifestyles greatly improved. 

Perhaps the best way to avoid conflict between the two groups is to join them together into one: a sustainable lifestyle that works toward eradicating poverty. 

NB: Press Cutting Service

This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-HABITAT.