Every year, human kind adds six to eight billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and destroying forests. Even though the U.S. makes up only 5% of the world’s population, it produces 72% of all hazardous waste. Now we are faced with a new issue; how should developing countries develop? Can we expect them to develop sustainably when current industrial countries didn’t? As Economist Nicolas Stern believes, these two things do not need to be mutually exclusive and rather should happen simultaneously. He provides us with two options: continuing to use dirty energy, which will “destroy our chances of avoiding a climate catastrophe and let climate change push poor people deeper into poverty. Or we innovate and start a clean energy revolution. Now is the time to choose.” I would like to work in international development focused on sustainable development practices that allow for developing countries to raise their citizens’ income per capita while also pursuing environmentally friendly practices.
Even though I am still very young (only twenty years old), I have a good idea of what I want my future profession to be. Ultimately, I’d like to work for a non-profit or a US government agency focused in development like the US Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID recognizes the continuing demand for resources as the world population grows. Increasingly, non-profits and development agencies are acknowledging the need for countries to develop with a moral compass; making sure to do so in an environmentally friendly manner.
I believe that individuals in developing countries have the right to decide how to manage their resources but I want to help provide them with the necessary means to use them sustainably for their sake and for the sake of future generations. Countries around the world are blessed with diverse natural resources that provide them with great opportunities to grow if harvested and used properly and efficiently. USAID helped at least 930,000 people word-wide improve their incomes through sustainable natural resource management and conservation activities in 2010. It is crucial that organizations like these maintain their support to developing countries in their pursuit of sustainable growth. If industrial countries expect developing nations to grow sustainably, they need to provide them with the tools and means to be able to do so.
As Robert Swan eloquently stated, “the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it” and I strive to inspire and encourage others to do just that.
This post is by Liz McDermott. Liz is a student at the London School of Economics and is currently the President of oikos London.