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close this bookGATE - 3/90 - Conservation of Natural Resource (GTZ GATE, 1990, 36 p.)
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International Joint Venture Needed

Causes of Ecological Problems in the Third World and the Responsibility of the Industrialized Nations

"... The still-unresolved contradiction between economy and ecology manifests itself, among other things, in the fact that the economies which are inherent in particular systems have not yet managed to design an ecologically acceptable society, while conversely the ecologists are not capable of designing a society that would be compatible with the prevailing economic rationality.

In the prevailing form of civilization, the role played by ecology does not constitute the system; at best, it limits and repairs damage-and in the Third World it can hardly be said as yet that any serious environmental policy exists.

High ecological price of development

The benefits of economic development often lead to the costs involved being underestimated, e.g. with regard to the life of the individual, social life, resources and health, the variety and beauty of the environment. The fact is that this attitude is widespread in the Third World, even though it is precisely there that the cost of economic development is most obvious. The plundering of resources and destruction of the environment are generally accepted for the sake of ensuring and/or improving individual living standards, even if it is only a question of satisfying superficial needs. However, the more individual consumers' wishes are satisfied en masse, the more an environment is created in which, for most people, the quality of life suffers. Apart from this, the sum of all consumers' wishes bears no relation to the availability of material resources and the natural capacity of our planet to sustain the impact involved.

There is a certain irony in the fact that the ecological price of so-called "development" in the Third World is extremely high, while at the same time the social benefits it brings are certainly questionable - because a large percentage of the population is marginalized, i.e. they find no work and tend to survive, on the verge of starvation, rather than live. Generally speaking, it may no doubt be said that development of the Third World is taking place with no consideration for its social and ecological consequences ...

Renunciation the keyword

A particular problem of ecological degradation is that it is encouraged, if not actually necessitated, by economic competition; not by economic competition within the individual countries, but internationally. If the process of civilization is to be "disciplined" according to ecological criteria, we need not only an optimal combination of measures for ecological modernization (e.g. catalytic converters) and ecological conservation (e. g. preserving endangered species), but also an ethic of renunciation; and this applies, among other things, to renunciation of maximum returns and maximum growth, renunciation of maximum private and collective consumption, renunciation of unbridled development. Moreover, it also implies high additional investments to prevent and limit damage. It goes without saying that, politically, it will be difficult to get such measures accepted, especially in the Third World, whose economy is already in deep crisis and hardly competitive internationally."

The article goes on to say that the population explosion is one of the main causes of environmental destruction in the Third World. Added to this is the widespread decline in environmental awareness in the Third World, and "a lack of awareness with regard to the harm that is constantly being done to the countryside and to nature-and, incidentally, to people...While a gradual change of awareness is apparent, it is still taking place far too slowly to combat the rapid advance of environmental degradation effectively."

Industrial nations share responsibility

A third cause is the integration of Third World countries in the international system, from which it may be inferred that the industrialized nations share some responsibility for the ecological problems of these countries, namely

International Joint Venture Needed

· joint responsibility because of their prominent position within the community of nations and the world economy

· joint responsibility because of their self-assigned role as "culture nations"

· joint responsibility because they set a bad example.

The article continues: "Responsibility for each country's environmental policy undoubtedly lies first and foremost with its government, and this of course also applies to Third World countries. However, this does not invalidate the global responsibility of the industrialized nations, although so far there has been some hesitancy in realizing this. In the environmental sphere al so, it is becoming increasinglly urgent to start considering the possibility of an international joint venture and the need for a global ecology policy."