Thursday, September 30, 2010

Breaking the Natural Cycle

There is always a cycle, or rather a broken cycle that leads to many of the world's problems. Does over population lead to poverty, or does poverty lead to over population? Has world hunger been caused by land degradation or vice versa? These topics are always never ending debates in many of my environmental sociology classes. There are always arguments for both sides and every situation is different, especially when comparing the growth and development of first-world countries during the colonial era versus the third-world countries that are attempting to develop now for one example. One of the cycles that I feel is very important to connect to the current problem of trying to solve world hunger is the issue of land degradation and displacement from land.

The way that I see this new pattern, is it first begins with some reason that people are forced to make a shift in their lifestyle. Generally it involves some shift on the level of the how the people live and relate to their environment. A company comes in a buys land from the government rather than the people, a drought or some environmental new problem; either way, there becomes a disconnect from the land. In other times people could simply move to another area to solve their problems, however today people are more attached to their land, as sometimes there is no other place to move to. Global conglomerates have the ability to deal with governments directly and can been seen as a way to bring development into an area. However more often than not, this hurts the people rather than help. Companies have been known among other things, to destroy land, forcing more people off their land and into working the factories. At this step people no longer can survive off of what they are able to produce, since their work, all though might deal with picking or processing food goods, results in physical money. Now the price they pay for food is no longer the amount of effort put into growing or gathering but into predetermined amounts set by a third party. The amount they work does not equal what they are paid and thus they are often unable to sufficiently feed themselves or their families.

Another aspect of this is land degradation. The shift in global climates has caused many problems throughout the world. While one area is being flooded, another is suffering from a long drought. Either way unstable climate conditions can cause crops to fail. Another way crops can fail is if the land is being polluted by a factory or the natural settings are being harvested at an unsustainable rate. An example of this is from an article from BBC about logging in the Congo basin in Cameroon. The Ngola Baka are hunter-gatherers the rely on the forests for food. Despite attempts in proving their ownership of the land, the Ngola Baka cannot keep the loggers away. Removed from their food source, they are forced into poverty and can no longer feed themselves. 

The Ngola Baka is just one example of how breaking the connection between land and people often leads to hunger. In a first world country where most people are entirely disconnected from any form of food production, this does not seem like a problem. The difference is we have the means to get money to pay for the food. Even so in the US there are still people going hungry, while we export our surplus elsewhere. In third world countries, there is often no means of obtaining money. People that could produce their own food have had no need for money. When land is removed, the people have no way of growing food, and thus have to rely on some form of making money to survive.

I believe that in order to best help many of these struggling areas is to force companies to take responsibility for their actions and either clean up the environment they polluted, pay their workers more, collect resources in a sustainable way that compensates the true owners of the land, or simply leave. Once a connection is made back to the land, that is no longer being harmed, there is once again hope that people will be able to support themselves.


  1. Nice post! A lot to think about here. I like your final suggestions, but I wonder how that could be achieved? What do you think? Are there any examples where such things have been accomplished?

  2. By the way, as administrator of the blog, I made a few edits to the formatting of this post to make it more readable.