NEWARK, New Jersey — Perhaps the most straightforward method of resolving poverty is to simply provide necessary resources to poor countries. However, when these resources are in short supply, this can prove to be challenging. That is where sustainability comes into play.
Generally speaking, sustainability involves maximizing the availability of today’s resources so that future generations will be able to use them as well. Sustainability is a great way to help ensure the stability of a society. Additionally, it can offer various social and economic benefits such as improving health and reducing poverty. Professor Hun Bok Jung, an environmental science instructor at New Jersey City University, spoke with The Borgen Project about the importance of sustainability and how it can improve the issues that many poor countries face.
Why is Sustainability Important?
When asked about the importance of sustainability, Professor Jung emphasized that it pertains to multiple facets of society such as the environment and “social and economic components.” Without sustainability, many cities, countries and even the world would totally collapse.
Additionally, he mentioned how improved sustainability helps establish long-term growth while also tackling current issues such as climate change, economic instability and social conflicts. Some of the world’s poorest nations could greatly benefit from any social stability that sustainability can bring.
For example, South Sudan is the world’s youngest country and holds a higher poverty rate than any other nation in 2022. Much of this is due to the fact that South Sudan has been involved in a civil war for most of its time as an independent nation and still faces some internal conflict even after signing a ceasefire in 2020. Perhaps, with some improvements to sustainability, South Sudan and other impoverished nations could greatly decrease their involvement in military conflicts and focus on lowering poverty.
How Can Sustainability Reduce Global Poverty?
In addition to resolving social conflicts, pursuing sustainability can reduce poverty by targeting other key aspects of society. The two that Professor Jung touched on specifically were food production and equality.
Working towards more sustainable agriculture can greatly increase food production in the future. This is important for lower-income countries as they struggle the most to adequately feed their citizens. Food insecurity can be a result of uneven food distribution, high food costs or other factors. However, the presence of more food greatly mitigates these issues,
Professor Jung also stated that pursuing sustainability allows the opportunity to focus on “underrepresented and poor communities.” Whether it exists between genders, ethnicities or religions, inequality exists almost anywhere in the world. Inequality especially exists in poorer parts of the world such as sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Improved sustainability, could better address the issue of inequality, which could lift the world’s poorer citizens out of poverty.
How Can Sustainability Improve Global Health?
Pursuing sustainability can also result in various benefits for the environment that can, ultimately, improve global health. Professor Jung highlighted the fact that greater sustainability can bring cleaner water, air and soil with it. A cleaner environment is particularly vital for underdeveloped countries as they have much shorter life expectancies because their citizens are more likely to be exposed to toxins in water and air.
Professor Jung’s assessment accurately matches recent data. In 2021, most of the countries with the shortest life expectancies were located in sub-Saharan Africa. Unsurprisingly, five of the top 10 nations with the world’s worst drinking water were located in that region as well. Furthermore, poor water quality leads to concerning disparities amongst the citizens of these nations, such as urban areas having cleaner water than rural areas or many people needing to travel great distances to get safe drinking water.
The added benefit of a cleaner environment would be helpful to developed nations as well. For example, Hong Kong is one of the most developed areas in the world; yet, it struggles with very poor air quality, water pollution and food waste, all issues that could be alleviated with more sustainability. Whether the country is rich or poor, a healthier environment is something that everyone can benefit from.
How Can We Increase Sustainability?
Although making the world more sustainable is not something that can be done overnight, taking action today can ensure that it happens sooner rather than later. Professor Jung stressed the importance of both individuals and countries making changes to achieve this goal.
On an individual level, minor lifestyle changes such as wasting less food or using less water and electricity are great ways to preserve important resources. Meanwhile, countries can introduce new policies and campaigns to help reach sustainability goals. The desired results may not come immediately. However, with enough time and effort, the citizens in the world today can ensure a much better world for the citizens in the future.
– Tyshon Johnson