Microcredit Promotes Ecological and Economical Sustainability

<p>To those of us who live in the industrialized world, living more sustainably is mostly a matter of choice. We can choose to drive less. We can choose food which is grown locally. We can boycott brands with a poor track record on social issues. We can choose to invest our savings in firms and funds which avoid practices which we deem unfavorable.<br /> <br /> Sadly, for more than a billion people, there is no choice. Their existence is so very hardscrabble and their dietary habits so hand-to-mouth that the only choice is death or a most meager existence.<br /> <br /> When underprivileged people, especially parents, are asked to live a greener, more environmentally friendly existence, their thought process quite understandably turns to basic necessities and giving their children a chance at a better life, not whether their rate of consumption causes damage to the environment. Besides, in many cases, the underprivileged consume a mere fraction of manufactured or carbon-intensive goods compared with the rest of us. Hence, is the request even reasonable?<br /> <br /> You likely have heard the statistic, espoused by such luminaries as Bono, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates, that a million children die each day worldwide from preventable conditions, such as curable disease, dehydration and starvation. Sadly, the statistic is true. In the course of helping these people become self-sufficient, we can give them the skills not only to feed, clothe and house themselves better but be examples for the rest of the world of how easy it can be to embrace environmental sustainability at the same time. Microcredit can be an invaluable tool in such a process.<br /> <br /> <img src="http://www.keyboard-culture.com/blogpics/keyoard_culture_cooking.jpg" border="0" alt="" hspace="5" align="right" />Here&rsquo;s a quick example. In Madagascar, an island nation which suffers from rampant, abject poverty and environmental degradation, charcoal is the most common fuel utilized in the cooking of food. Many people there are utterly destitute. To them, $100 would be a windfall. It is more money than they see in a month. So, how do they obtain the charcoal? They utilize whatever is freely at hand and by free, I mean free of charge and free from consequence.<br /> <br /> Madagascar once was a breathtakingly lush and biodiverse environmental jewel. Tragically, today, less than 10% of its once vast forest remains and more is lost every day, largely due to rural cutting in the quest for charcoal. Yes, these poor people, who often do not know any better or have no viable alternative, chop down the trees which help provide them with potable water and fresh air just so that they can cook their next meal.<br /> <br /> Microcredit can be part of the solution. The key lies in understanding that the people Madagascar love their lush forests and regret destroying them but must feed themselves and their children. If the choice comes down to starvation or deforestation, we know which option will win. Any of us would choose likewise in the same situation.<br /> <br /> Microcredit makes it possible to teach one person in each village how to prepare food without destroying the forest. It can begin with the knowledge and then be enhanced with simple, inexpensive materials which allow for solar cooking. Once that knowledge exists in the mind of one person in the village, the barter system can be used to share it with the rest of the village. Over time, the benefits can be compounded and soon, everyone is cooking sustainably.<br /> <br /> With less time spent cutting trees for charcoal, more can be directed into artesian works, producing more goods which can be sold in the marketplace. More goods sold in the marketplace means more money for the village. Over time, when that money is pooled, rural electrification becomes possible. With rural electrification, it becomes possible to produce more sophisticated goods for the marketplace.<br /> <br /> With each evolutionary step in the process, profit margins grow and the standard of living in the village rises proportionally. In the end, it is possible to take a once primitive corner of the world and convert it into a thriving community with a school and small hospital which can store and distribute medicine which otherwise would spoil due to the lack of refrigeration.<br /> <br /> The example cited here can be extended most anywhere in the developing world. Once people have a fair shot at a decent life, it becomes possible to use the school which microcredit helped them build in order to teach other lessons of sustainability&nbsp;&ndash;&nbsp;and the cycle perpetuates itself.<br /> <br /> In the end, vast reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from developing nations become possible all because a microcredit program found someone in a poor, rural village who was willing to work for a better tomorrow <strong>and lending that person $500 or $1,000</strong>. <em>That&rsquo;s less than some of us in the industrialized world spend on groceries in a month!</em><br /> <br /> The Green Children Foundation is a fine organization working to chip away at the woeful shortages of microcredit. You can read more about them at <a href="http://www.thegreenchildren.org" target="_blank">thegreenchildren.org</a> and be sure to scroll to watch the video below for inspiration.</p>
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<p><span style="font-size: xx-small;"><em><strong><span style="color: #006600;">&gt;&gt;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.keyboard-culture-global-warming.com">Be sure to check out Corbett's high-traffic expert blog on Keyboard Culture</a>.</span></strong></em></span></p>