Environmental problems or issues refer to the negative elements of human activities on the environment. Some of the major environmental issues include pollution, climate change, resource depletion and environmental degradation. It is currently evident that human beings are living unsustainably due to the environmental problems. In order for this to happen, natural resources must be used in such a rate that it is possible to replenish. This has not been happening especially in the developing nations. This has caused unprecedented poverty in these countries and taken a toll on lives in these nations. In the past decade about 2.4 billion individuals were affected by climate-related disasters, as compared to about 1.7 billion people in the previous decade. The cost of responding to these disasters has gone up tenfold from the year 1992 to the year 2008. There have been destructive floods, serious topical storms and draughts. Unfortunately these effects are felt more in the developing nations. The question remains whether it is enough to blame the poorer and developing nations for their predicaments in as far as environmental issues are concerned. Some researchers in this area have argued that the real cause of poverty and environmental issues in the developing nations is rarely discussed. It is the richer and developed nations that are basically to blame for the most predicaments facing the developing nations (Gregory, Johnston, Pratt, Watts and Whatmore 2009). This paper discusses the causes of environmental issues from the perspective of the economic relationships between developing countries and the rich world, and goes further to recommend changes in this relationship.
The relationship and environmental issues
The developing nations have always used globalization, capitalism and cultural factors to have control over the developing nations. Such control has been cultural economic or political, by promoting their own culture media and language in the developing world. Behind the interconnections that are promised by globalization lie international decisions, practices and policies. All these are basically driven, influenced and formulated by the richer and more powerful nations. These are leaders of the economically developed nations or other global players like the multinational companies, international institutions and powerful individuals (Ferraro 1996). This capitalism has produced a rigid system that is the international division of labor that favors the developed world at the expense of the developing nations. The dependent nations provide cheap agricultural products, cheap mineral and labor and also play the role of the repositories of surplus capital, manufactured products and obsolescent technologies. This orients the economies of the dependent nations toward the outside. Goods, money, services do flow to these nations, but the allotment of these resources is on the basis of the economic interests of the developed nations, which are the dominant states. The division of labor is the basic explanation of poverty and environmental issues in the developing nations (Chrisman and Parry 2000).
Economic development in the industrialized or developed nations does not necessarily cause development in the developed nations. As a matter of fact, it has been suggested through economic research that economic activities in the developed nations cause serious economic, social and environmental problems in the developing nations. Developed nations import raw materials from the developing nations from which they generate finished products. The finished products from the raw materials are sold back to the developing nations. The value that is added to the primary products in the process of creating the finished products makes them to have a higher cost than the primary products. This means that the developing nations would not earn sufficient for their export earnings to cater for their imports. Resources are therefore extracted from the developing nations to cater for the economic development of the wealthier nations. From this point of view, it can be argued that the environmental problems and poverty in the developing nations can be blamed in the way they are integrated in the global system (Chrisman and Parry 2000).
Another major factor behind environmental issues is development of multinational companies in the developing nations. These companies are said to enrich very few people in the developing world while they cause environmental, humanitarian and ecological devastation to the populace in the developing nations. Multinational companies are international companies with branches in other countries most of which are the developing countries. It is the developed nations that are able to build up this multinationals. In the free market made possible by globalizations, these companies are allowed to be established and market their products in any country around the world. The issue arises in that it is easy for the developed nations to set up companies in developing countries, and use labor and other resources from the host country, while the developing nations are not economically equipped to do so. The result of the multinationals being developed in the developing nations is argued to be unsustainable development as well as continuous underdevelopment (Gregory, Johnston, Pratt, Watts and Whatmore 2009). This can be explained by use of dependency theory. The establishment of multinational companies in the developing nations causes a dependency that cultivates the host nations as sources of cheap labor and raw products for their companies. They restrict the access to developed production technologies and techniques from the developing nations to develop their economies. Another environmental issue posed by these companies is pollution, the greatest factor behind climate change and global warming. Majority of the multinational companies established in the developing nations are manufacturing companies whose carbon emissions are a fact. These companies are one of the greatest factors behind carbon emissions in the developing nations (Chrisman and Parry 2000).
International financial organizations are also playing a role in the problems facing the developing nations. They have the choice to provide or refuse grant (especially the ones financing unplayable Third World Debt) is one of the things leading to higher rates of poverty in the developing nations. This is an effective form of control that makes them have lack of means of production for sustainable development. Some of the international financial organizations that have been criticized for this in the past are the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These organizations have argued that for a nation to qualify for the loans, and other forms of financial aid, they have to take some steps that are favorable to the interests of the international financial institutions. Some of these measures though favorable to the organizations are detrimental to the economies of the developing nations (Bruce 1994). The structural adjustments affect the developing nations by increasing instead of decreasing poverty and environmental issues in the developing countries. It has been argued that the current economic arrangements permit some cartels to control and exploit poorer countries by fostering debts. This leads to some governments in the developing nations to give monopolies and concessions to international companies in exchange to consolidation of control and financial bribes. Such multinationals use the power in such a way that affects the natural resources of the poorer country. In various cases, most of the money that is loaned to the developing nations is returned to the favored international company. The foreign loans are thus subsidies to companies of the loaning state. Some of the international organizations that have been blamed for engaging in this kind of neo-imperialism include the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Group of Eight, the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum. Some of the developed nations like the United States are argued to be involved, as claimed in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins (Perkins 2004).
Some authors have argued that the developing nations, especially in Africa currently pay more money per annum in servicing their debts to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund than they get in loans from these organizations. This mostly deprives the populations in these countries of their necessities. This is the kind of dependency that enables the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to enforce Structural Adjustment Programs upon these countries. These adjustments that basically consist of privatization plans result in deterioration of education health and generally low living standards. The opponents of these international monetary organizations have carried out studies as to the impact of policies such as devaluations by the International Monetary Fund (Reuveny 2007). This policy demands devaluations of currency. The critics have argued that the international monetary fund wants these currency devaluations as a provision for refinancing loans. The organization also insists that the loan be paid back in dollars or currencies from the other First World nations against which the currency of the least developed country has been devalued. This increases the debt by a percentage of the devalued currency. This is a means of keeping these countries under perpetual debt and impoverishment. In this case, environmental problems persist as they deplete the remaining natural resources to cater for their basic necessities. Poor people in the developing nations who cannot mean their needs through purchasing are forced to use common property or natural resources for fuel and food. The problem here is not due to poverty, but due to international policies that are contributing to this poverty (Mohamed 2011).
Provision of capital for the developed nations to start up their own industries and stop relying on the industrialized nations and multinationals for finished products is one of the ways that the environmental problems in the developing nations can be dealt with. This means that the poorer countries will stop exporting a lot of their primary products and depending on the industrialized nations for finished products. One important source of this finding should come from the developed nations, which are the major cause of the problem (Shannon 1996). The relationship between the developed and developing nations should not always be such that the developed nations are benefiting at the expense of the developing nations. The developing nations should also be in a position to benefit economically from the relationship, which is not the case at the present. The developed nations as well as the international financial organizations should fund development projects in the developing countries. The developed nations should be philanthropic enough to provide direct aid and technological assistance to the developing nations. The developed nations should also develop renewable technology and find means to transfer these economies to the developing nations. The problem seems to begin with the economic development of the developed nations and they should be the ones on the forefront in solving it (Mohamed 2011).
Another solution for the poorer nations is to develop projects of import substitution in order to avoid buying the finished products from the industrialized nations. The developing nations would still trade on the primary products on the international market, but have their foreign exchange reserves stop purchasing their finished products from the developed nations. The developing nations should seek to pursue policies that will provide self-reliance. Divergent from the neo-classical systems that are enforced by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, greater integration into the international market is not essentially a beneficial choice for the developing nations. Sometimes, this policy perspective is seen as support of a policy of autarky. These policies have failed revealing that they are not good choices for the developing nations. Self-reliance policies should be seen as supporting policies of controlled interactions with the global economy. The developing nations should seek to support policies and global interactions that support the improvement of the economic and social welfare of their populations (Kacowicz 2007).
The industrialized nations should push measures that could be helpful for the developing nations. Such measures include giving the developing nations more power over the economic policy, funding more development-oriented technologies and opening up labor markets. The idea of a free market that will reward the participants is misleading and cause of more problems for the developing nations. The current policies do not pay attention to the issue of distribution of wealth. Their concern is on effective and efficient production and presumes that the market will allot the rewards of effective and efficient production in a rational and fair manner. This is a condition that is not favorable to the developing nations and should therefore be changed, in such a way that the allocation of resources is not on the basis of production in a free market. This is because the market alone cannot be sufficient distributive means (Kacowicz 2007).
Another way that the developing nations can be allowed to develop is by canceling the debts owed to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It is possible for the countries to attain sustainable development without having to pay more money than they get from the international financial organizations. The ultimate objective of most of the international financial organizations is reduction of poverty, especially in the developing nations. In the past most of the development projects and policies that have been encouraged by the international organizations have led to more poverty and environmental problems. This means that the international financial organizations need to devise other policies that are beneficial to the developing nations. As earlier noted, the problems of the developing nations can only be understood in working with these nations directly (Reuveny 2007). It is not possible for the international financial agencies to develop policies and programs that are targeted toward developing nations without working with these nations. In the past, most problems affecting the developing nations have been discussed by the developed nations and measures suggested to deal with the problems by these nations. This is mostly what has led to failure in these programs and policies. This calls for change in how the issues are discussed and how solutions are suggested. Involvement of developing nations in the discussions is the way to go. Additionally, the recommended solutions should be backed with research evidence on their applicability and effectiveness in solving the environmental problems in the developing nations. Carrying out research is the only way of ensuring that the developed policies and programs do not cause worse problems to the populations in the developing nations (Preece 2009).
Addressing environmental problems and other issues that affect life in the developing nations will only be effective if they are addressed from these countries’ perspective. This is through active involvement of the countries that are affected by these problems. It is important that most of the conventions held on environmental and related issues be held in the developing nations in order to engage them. It is not enough for the developed nations to address the issue of climate change in their own world while their industries are moving to the developed nations and taking their operations with them. They carry on the environmental degradation and carbon emissions in these countries. This means that if the problem is to be adequately addressed, there is need to find ways to mitigate emissions and environmental degradation by the multinational corporations (Reuveny 2007). Additionally development of the multinational corporations should not be done in such a way that benefits the home countries only, while causing more problems to the host countries. This has always been the case and need to be changed. International policies should be developed such that they protect the developing nations from the devastating effects of these companies. Failure to comply with the developed policies and protection measures should lead to dismissal from the host countries. This way, the developing nations will be protected from the economic selfishness of the developed world (Preece 2009).
This paper discusses the causes of environmental issues from the perspective of the economic relationships between developing countries and the rich world, and goes further to recommend changes in this relationship. Problems facing the developing nations such as poverty and environmental issues are normally blamed on these countries. People looking into these issues have failed to put the blame where it belongs. Only a few authors have looked at the role played by their economic relationship with the developed nations, which is the main contributing factor. Economic development in the industrialized or developed nations does not necessarily cause development in the developed nations. They take up resources and primary resources from the developing nations at a low price, selling the finished products to these countries at a higher place. Other factors in this relationship that have caused problems to the developing nations are the development of multinationals with developing nations as hosts and the policies and programs designed by the international financial organizations such as the world bank and the international monetary fund. The only solution to environmental problems and poverty in the developing nations is a change in their economic relationship with the developed nations. The policies developed that favor the developed nations over the developing nations should be changed, provision of financial and technical support is necessary and canceling their debts are among the factors that will contribute to changing the situation in the developed nations.
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