When Poverty Prohibits Conservation

| 11/6/2008 4:01:52 PM

Tags: overpopulation, environment, conservation, population, poverty,

Garden Gate

We in the developed world consume far more than we need. We are fat, we drive big cars, we throw away whole households of valuable goods because we’re spoiled and we can afford to buy something new rather than preserving or repairing what we have. Our bad habits damage our environment.

But conservation is not going to save our habitat. Global warming, deforestation, desertification and pollution are all products of overpopulation. The poorest people don’t have the option of leaving the nearby forest standing, or keeping their goats off of an overgrazed pasture. For the world’s poorest people, every scrap of land is part of a thin barrier between life and death. They must use every resource available to keep themselves and their families alive. That’s the grim reality at the heart of human population growth. At some point we all end up there, struggling to sustain our lives regardless of the consequences for our community or our habitat.


hazel watson_2
4/1/2009 6:16:06 PM

Pogo said it many years ago: "We have found the enemy and he is us." It has been restated many times since then, but I'm wondering who is listening???

3/30/2009 9:35:13 PM

I do not think over population is the issue. I have 11 children and we have less trash (more recycling), usually less electric use, less money on groceries, etc. than many of my neighbors who have 5 or less living in their household. Education and desire to be producers instead of consumers is the missing link.

3/30/2009 8:09:41 PM

I was just reading all this and thinking that poverty sure does encourage conservation. We are an older couple but have always tried to live in such a way that we can help others, we support children thru Gospel for Asia and other organizations and help missions. We do not have garbage pickup, our chickens are glad for any leftovers they can get as also are 2 stray cats. We compost, have a large garden, can (in jars) a lot of our garden, raise our own potatoes and sweet corn and buy very little packaged food from grocery stores . Absolutely no food gets thrown away . I totally agree with passerby that this planet is not overpopulated. And also that mankind shall not have the decision left up to them as to when life on this planet comes to an end. God, who created this world still is in control. Everything is proceeding exactly as His Word foretold, and we truly are living in the last days . I really like Mother Earth magazine because of the good gardening ideas and other helpful tips as far as homesteading goes, but we need to worship the Creator and not his creation. I also do not share in the Obama Worship, I think he is one of the worst things that has ever happened to our country,and has brought us very much closer to God's judgment on this nation. "Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people". It is heart-breaking to think how this once great nation of ours has fallen so very low. I would like to include here the words of our national hymn. Would this song be welcome in today's government and our ungodly news media? God of our fathers, whose almighty hand Leads forth in beauty all the starry band Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise. Thy love divine hath led us in the past, In this free land by Thee our lot is cast, Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay, Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way. From war’s alarms, from deadly pesti

walter daniels_1
3/30/2009 5:39:59 PM

This kind of thinking, is the real problem. You (the original author) are out of touch with those trying to help. Yes they need the "extra land," but because no one has shown them _other_ ways to do what they need to do. They burn precious trees because no one has shown them how to build Solar Cooker, and given them the necessary materials. No one has taught them better to farm, and helped them make the transition. Too often they'd rather make excuses, and claim that "nothing can be done." There are groups working to make the lives of Haitians, Amazon Basin groups, and Native American tribes better. Working with grossly inadequate resources, that would welcome more money, more people, more resources to help them *change* to a better (and more conservationist) lives. But, it requires individuals to "step up to the plate," instead of calling it inevitable, or leaving it to governments who waste most of it. If you belong to a church, ask around, someone will know about the programs. If you don't belong to/believe in churches, do an online search. In either case, quit making excuses, and do something.

3/30/2009 12:05:27 PM

I disagree that povery prohibits conservation. I think it's a matter of attitude and education rather than a matter of income. In fact, I think that poverty requires people to conserve. I am not currently living in poverty though we are low income but I have lived in dire poverty - no running water, no electricity, no phone, no car, food stamps, etc. Making things last and go further is a matter of necessity. There are many things we do to conserve. We dry our clothes outside. We reuse the rinse water from our washing machine to wash the next load or mop floors or water plants. We are in the process of learning how to be a no-trash family so that we don't have to pay for trash removal. That means learning how to garden, eat in season, compost, etc. I would say that part of the trash production problem is that, for the most part, the city governments take people's trash away for them. They don't have to think about how much they produce because they don't have to dispose of it. They just create the trash and expect someone else to take it away. I know that in some cases a per bag fee is charged but that still allows them to have it removed without thinking about the cumulative effect all of that trash has. (I would also say that in some cases government programs and welfare actually exacerbate the problem. Some people use all of the electricity that they want and if they can't pay the bill, they ask for someone to help them pay it. It seems to me the better alternative is simply just to use less.) I think that it works the same for water, electricity, and land usage. You have to learn how to make the most of what you have on the amount that you can afford. So again I think it's a matter of attitude and education than income. Sandra

12/15/2008 3:40:47 PM

I do believe that population control merits serious thought, especially as more people live longer. However, I tend to agree with the idea that, while it seems almost like a magic bullet, striving for zero population growth isn't going to prove to be an answer. I have absolutely no doubt that there are childless American households that consume more than an extended family in a different socioeconomic climate. Look at what's going on in China-- even with the one-child policy having been in place for many years, they're destroying their enviornment at a really alarming rate, making the same mistakes Europe and America made even faster than we made them by trying to become us even faster than we did. At least we could claim we didn't realize what would happen-- having us as their textbbok, they KNOW and, many times, choose not to CARE. I do understand that sometimes it's about immediate survival. But I also understand that sometimes it's about immediate material greed-- not the need to survive at any cost, but the desire (so strong it is easily confused with need) to be "prosperous" at any cost. I think greed in kind of embedded in our DNA-- for most of human history, "more" did mean better odds of immediate survival. In the developed world, anyway, that's not the case any more-- but the drive remains. Altruism, on the other hand, isn't as immediately hardwired. We're wired to think about supporting the band so the band can support us-- but in this time and this place, "the band" is, at best, usually the immediate family. We need to wire in something new-- the idea of "enough is enough, and more is not better"-- and something newer-- the idea that "the band" is now comprised of the entire human race.

12/9/2008 3:04:36 PM

I was reading over a post from 11/9 and was very interested in what the writer had to say. It's not just the poor living in bad conditions that have to struggle with conservation. In the area I live in, an urban/suburban area, HOA's rule the roost. If it can't pass HOA regulations, you can't have it. In many of my surrounding neighborhoods, you can't have a garden, except for flowers, you certainly can't compost (there was an article in our paper today talking about a local composting farm that is being sued by several surrounding neighborhoods because of the smell), you can't have anything that sets your house apart or makes it unique because the HOA is worried about the housing values. We have to take our garbage to a dump site. The "dump police" monitor what is placed in the bins. At one site last year, the lady who was monitoring at the time (she has since left) was not allowing anything to be recycled except for soda or milk bottles. She said everything else was "unslightly". Then they hired an elderly gentleman who would stand outside and insist that you put everything in the same bin because "you yuppie folks think you're saving the enviroment by doing that. The county is really just hauling that bin to the landfill and dumping it with the rest of the trash". They aren't, I checked and the gentleman has since stopped working there. My county will only recycle anything label 1 or 2. I still end up throwing away alot of plastic because they won't consider adding 5 or 6's to the program because they claim it's too expensive. I've checked, they have the equipment and it would only require adding two more people to the county payroll, part time. I wonder if what we're really dealing with here is an overwhelmed population of boomers who were raised with the "have it all" mentality who are now exhausted, fed up, worn out but have absolutely no concept of how to change

11/27/2008 11:54:27 AM

Bryan, yes, I agree that, with all the problems and disasters caused by "people", the nobility of "mankind" more than balances the scales. The hypothesis I was awkwardly trying to posit w/ my first post is that, since overpopulation isn't the cause, or even a symptom, of all the problems that so much of the world lives w/, decreasing the population won't solve them. It's similar to re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, it makes you feel "good" that you're doing something, but won't stop the ship from sinking. I do tend to agree w/ the idea that the U.S., w/ approx. 20% of the world's population consumes 80% of it's resources (or numbers close to that) is bad and wrong. What can I, individually, do about that? Obviously try to tread as lightly on this earth as I can, to begin w/; CFLs instead of incandescent, 30mpg compact instead of 15mpg SUV (w/ sights set on 0mpg electric, recharged by solar cells), growing/eating locally, et al. But energy spent on trying to decrease population, or even achieve ZPG, at this time won't solve the problem, because it's not the cause. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't keep an eye on it and/or be aware of it, but let's not waste time and energy on it.

11/24/2008 9:13:37 AM

I see plenty of evidence of our species' nobility, as well as its faults. Whether the earth is overpopulated today is an interesting question, but it doesn't change the fact that if current patterns persist the population will double during my children's lifetimes. Be sure of this: There is a limit.

11/21/2008 9:29:20 PM

To finish the thought: Overpopulation is not the real cause of all the problems in the world, it's people and all the problems they cause for themselves and others. It's greed, hatred, suspicion, thoughtlessness, etc. Linus summed it up when he said, "I love mankind, it's people I can't stand." So long as we have less than perfect people populating the planet, it will be a less than perfect life that we all live.

11/21/2008 9:09:19 PM

Here is a concept that will probably sound heretical to many Mother people: the earth is not overpopulated...one of the main problems is distribution. Before you tar and feather me, consider this: If you were to take the entire population of the world (6.7 billion) and place them on one half of the continental United States, every man, woman and child in the world would have 6,413 square feet of land to themselves. The archtypal "family of four" would have .6ac to live on and grow their own food. John Jeavons ("Square Foot Gardening") has shown that it is clearly possible to grow and/or raise enough food to live on in less space than this. This is clearly not practical with the world we live in, but it demonstrates that this planet is capable of supporting a much larger population than is currently here, and "overpopulation" is not the real cause.

robert b
11/13/2008 1:42:18 PM

Dirt poor is a term many Americans will become acquainted with very soon. Then they are going to want to know what to do when the cities and states tell them we have no money to provide services anymore. I truly hope people start relearning how to be more self sufficient soon, or they may find out they should have to late.

p l
11/9/2008 11:25:46 PM

Think about the fact that many of the poor live in cities where no composting is allowed, there is little access to farm-fresh organic food,and government subsidy programs actually support that chemical ridden, non nutritious food over the actual FOOD available at places like the farmer's markets. It is cheaper to buy packaged food with foodstamps than it is to buy just bare food and take it home and prepare it. So the poor are getting bad nutrition PLUS adding more waste to the landfills. But it's not just poor, it's middle class, too. Consider that there are hundreds of thousands of single parent families working a long day or night at work, and then coming home to... prepare a meal for the kids. Now think about whether or not they are going to pull out some potatoes, cut them up, fry them or bake them, or whatever, or pull out a freezer pack of already cut up hashbrowns or fried potatoes or something. You come home, and you are exhausted, and the kids are clamoring for food... you figure it out. Now, people say you can container farm in the city for real food, but I have done it and it is SOME food, but it in no way provides enough food to actually feed my family every day. I get a tomato once in a while in the summer. In the winter? Forget about it. Anything grown inside is spindly and not worth the effort, if it produces anything. A lot of places are like this: mobile homes that are either too dark, or apartments, or people rent and the landlord just says flat out NO to any kind of growing anything. And if you have a plot outside, there is the problem of keeping the neighborhood dogs and kids from wrecking it or peeing on it, or ripping off your food before you get it. It's hard to stand guard on it because remember... you are at work. We live in a completely different society sanctioned by the government and supported by the government, and this government is corrupted and backed by big business, who are the ones doling o

11/8/2008 6:27:42 PM

Conservation will save our planet!!!! The North American people waste so much that if the waste was kept in thier own homes they would be forced out in a matter of months. The North American diet wastes/over consumes enough to feed an additional family of four each day, if not more. I recall a family in North West U.S.A. that gained news attention on the fact that they only had 2 YES just 2 bags of garbage in a YEAR. How many families peel off the outer leaves of a head of lettuce and discard those leaves??? That discard can make a good starter to a soup stock! potato and carrot peelings are also good to put into a soup stock. Land fill is really a dinosaur of the last century and people should learn to help with its exstinction. As little as 100 years ago most people didn't send trash to the dump, thats because there wasn't trash to dump then! Learn the old skills to living and you'd be surprised how "green" that life really is. Bottom line is this....The industrial world has lost the way and is the complete cause of all our woes. I may be a Pagan but the Amish seem to have gotten it right long before it was considered quaint. Simple life!!!! Simple goals, and real sustainability is the way to save this world.

mrs. moo
11/7/2008 10:32:47 AM

The photo is very misleading. Anyone that has a landscaped estate like that doesn't understand true poverty. Poor does not always translate into lazy. Here in the USA most folks don't understand truely what "dirt poor" is, with no government programs to assist people--for food, housing or health issues. We do not understand literally living on the move due to war or civil unrest--carrying what we own or leave it behind. Conservation for these folks means living from one day to the next....they don't need special clubs or programs to tell them they could be destroying the habitiat. The'll say to tell that to the folks destroying their homes, towns and livlihoods.

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