2 Major Environmental Impacts of Poverty

The environmental impacts of poverty have received less attention than the effects of human activity on the environment in this day and age.

Let us now acknowledge that poverty has an impact on the environment and that both anthropogenic and natural environmental effects negatively affect human well-being and exacerbate poverty.

“End Poverty in all forms everywhere” is the primary Sustainable Development Goal.

Every nation on the planet is working toward the goal of ending poverty so that everyone, including the most vulnerable and impoverished, would have equitable access to financial resources, wholesome living environments, and modern infrastructure and technology.

Furthermore, there is little question that the impoverished are more severely vulnerable than the rich to the effects of environmental deterioration.

The average living standard has increased over the last few decades, but the gap between the very rich and the very poor has also widened.

Nearly half of all people on the planet live on less than USD 5.50 per day, while the richest 1% of individuals in the world hold 44% of all wealth. Richer countries have up to 30 times higher average per capita usage of oil and other resources than poorer ones.

Women are more likely to work in low-paying or unpaid jobs among the impoverished, and female-headed households rank among the lowest in the world. A child born into an affluent family has a lower chance of dying before turning five years old in emerging nations than a child born to poor parents.

The shortage of food and other basics is a manifestation of deeper systemic challenges in our unequal world. The scope and character of human needs worldwide must be taken into account in any attempt to address global environmental problems.

In addition to environmental issues, climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation, pollution, and other facets of global environmental change are also social and economic ones.

Environmental Impacts of Poverty

From an environmental standpoint, the main causes of environmental deterioration are poverty and unsustainable methods of production and consumption.

Poverty can also be a result of environmental deterioration and climate change. Although there isn’t a simple answer, poverty and the environment need to be tackled in tandem.

  • The Natural Environment and Poverty
  • The Contextual Environment and Poverty

1. The Natural Environment and Poverty

There are many interconnections between us and the natural world. It provides us with food and water. Many people rely on it for their living, and it enhances our prosperity and well-being. There are three main ways that nature alleviates poverty:

  • Deforestation
  • Water pollution
  • Air quality

1. Deforestation

Deforestation—the removal or clearing of forests—affects billions of people worldwide. Over 300 million people live in the forest, and 1.6 billion rely on it for their livelihood, according to the World Wildlife Fund. People lose their homes and the resources they depend on to survive when deforestation takes place.

Rainwater flows across the surface of the earth without penetrating as trees and other vegetation are destroyed, causing soil erosion into adjacent water systems.

When towns cannot manage the runoff and the land is unable to absorb water, substantial and disastrous flooding can result. Numerous individuals lose their lives as homes, schools, and other property are destroyed.

Furthermore, vegetation and trees enrich the soil with nutrients. Compacted, nutrient-deficient soil is harder to farm. Crop and food production declined, which made it harder for farmers to make a living and support their families.

Due to improper use of wood and other resources for housing, cooking, heating, and crafts, poverty causes deforestation, depriving vulnerable populations of necessities and hastening the downward spiral of poverty and environmental degradation.

Poor people find it difficult to manage the natural resources accessible to them sustainably and soundly, which results in the loss of biological variety and livelihood chances. This is because they have limited access to knowledge and information.

2. Water Pollution

Any toxic material that contaminates a water system and the ecology that flows through it is considered water pollution. The fishing sector, farmers, and others who depend on natural water sources for clean drinking water face challenges due to contaminated water.

According to World Bank estimates, at least one-third of the world’s annual output of solid waste—2.01 billion tons—is not managed in a way that protects the environment. Waste enters water systems improperly and disrupts the environment of the water.

Each component of an ecosystem serves a certain purpose. When an ecosystem in water is functioning properly, the water is clear and has all the elements needed for plants and aquatic life to thrive. The natural order of things is upset when they are out of balance.

For example, hypoxic water, which lacks oxygen, results in algal blooms and a decline in freshwater plant and animal life. Malnutrition may result for those who depend on fish as their primary source of protein, and it damages economies that depend on fishing for commerce and revenue.

Freshwater fish are the primary source of protein for at least 200 million people, with 60 million people—more than half of whom are women—depending on them for a living.

Algae can grow quickly amid an overabundance of nitrogen in a water ecosystem, which can be brought on by fecal contamination. This can result in hypoxic water systems and algae blooms.

Additionally, diseases like diarrhea, dengue fever, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio can be spread by contaminated water and inadequate sanitation.

3. Air Quality

Inadequate production methods employed by the impoverished due to a lack of resources or expertise, together with air pollution, are also to blame for climate change and global warming, which are unaffordable for developing nations to deal with.

According to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), nine out of ten individuals breathe air that contains high levels of pollutants, with exposure being highest for those who live in low- and middle-income nations.

However, as exposure to air pollution can result in permanent illness, disability, early mortality, and diminished learning potential, children are typically the ones who suffer the most.

Because early childhood development is essential to assisting children in becoming healthy, happy adults, the effect and potential harm are amplified when poverty and childhood are coupled.

In low-income nations, more than 90% of waste is frequently burned outdoors or dumped in uncontrolled landfills. Pollutants from burning rubbish have an impact on the air, water, and soil.

In addition to being detrimental to human health, these pollutants also cause respiratory conditions like emphysema, lung cancer, and heart disease.

2. The Contextual Environment and Poverty

A person’s upbringing has a significant impact on their development and identity. A person’s physical and contextual surroundings shape their chances of success as well as the challenges they encounter daily.

A person’s standard of living and quality of life are influenced by a variety of factors, including the climate, housing alternatives, land availability, water supply, insects that spread disease, waterborne infections, local infrastructure, and access to healthcare.

Because poverty frequently pushes impoverished individuals into marginal lands in rural areas, it accelerates erosion, increases ecological sensitivity, causes landslides, and causes other problems.

Insufficient resources in impoverished areas result in substandard garbage collection and handling, which in turn causes health issues. When energy supplies are used improperly, waste results, and energy prices rise, making energy inaccessible to the poor.

For example, whether a child survives past their first birthday depends on the contextual environment. It also determines a child’s likelihood of finishing elementary school, as well as their likelihood of being coerced into child labor, ending up as a child soldier, or becoming a victim of human trafficking.

Contextual factors can also worsen physical health issues in children and have an impact on their emotional well-being.

In addition to increasing the danger of disease transmission—particularly in the event of a pandemic or other health emergency—overcrowding metropolitan areas with a high concentration of impoverished people living in slums also raises the death toll from violent outbursts or natural disasters.

Another aspect of the environment that influences a child’s development is the family structure. Are both of your parents here? Is the primary caretaker your aunt, uncle, or grandparents? What is the number of kids in the family? Is the kid a foster child?

Extreme poverty can cause stress, which can then result in domestic abuse and violence against children, which can have long-lasting effects.

To reduce poverty and its negative effects on the environment, it is crucial that everyone have access to basic education, vocational training, and community education about sustainable agricultural practices, waste management, natural resource management, coastal protection, water resource management, and fisheries management.

Reforestation initiatives and measures to halt deforestation can provide a more sustainable resource base that helps the underprivileged. Low-income households’ energy bills can be significantly decreased while also conserving the environment through the local, inexpensive production of fuel-efficient stoves and heating equipment.

Providing Healthy Environments for Children in Need

To free a child from poverty, we must address all of the causes and methods by which poverty ensnares a child, as poverty is a multifaceted issue that affects every area of a person’s existence.

It necessitates a strategy that addresses all facets and forms of poverty, taking into account contextual as well as natural environmental problems and circumstances.

It entails establishing safe, healthy spaces where kids can develop and learn without fear, where they can stop struggling to survive and start learning to flourish, and where they feel loved and cared for.

By being a sponsor, you can significantly and practically change a child’s present and future surroundings. By sponsoring your kid, you fight poverty on their behalf by giving them access to clean water, health care, wholesome food, educational opportunities, adult support, and more.

Whatever your definition of environmental poverty, you may contribute to changing how a child is affected by it.


Editor at EnvironmentGo! | providenceamaechi0@gmail.com | + posts

A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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