The Road from Rio: Sustainable Development and the Nongovernmental Movement in the Third World

By Julie Fisher | Go to book overview

5
Poverty, Environmental Degradation, and Population Growth: The Role of GRSOs

The Poor will eat up the environment for the sake of survival: we cannot prevent them from doing so.

Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank1

This chapter concentrates on how GRSOs are confronting the three horsemen of the current apocalypse in the Third World. Although increasing poverty, environmental degradation, and population growth are closely interrelated, the directions of causality are complex and multidimensional. Overpopulation leads to deforestation or soil exhaustion, which leads to increasing poverty. Increasing poverty leads to migration to more remote areas where the cycle begins again. Landlessness, an absence of opportunities for women, and a lack of hope that children will survive, on the other hand, provide little incentive for the success of birth control. And environmental destruction by outside interests can increase poverty even if the people and the environment have coexisted for generations.

Whatever their substantive focus and whether or not they specialize or promote integrated development, GRSOs almost always use nonformal adult education. 2 Although nonformal education may include literacy, it most often focuses on some combination of preventive health care, agriculture, and enterprise development. Until the late 1980s, however, training did not often deal with the connections between poverty and environmental deterioration. Although two-thirds of Schneider ( 1985) worldwide sample of ninety-three GRSOs focused on food or water, only ten dealt with soil erosion and twenty-three with reforestation.

Since the mid-1980s, rising environmental concern has increasingly been

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