Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 08: Poverty

poverty, n.

1. The state of being extremely poor.
2. The state of being insufficient in amount.

Today is Blog Action Day, and the topic of discussion this year is poverty.

As someone who is very concerned about environmental problems and conservation of biodiversity, the relevance of poverty to the issues closest to my heart might not be readily apparent. However, poverty and the state of the environment are actually inextricably linked together; to fully explain the complex and multi-faceted relationships between poverty and the environment would require a long series of posts, which I might have considered doing if I had more time, and greater expertise in critically analysing these issues. But suffice to say that all over the world, people trying to manage environmental degradation or conservation also have to grapple with issues of poverty. Whether it is combating desertification and staving off famine in the Sahel by introducing better agricultural practices, compensating farmers and livestock herders in India for losses resulting from wildlife depredations, or developing ecotourism in Venezuela so that villagers will see more value in keeping a rainforest rather than having it razed for timber, the conservationists and environmentalists involved in such projects and initiatives are all too aware that tackling environmental problems usually goes hand in hand with solving the problems of the people first.

Here in Singapore, where the vast majority of us do not have to worry about starving to death, bathing in rivers filled with raw sewage, or drinking water laden with toxic industrial waste, the lives of the millions for whom such scenarios are part and parcel of daily life can be difficult to identify with. Those horrific scenes of slums and famines, of fly-infested refugee camps and garbage-choked rivers, might seem distant, unfamiliar, even alien. But let's not forget that today, poverty still exists in Singapore, even though most of us choose to ignore it. There is still much that can be done to tackle this problem, both on a local and global basis.

When November and I made a television appearance on Rouge in April earlier this year as members of the Naked Hermit Crabs, we met two very passionate members of ONE (SINGAPORE), President Vernetta Lopez and co-founder Michael Switow. They spoke up about poverty, and the global movements that are calling for much more to be done. One of the biggest campaigns is Stand Up, which serves as a reminder to the rest of the world about the Millennium Development Goals, which leaders of 189 countries had agreed upon and signed in 2000.

Singapore will be taking part in this global mobilisation, with various events being held all across the country. This is the opportunity for all of us to stand up and speak out against poverty, and let our voices be heard.

For if we choose to continue to ignore poverty and the implications that it has on the environment, then perhaps it points to a very different sort of poverty within us.