Overall, I thought Ana’s and my presentation went pretty well. We definitely tried very hard to find additional sources to back up our information, and I think it paid off. When we finished up our power-point, I was pretty happy with the way we presented our information and looking forward to answering maybe one or two questions when I got quite the surprise. The class actually participated in an animated discussion! It was pretty cool. People who I had never heard say anything in class were asking questions. I think almost everyone in the class asked at least on question. And they were good questions, too. Ana and I definitely didn’t know the answers to some of them, but just getting the questions out there to facilitate discussion was great, I thought. I was surprised how much our topic affected the class.
One of the questions that I don’t think we answered very well was the question of how developed countries should approach the sustainability issue in underdeveloped countries. This one question begs several others. Like Dr. Gross asked, should the United States act as a parent toward underdeveloped countries, demanding that they follow certain rules? Or should the U.S. stay out of the picture and let the poorer nations figure things out for themselves? Who should provide aid to these countries to facilitate the transition from biomass fuels to more sustainable options? The countries themselves? Developed nations? NGOs? Are GHGs and sustainability even an issue in underdeveloped countries or do they have too many other issues to deal with (corrupt governments, failing economies, limited resources, civil and international warfare, etc.)?
So many questions. Obviously, it is a very complicated topic. Realistically, I do not think that sustainability is very high on the list of priorities for underdeveloped countries. They just have too many other things to worry about. In a more perfect world, sustainability would be integrated into every area of development. But, of course, that is little more than a dream.
Clearly, the path towards sustainability and care for the environment in underdeveloped countries (as well as developed nations) will be a long and steep one. But I think it is the duty of the more developed nations to help the underdeveloped ones realize the importance of sustainability. If that means providing money to allow villagers to buy more efficient stoves or facilitating the education of women on the subject of indoor air pollution, then developed nations must rise to the occasion. This does not mean that developed nations should “tell” underdeveloped ones what to do, but rather work together with them to find reasonable, sustainable options to development problems.
The more I think about this topic, the more I think about the Poverty and Underdevelopment class I took last semester. I read more for that class than for any other class I have ever taken. I don’t know if I’ll ever have to read more for a class. Anyway, basically what I learned from that class was that development cannot occur without the ‘donors’ (developing nations, NGOs, etc.) listening to the poor. The ‘donors’ cannot just swoop in and ‘fix’ things because situations are vastly different in different parts of the underdeveloped world. So knowledge as a two-way-road (donors learn from the poor just as the poor learn from donors) was a major point we discussed in that class. We also came to the conclusion (with the help of our readings) that education, especially of women, simplified projects, flexibility, longer time frames, and micro-credit all contributed to the success of development aid projects.
I could go into greater detail about how that class connects to the paper Ana and I presented, but I have neither the time nor the desire. The point I guess I am trying to make is that development is not easy, and developed nations go into underdeveloped nations with a rigidly defined project and expect it to work. The same goes with the process of moving towards sustainable practices (which, as I explained earlier, is intricately twisted with development). Developed nations need to learn from the poor, have the poor identify their needs, and then propose sustainable options. Ideally, sustainability should be a byproduct of successful development.
Well, I figure I’ve confused you enough for the time being. Until next time…
P.S.- The other day, I was talking to my manager at work who is from Zimbabwe and discovered that he has first hand experience with using biomass fuels! He told me that they primarily used kerosene (or, as he called it, paraffin) because it was cheaper than charcoal. I found that interesting because the study made it sound like kerosene was much more expensive than charcoal. Steve did say that they used a lot of wood, too, though. I wish I would have spoken to him before our presentation, it would have been interesting to use him as a source…