Journal 7: Sustainable Development, and Failures

This week’s topic on sustainable development matched perfectly with the talk about Mozambique’s resource rush by the Bechtel’s.  Mr. and Mrs. Bechtel illustrated how previous countries that experienced resource booms succeeded or failed, and that Mozambique is already seeing certain societal and health strains within communities.

The most striking part of the talk was when Ruth discussed the extractive industry’s impacts on public health. The extraction of these resources from an economist’s perspective shows that many new jobs are being created and mass amounts of wealth will be brought into the country.  However, the potential negative impacts are astounding.  Communities are uprooted to make room for extraction, and are generally moved to unfamiliar and unproductive land.  People lose their livelihoods, food security, assets and their health resources are sparse.  The shantytowns formed on the outskirts of the excavation sites lack basic infrastructure, and water treatment consists of ditches filled with raw sewage between shacks.  Gender-based violence increases, and the rate of HIV/AIDS increases.

Mozambique is in a crossroads: to blessed prosperity or to cursedness. This disparity can become widespread and horrible, or the government can take this flow of extraction and turn it into a way to increase its citizen’s ways of life.  Incoming funds can be put towards healthcare, health costs can be internalized in extraction company costs, and public infrastructure can be improved.  This all depends on if the government maintains transparency, avoids corruption, and negotiates fair deals.

The situation that Mozambique currently faces can be compared to the situation the world faces with global warming and CO2 emissions.  If we act now we can create a world that thrives off of sustainable development and energy, and governments that care about the livelihoods of their people.  We can use the generally under explored market of renewable energy to raise international HDI, and simultaneously slow the heating of the earth’s atmosphere. If we ignore the problem and continue to act ignorant and greedy as a people, we will face impending degradation of our natural resources and qualities of life.

Another way to promote environmental health within the industrial resource extraction is to utilize bio-mimicry.  In nature, waste does not exist. Waste = nutrition for the next generation of life. Take the cherry tree: it blossoms beautifully, providing human enjoyment (from that always important anthropocentric view) but its fallen blossoms fall to the ground, spreading seeds and nutrients to the soil.  Nothing is wasted.  In Cradle to Cradle on page 75, they describe a factory that has utilized this eco-effective method of eliminating waste by cycling it through nature’s cleaners.  The industry’s idea of efficiency is also tended to as workers worked with higher completion rate in natural feeling conditions.

In a different sense, sustainable development can also be heavily related to New Orleans and the disaster of Katrina. Is it truly sustainable to continue rebuilding communities that will be flooded and destroyed again?  Going by one definition of sustainability, this is not a sustainable use of resources because the next generation will suffer as well.  However, it is nearly impossible to uproot a community that has known nothing else besides their immediate neighborhood.  Therefore, New Orleans has allowed all people to return to the LNW if they choose. At this point, only ¼ of previous residents have returned due to the fact that most homes were wiped away completely, with little community money to rebuild.

This article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/magazine/the-lower-ninth-ward-new-orleans.html?pagewanted=all takes an interesting take on development and growth in the LNW post-katrina.  They say that nature has reclaimed man made structures, creating a new ecological monster that is an unusual combination of wildlife and vegetation.

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