An introduction to the most important issues facing an increasingly globalized world with this thoroughly updated and revised sixth edition. Global Issues is an accessible, wide-ranging introduction to the major environmental and development issues confronting the modern world. Spanning disciplines such as political science, economics, sociology, ecology, international relations, and development studies, this popular textbook enables students to develop a broad perspective on the relationships between nations, society, corporations, and the environment in various contexts. Exploring issues surrounding wealth, poverty, inequality, climate change, natural resources, pollution, technology, and others, the text illustrates the importance of global solutions to the issues facing increasingly interdependent nations around the world. This sixth edition has been extensively revised to ensure contemporary relevance, featuring updated case studies and compelling research on food security, poverty, and the impact of climate change on development. New discussions explore energy, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, differences in the social and economic conditions of rich and poor countries, and environmental trends. Providing an integrated, multidisciplinary perspective, this unique text: * Examines the intersection of development, inequality, environment, and society * Covers topically relevant issues such as population growth, shifting demographics, renewable energy, and the threats that development poses to the environment * Discusses possible future scenarios and governance concerns related to Global Issues * Explores shifts in traditional development pathways and policies around the world * Offers numerous student-friendly features, including chapter summaries, a glossary of key terms, further reading suggestions, and extensive online media and learning tools Global Issues: An Introduction, Sixth Edition is an ideal entry-level textbook for a range of courses including global studies, international studies, environmental studies, geography, politics, sociology, sustainable development, and more.
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List of Plates
List of Figures, Maps, and Tables
The Creation of Global Issues
Chapter 1: What is Development?
Developing Toward What?
Twentieth‐Century Approach: Development as Economic Growth
Twenty‐First‐Century Approach: Developing towards Sustainability
Development Assistance and Foreign Aid
Culture and Development
Chapter 2: Wealth and Poverty
Can We Eradicate Poverty?
Trade and Global Economic Interdependence
Geography and Wealth, Geography and Poverty
Chapter 3: Population
The Changing Population of the World
Causes of the Population Explosion
How Population Growth Affects Development
How Development Affects Population Growth
International Conferences on Population
Governmental Population Policies
Chapter 4: Food
How Many Are Hungry?
World Food Production
How Development Affects Food
United States: Industrial Agriculture and Farm Consolidation
Brazil: Becoming a Food Exporter by Expanding the Agricultural Frontier
China: Limited Land to Grow, Many Mouths to Feed
Feeding a Growing Population
Causes of World Hunger
How Food Affects Development
What’s your Footprint?
Chapter 5: Energy
The Relationship between Energy Use and Development
Nonrenewable Energy Sources
Global Oil Supplies and Price Shocks
The Energy Transition
Renewable Energy Sources
Energy and Development: Critical Challenges and Opportunities
Nuclear Power: A Case Study
Chapter 6: Climate Change
An Unprecedented Global Challenge
How Increased Temperatures Impact the Earth
How Bad Will It Get?
Global Agreement for a Global Problem
What More Can Be Done?
Chapter 7: The Environment: Natural Resources
Governing the Commons
The Extinction of Species
Chapter 8: The Environment: Pollution
The Workplace and the Home
Chapter 9: Technology
Benefits of Technology
Unanticipated Consequences of the Use of Technology
Inappropriate Uses of Technology
Limits to the “Technological Fix”
The Threat of Nuclear Weapons: A Case Study
Chapter 10: Alternative Futures
Development Pathways: Evaluating Our Current Situation
Governance: Deciding How to Act on the Choices We Make
Appendix 1: Studying and Teaching Global Issues
For the Student
For the Teacher
Appendix 2: Relevant Videos
End User License Agreement
Table 2.1 Global extreme poverty rate
Table 3.2 Ten largest cities in the world, 1990, 2014, 2050 (projection)
Table 3.1 Time taken to add each billion to the world population, 1800–2046 (...
Table 4.1 Percentage of undernourished people by region
Table 4.2 Number and size of US farms, 1940–2010
Table 4.3 Percentage of adults overweight and obese (various countries)
Table 5.1 Top world oil producers, 2017
Table 5.2 US gasoline prices, 1950–2017
Table 5.3 Per capita and total electricity consumption by region of the world...
Plate 1.1 Street children in Nepal
Figure 2.1 Global extreme poverty rate, 1980–2000
Figure 2.2 Poverty trend (by International Standards: $1.90 USD): China
Figure 2.3 Poverty trend (by International Standards: $1.90 USD): India
Figure 2.4 Percent of the global population living in poverty on less than $...
Plate 2.1 Poverty in Indonesia
Plate 2.2 The weight of poverty falls heavily on children in poorer nations...
Figure 2.5 Number of extremely poor individuals by region
Figure 2.6 People living on less than International Poverty Line ($1.90 USD)...
Figure 2.7 People living on less than International Poverty Line ($1.90 USD)...
Plate 2.3 The market approach is followed on the streets in many countries...
Plate 2.4 The state approach to development struggles to survive the collaps...
Figure 2.8 World trade: merchandise exports, 1950–2015
Figure 3.1 Population growth and projection from 8000 BCE to 2100 CE
Figure 3.2 Population by region: estimates, 1950–2015, and medium variant pr...
Figure 3.3 World population projections to 2100: three scenarios
Plate 3.1 Many migrants move to informal settlements in urban areas
Figure 3.4 Percentage of the population by age for urban and rural areas of ...
Figure 3.5 Global urban population growth by city sizeUnited Nations, Depart...
Figure 3.6 Percentage of urban by income group, 1950–2050
Figure 3.7 Average annual rate of change of the percentage of urban resident...
Figure 3.8 Most populous countries by millions.
: Population Reference ...
Figure 3.9 The classic stages of demographic transitions.
Figure 3.10 Demographic transition in Sweden and Mexico
Figure 3.11 Life expectancy at birth (years) by region: estimates 1975–2015 ...
Figure 3.12 Population structure by gender and age‐group, annual 2018
Plate 3.2 Children take care of children in many situations, as this girl is...
Figure 3.13 Distribution of the world’s population by age and sex, 2017
Plate 3.3 Growing cities in less developed nations often have a mixture of m...
Figure 3.14 Percentage of population in broad age groups for the world and b...
Figure 3.15 Young children and older people as a percentage of global popula...
Figure 3.16 Fertility decline in world regions in terms of number of childre...
Plate 3.4 Breast‐feeding can delay a woman’s ability to conceive and provide...
Plate 3.5 Advertisement for contraceptives in Costa Rica
Figure 3.17 Increases in modern contraceptive use in selected countries, by ...
Plate 3.6 Family planning class
Figure 3.18 A growing population and carrying capacity
Plate 3.7 A crowded train in Bangladesh
Figure 4.1 Contribution of agriculture as share of Gross Domestic Product, 2...
Plate 4.1 Starvation in Somalia
Plate 4.2 The bloated belly is a sign of malnutrition, a major cause of stun...
Plate 4.3 Obesity is an increasing health and nutrition challenge globally, ...
Figure 4.2 Correlation between consumption of animal products and GDP per ca...
Plate 4.4 Tropical rainforests are being cut down to clear land to raise bee...
Map 4.1 The Mediterranean
Figure 4.3 Number of Earths required to sustain global population, 1960–2050...
Plate 4.5 Street vendors sell food to many urban dwellers
Figure 4.4 Main drivers of food system transformation.
Plate 4.6 Women fishing in the Zambezi river
Plate 5.1 In some areas, human‐powered vehicles are more common than oil‐fue...
Figure 5.1 Global energy consumption, 1850–2000 (twentieth‐century developme...
Figure 5.2 World energy consumption by source, 1990–2040 (in quadrillion BTU...
Figure 5.3 Crude oil spot market prices 2000–2020
Figure 5.4 Global energy supply
: Mtoe is million tons of oil equivalen...
Plate 5.2 Solar thermal power plant, California
Plate 5.3 Solar energy provides power for a water pump in Morocco
Plate 5.4 Wind turbines in Altamont Pass, California
Plate 5.5 Geothermal power plant, California
Plate 5.6 Shortage of wood is a part of the energy crisis, since many urban ...
Figure 5.5 Global fossil fuel production in select countries (2016)
Figure 5.6 China’s primary energy consumption
Figure 5.7 Global nuclear production from 1971 to 2012
Figure 6.1 Global carbon dioxide emissions from human activity
Figure 6.2 Climate impacts to agricultural production, by region and crop
Figure 6.3 Globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature ano...
Plate 7.1 Deforestation in Mexico
Map 8.1 China
Plate 8.1 Vehicles, such as this truck/bus, provide a lot of air pollution i...
Plate 8.2 Water pollution in the United States is partly caused by large amo...
Plate 9.1 Without modern technology to help, necessary tasks can be difficul...
Map 9.1 Borneo and Indonesia
Map 9.2 Africa
Plate 9.2 Underground nuclear weapons testing in the United States
Figure 9.1 Countries with nuclear weapons capacity
Figure 10.1 Number of planetary limits exceeded when meeting basic needs
Table of Contents
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Kristen A. Hite and John L. Seitz
This sixth edition first published 2021© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
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Library of Congress Cataloging‐in‐Publication DataNames: Hite, Kristen A., author. | Seitz, John L., 1931‒ author.Title: Global issues : an introduction / Kristen A. Hite and John L. Seitz.Description: Sixth edition. | Hoboken, NJ : Wiley‐Blackwell, 2020. | Includes bibliographical references and index.Identifiers: LCCN 2020012767 (print) | LCCN 2020012768 (ebook) | ISBN 9781119538509 (Paperback) | ISBN 9781119538523 (Adobe PDF) | ISBN 9781119538486 (epub)Subjects: LCSH: Economic development. | Developing countries‒Economic policy. | Developing countries‒Economic conditions. | Economic history‒1945‒Classification: LCC HD82 .H528 2020 (print) | LCC HD82 (ebook) | DDC 338.9‒dc23LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020012767LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020012768
Cover Design: WileyCover Image: © David Malan/Photographer’s Choice RF/Getty Images
To those who serve the needs of others – humans, animals, and plants, all essential parts of our lovely but endangered planet
Street children in Nepal
Poverty in Indonesia
The weight of poverty falls heavily on children in poorer nations
The market approach is followed on the streets in many countries
The state approach to development struggles to survive the collapse of communist regimes in Europe, as can be seen in the posters of a Communist Party conference in Nepal
Many migrants move to informal settlements in urban areas
Children take care of children in many situations, as this girl is doing in Mexico
Growing cities in less developed nations often have a mixture of modern and substandard housing
Breast‐feeding can delay a woman’s ability to conceive and provides the most healthful food for a baby
Advertisement for contraceptives in Costa Rica
Family planning class
A crowded train in Bangladesh
Starvation in Somalia
The bloated belly is a sign of malnutrition, a major cause of stunting and death in children worldwide
Obesity is an increasing health and nutrition challenge globally, particularly in some wealthier countries like the United States
Tropical rainforests are being cut down to clear land to raise beef cattle for the US fast‐food market – the so‐called “hamburger connection”
Street vendors sell food to many urban dwellers
Women fishing in the Zambezi river
In some areas, human‐powered vehicles are more common than oil‐fueled vehicles
Solar thermal power plant, California
Solar energy provides power for a water pump in Morocco
Wind turbines in Altamont Pass, California
Geothermal power plant, California
Shortage of wood is a part of the energy crisis, since many urban dwellers in developing nations rely on wood as their major source of fuel
Deforestation in Mexico
Vehicles, such as this truck/bus, provide a lot of air pollution in the cities of countries with weaker air pollution laws
Water pollution in the United States is partly caused by large amountsof pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, which run off from fields during storms
Without modern technology to help, necessary tasks can be difficult. A woman in Nepal breaks up clumps of soil to prepare the land for planting
Underground nuclear weapons testing in the United States
Global extreme poverty rate, 1980–2000
Poverty trend (by International Standards: $1.90 USD): China
Poverty trend (by International Standards: $1.90 USD): India
Percent of the global population living in poverty on less than $1.90 USD a day: International Poverty Line ($1.90)
Number of extremely poor individuals by region
People living on less than International Poverty Line ($1.90 USD): Sub‐Saharan Africa
People living on less than International Poverty Line ($1.90 USD): South Asia
World trade: merchandise exports, 1950–2015
Population growth and projection from 8000 BCE to 2100 CE
Population by region: estimates, 1950–2015, and medium variant projection, 2015–2100
World population projections to 2100: three scenarios
Percentage of the population by age for urban and rural areas of countries in three groups, 2015
Global urban population growth by city size
Percentage of urban by income group, 1950–2050
Average annual rate of change of the percentage of urban residents by major area, 1950–2050
Most populous countries by millions
The classic stages of demographic transitions
Demographic transition in Sweden and Mexico
Life expectancy at birth (years) by region: estimates 1975–2015 and projections 2015–2050
Population structure by gender and age‐group, annual 2018
Distribution of the world’s population by age and sex, 2017
Percentage of population in broad age groups for the world and by region, 2017
Young children and older people as a percentage of global population: 1950 to 2050
Fertility decline in world regions in terms of number of children per woman by region from 1950 to 2100 (projected)
Increases in modern contraceptive use in selected countries, by percentage of women
A growing population and carrying capacity
Contribution of agriculture as share of Gross Domestic Product, 2012 (percent)
Correlation between consumption of animal products and GDP per capita in developing countries
Number of Earths required to sustain global population, 1960–2050 (scenarios)
Main drivers of food system transformation
Global energy consumption, 1850–2000 (twentieth‐century development model)
World energy consumption by source, 1990–2040 (in quadrillion BTUs)
Crude oil spot market prices 2000–2020
Global energy supply
Global fossil fuel production in select countries (2016)
China’s primary energy consumption
Global nuclear production from 1971 to 2012
Global carbon dioxide emissions from human activity
Climate impacts to agricultural production, by region and crop
Globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature anomaly
Countries with nuclear weapons capacity
Number of planetary limits exceeded when meeting basic needs
Borneo and Indonesia
Global extreme poverty rate
Time taken to add each billion to the world population, 1800–2046 (projection)
Ten largest cities in the world, 1990, 2014, 2050 (projection)
Percentage of undernourished people by region
Number and size of US farms, 1940–2010
Percentage of adults overweight and obese (various countries)
Top world oil producers, 2017
US gasoline prices, 1950–2017
Per capita and total electricity consumption by region of the world, 2016
This edition benefited from the substantial research contributions of Brian Farrell (Wealth and Poverty), Monika Shepard (Population), Jason Farr (Food), Carlos Saavedra (Energy), Katherine Liljestrand (Natural Resources and Pollution), and Liz Schmitt (Technology and Sustainable Futures). We would like to thank the following reviewers who made useful suggestions for improving this edition: Dr Laté Lawson‐Lartego, Amanda Davis Edwards, Ed.D. Brian Farrell, Justin Vaughan, Merryl Le Roux, Liz Wingett, Caroline McPherson, and Rajalakshmi Nadarajan.We would also like to thank Wofford College, both for providing author John Seitz with an office and for supporting the development and teaching of Global Issues as a semester‐long course, which enabled author Kristen Hite to take the class from Dr Seitz in the late 1990s and orient towards the subjects covered in this book.
What causes an issue to become a “global issue”? Are “global issues” the same as international affairs – the interactions that governments, private organizations, and peoples from different countries have with each other? Or is something new happening in the world? Are there now concerns and issues that are increasingly being recognized as global in nature? It is the thesis of this book that something new is indeed happening in the world as nations become more interdependent. While their well‐being is still largely dependent upon how they run their internal affairs, increasingly nations are facing issues that they alone cannot solve, issues that are so important that the failure to solve them will adversely affect the lives of many people on this planet. In fact, some of these issues are so important that they can affect how suitable this planet will be in the future for supporting life.
The issues dramatize our increasing interdependence. The communications and transportation revolutions that we are experiencing are giving people knowledge of many new parts of the globe. We see that what is happening in far‐off places can affect, or is affecting, our lives. For example, instability in the oil‐rich Middle East affects the price of oil around the world, and since many countries are dependent on oil as their main source of energy, the politics of oil becomes a global concern.
Many nations in the world are now dependent on other nations to buy their products and supply the natural resources and goods they need to purchase in order to maintain a certain standard of living. An economic downturn in any part of the world that affects the supply and demand for products will affect the economic status of many other nations. This is an important part of globalization that will be discussed in Chapter 2.
Even a global issue such as world hunger illustrates our increasing interdependence. A person might say that starving or malnourished people in Africa don’t affect people in the rich countries, but even here there is a dependency. Our very nature and character depend on how we respond to human suffering. Some rich nations such as the Scandinavian nations in northern Europe give a significantly higher portion of their national wealth to poor nations for development purposes than do other rich nations such as the United States and Japan.
Global issues are often seen as being interrelated. One issue affects other issues. For example, climate change (an environmental issue) is related to an energy issue (our reliance on fossil fuels), the population issue (more people produce more greenhouse gases), the wealth and poverty issue (wealthy countries produce the most gases that cause climate change), the technology issue (technology can help us create alternative energy sources that produce less or no greenhouse gases), and the future issue (will the changes we are making in the Earth’s climate seriously harm life on this planet?). As we recognize these interrelationships, we realize that usually there are no simple solutions.
Interdisciplinary knowledge is required to successfully deal with the issues. The student or adult learner reading this book will be receiving information from multiple disciplines such as biology, economics, political science, environmental science, chemistry, and others. Neither the social sciences nor the physical sciences have the answers on their own. Feel good about yourself, reader, because you are engaged in the noble task of trying to understand how the world really works. Complicated? Yes, of course. Impossible to discover? Certainly not. Just read seriously and carefully. It takes effort and you can keep learning throughout your life.
Perhaps, global issues were born on the day, several decades ago, when the Earth, for the first time, had its picture taken. The first photograph of Earth, which was transmitted by a spacecraft, showed our planet surrounded by a sea of blackness. Many people seeing that photograph realized that the blackness was a hostile environment, devoid of life, and that life on Earth was vulnerable and precious. No national boundaries could be seen from space. That photograph showed us our home – one world – and called for us to have a global perspective in addition to our natural, and desirable, more local and national perspectives.
This book discusses some of the main current global issues of our time. The reader can probably identify others. During the reader’s lifetime, humanity will have to face new global issues that will continue to surface. It is a characteristic of the world in which we live. Maybe our growing ability to identify such issues, and our increasing knowledge of how to deal with them, will enable us to handle the new issues better than we are doing with the present ones.
Developing Toward What?
Twentieth‐Century Approach: Development as Economic Growth
Twenty‐First‐Century Approach: Developing towards Sustainability
Wave of Hope: The Millennium Development Goals (2000–2015)
Sustainable Development Goals (2015–2030)
Development Assistance and Foreign Aid
Culture and Development
When we talk about global issues, “development” can be a confusing term. Development, as used in this book, is the ways in which economies progress through their societies to improve well‐being. This requires us to consider how to measure progress as a society at the global level. Cultures across the world have very different ideas of how to define progress. Many define it by material wealth. But not all, by any means. Bhutan, for example, has a national happiness indicator in addition to measuring national wealth by the more conventional means of domestic production (gross domestic product – GDP).
This inevitably causes us to wonder what we are developing toward? In other words, what is the end goal? More stuff? Longer lives? Better health? Smarter people? Better relationships? Greater happiness? That answer is not an easy one: embedded in it are many different assumptions that vary based on different cultures and values.
The United Nations defines human development as the enlarging of human capabilities and choices; in a yearly publication it ranks nations on a human development index, which tries to measure national differences of income, educational attainment, and life expectancy.1 The United Nations has suggested the purpose of development to be the creation of an environment in which people can lead long, healthy, and creative lives. But for most of the last century, most of development was geared towards increasing national incomes, on the assumption that developing towards wealth could lead to other benefits. Let’s explore further what twentieth‐century development looked like, and then consider what it means for an increasingly interdependent world with finite resources.
For roughly the past century, “development” has been viewed primarily through the lens of economic growth plus the social changes caused by or accompanying that economic growth.2 Economists have traditionally used gross national product (GNP) or a country’s average per capita income as the measures of economic development. Some organizations, such as the World Bank, also divide countries according to their level of income, and consider low‐ and middle‐income countries to be “developing” and high‐income countries to be “developed.” High‐income countries were early adopters of intensive manufacturing. They amassed large amounts of wealth that lifted many of their citizens out of poverty; economists referred to these “industrialized” nations as “developed” nations. Most of them are located in the northern hemisphere, so they are also sometimes called “the North.”
If we accept the vision of development as building wealth, it makes sense that the overwhelming priority is to transition from economies of subsistence (prioritizing getting households the basic resources on which to live) to economies of consumption (prioritizing getting households greater incomes to rapidly increase consumption and further stimulate the economy). This approach typically leads first to a transition towards industrialized economies, and then, as machines replace workers, to a second transition towards economies based on goods and services.
In the 1950s and 1960s, it was common to think of development only in economic terms. It was, of course, economic growth with the agricultural and industrial revolutions that created the increased food and higher standards of living that permitted more human beings to inhabit the planet. The development that took place in Europe and the United States as they industrialized led to an increase in the average family’s income, and this meant more money to buy goods, including food.
In the second half of the twentieth century, nations generally took one of two approaches to development. The first approach was to develop government policies focused on creating jobs and providing social services to meet basic needs.3 The other approach, encouraged by international development institutions like the World Bank, re‐evaluated the role of government in economic development and focused on minimizing government influence on market prices by gearing public policies away from regulation, encouraging the private sector to provide social services (also known as “market‐based solutions”).4 This market approach became known as the “Washington Consensus,” focusing on economic efficiency and fiscal discipline. Much foreign assistance in the twentieth century certainly encouraged nations along this route. The market approach in particular assumed that economic growth was functionally synonymous with “development.”
Unprecedented economic growth and material prosperity took place in a handful of countries like the United States during the twentieth century, and this was made possible, in large part, by cheap energy and abundant access to resources, often exported from other countries. The desire to achieve the high living standards of the Northwest by following the route taken by the United States and other wealthier nations – both capitalist and communist in the past – with their emphasis on industrialization has been attractive to many governments as a seemingly clear development path towards poverty reduction.
Mostly by default, this became the “model” for development, where individual lifestyles and modes of industrial production were based on converting raw materials to more expensive and useful productions, utilizing plentiful, inexpensive, polluting energy – a model that has driven climate change and placed the future of our planet in jeopardy. For example, in the 1990s, the Chinese economy grew at an amazing 10 percent a year, lifting millions of people out of poverty. And with this new wealth came a massive need for increased energy production as well as a tidal wave of demand for the increased production of consumer goods.
But does this kind of development work for everyone? Results have been mixed, and you can use this book to help make your own assessment. Some of those working in international development recognized that this development strategy was a gamble, that maybe benefits would not trickle down to the poor, but the alternative of trying to work directly with the millions of rural poor did not seem viable. Poverty rates dropped substantially in a number of industrialized countries – although in some places, national incomes went up more than poverty rates went down. The Washington Consensus led on one hand to increases in the GDPs of many countries but also to cuts in social spending – and as a result some of the poorest became even worse off.5 By some estimates, only 20 percent of development assistance reached rural populations, even though the clear majority of people lived in rural areas.6
The process of creating wealth has also created negative impacts to the environment. Countries are slowly realizing that the effects of economic activity on the environment should not be ignored. But awareness is not high in countries, especially ones that are still in the early stages of industrialization. This helps explain why some countries have welcomed polluting industries, such as factories that manufacture asbestos, since jobs today are often prioritized over a vague worry that workers may contract cancer in 20 to 30 years. But also, a slowly growing number of people realize that if the economic activity that gives jobs to people harms the environment, future costs resulting from that economic activity may become substantial.
At first, global discussions about development, environment, and social issues occurred on very separate tracks. The 1972 Stockholm Conference on Human Environment was seen by many poor countries as an effort by rich countries to constrain the development of the rest of the world under the auspices of environmental protection. The view at that time was that environmental protection was a luxury that could only be afforded once a country had developed. Besides, countries argued, most of the environmental problems were located in the handful of countries that had been able to accumulate wealth as they industrialized without the controls. But as environmental problems became more widespread, so did discussions about how they related to the development process itself.
In the 1970s an awareness grew – in both the “less developed” nations and the “developed” industrialized nations – that some of the social and environmental changes which were coming with economic growth were undesirable. More people were coming to understand that for economic development to result in happier human beings, attention would have to be paid to the effects that economic growth was having on social and environmental factors. Were an adequate number of satisfying and challenging jobs being created? Were adequate housing, healthcare, and education available? Did women have equal opportunities? Were people living and working in a healthy and pleasant environment? Did people have enough nutritious food to eat? Every country is deficient in some of these factors and, in this context, is still “developing” in some capacity.
By the 1980s, concerns were mounting about the social and environmental implications of more and more countries following a development model based on ever increasing rates of production and consumption. By 1987, the concept of “sustainable development” emerged in a landmark report by the Brundtland Commission called Our Common Future. The term means that economic growth in the present should not take place in such a manner that it reduces the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Economic growth and efforts to improve the living standards of the few or the many should be sustainable; in other words, they should be able to be continued without undermining the conditions that permit life on Earth, thus making future development impossible or much more difficult. The term represents an effort to tie economic growth, the protection of the environment, and social development together, a recognition that future economic growth is possible only if the basic systems that make life possible on Earth are not harmed. It also implies a recognition that the economy, the environment, and social conditions are all important, that economic development and the reduction of poverty are essential to the protection of the environment.
The United Nations environment conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 made the term “sustainable development” widely known around the world. Sustainable development was endorsed by the conference and a new organization – the Commission on Sustainable Development – was set up under the United Nations to monitor the progress nations are making to achieve it. But it still was not a mainstream concept for the development community.
Meanwhile, the social dimensions of development were becoming more acute. The elevated profile of the “Right to Development” from its introduction in 19817 made it clear that development needed to be inclusive, not just economically lucrative in the context of raising a country’s average GNP. The Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing elevated gender issues to a new level. The International Labor Organization saw a proliferation of global labor agreements to address some of the workforce challenges of industrialized economic growth. The World Bank and other multilateral development banks began adopting new policies and procedures to address unacceptable impacts to communities caught in the crosshairs of well‐intentioned development projects. And amid all of this, poverty remained persistent and pervasive, even as the twentieth‐century development model continued to churn out ever‐increasing rates of production and consumption.
As the challenges of inclusive development became more acute, in 2000, the nations of the world historically committed themselves to work toward helping the neediest when they endorsed the Millennium Declaration and adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which refocused development on the “basic needs” approach, recognizing that market‐based solutions alone could not solve widespread poverty and that governments needed to support effective social policies such as healthcare and education to avoid marginalizing the poor.8 Between 2000 and 2010, natural resource shortages contributed significantly to food and energy crises, in turn challenging traditional notions of economic development based on the once dominant Washington Consensus model.9
Continuing to focus on positive developments, one can find many reasons to feel optimistic. In 2000, representatives of 189 nations met in a conference sponsored by the United Nations and adopted eight goals they would work toward achieving in the new century. Each goal, which was stated in general terms, had specific targets to help measure progress in reaching the goal. This is significant in that development was broken down into more elements and indicators than the twentieth‐century model focused on GNP. Education, gender equality, child and maternal health, infectious diseases, and hunger were all incorporated into the development goals. And significantly, one of the goals (MDG # 7) was focused on environmental protection, with a notable goal of integrating the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs. Finally, the last goal was focused on addressing some of the structural problems of the twentieth‐century development model, with the aim of improving the global financial system, addressing countries’ mounting debt load, and offering special considerations for the poorest and other specially situated countries.
By 2014, several targets of the Millennium Development Goals had been met, including halving hunger rates as well as the extreme poverty rate: by 2010, 700 million fewer people lived on $1.25 per day than in 1990.10 Advances in malaria and tuberculosis treatment saved an estimated 25.3 million lives by 2012, and 2.3 billion people gained access to drinking water from an improved source.11 Development aid had increased by 66 percent.12
At the beginning of the MDG period, the concept of “sustainability” was a small part of the development dialogue. At that time, “sustainability” was mostly a popular buzzword for those who wanted to be seen as pro‐environmental but who did not really intend to change their behavior. It became a public relations term, an attempt to be seen as abreast with the latest thinking of what we must do to save our planet from widespread harm. But within a decade or so, governments, industries, educational institutions, and organizations started to incorporate “sustainable development” in a more serious manner.
A number of large corporations appointed corporate officers for sustainability. Not only were these officials interested in how their companies could profit by producing “green” products, but they were often given the task of making the company more efficient by reducing wastes and pollution and by reducing its carbon emissions. Many colleges and universities adopted sustainability as a legitimate academic subject and something to be practiced by the institution. Many nonprofit organizations added the promotion of sustainability to their agendas. This all set the stage for a more formal convergence of the UN’s environmental and development agendas.
As sustainable development gained momentum, the “Washington Consensus” of the twentieth century began to erode. Nancy Birdsall and Francis Fukuyama of the Center for Global Development argued that the global recession driven by the United States at the end of the first decade of the twenty‐first century changed the model for global development and that now the focus is much more on the ability of governments to help the poor and provide social protections.13 They predicted that many mid‐and lower‐income countries would reject the free‐market approach and adopt a basic needs approach while increasing domestic industrial production. “In fact,” they explained, “development has never been something that the rich bestowed on the poor but rather something the poor achieved for themselves.”
In 2015, the United Nations adopted Sustainable Development Goals for 2015–2030 to replace its mainstream Millennium Development Goals in place from 2000–2015. While the sustainable development agenda from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit factored in clearly to some of the individual goals, the overall focus was still on poverty alleviation through the historic paradigm of economic development. During that same period of implementation, countries began to embrace sustainable development as a key pathway to creating an economy that can provide for the population without undercutting the people and planet that form the basis of that very economy.
In 2012, countries met again in Rio for a new global summit on sustainable development. By this time, it was clear the development and environment agendas were becoming more aligned. Countries shared progress they had made towards sustainable development and discussed challenges going forward, but largely diverted conversations about targets. There were questions about how to best integrate economic and social development with environmental considerations, and governments began focusing on high‐level efforts to merge development and environment, building from the Millennium Development Goals and Rio summits on Sustainable Development. There are two ways to view this development: one is that countries have found environmental problems challenging and wish to avoid taking on new, high‐profile commitments. The other is that the concept of “sustainable development” has become so mainstream that environmental considerations have become integrated into the broader development dialogue.
In the second decade of the twenty‐first century, countries began developing a broad set of “sustainable development goals” intended to help the United Nations develop new targets after the Millennium Development Goals had run their course by 2015. By integrating these sustainable development goals with conventional, high‐level development discussions at the UN, countries made it clear that the concept of sustainability is fundamental to development.
In September 2015, to a standing ovation from many world leaders, 193 nations unanimously adopted the UN Sustainable Development Agenda as a “blueprint for development.” UN Secretary‐General Ban Ki‐moon welcomed the decision, calling it “an agenda for people, to end poverty in all its forms … It is an agenda for shared prosperity, peace and partnership (that) conveys the urgency of climate action (and) is rooted in gender equality and respect for the rights of all. Above all, it pledges to leave no one behind.” This agenda sets forth 169 targets supporting 17 Goals for 2030. As the next step beyond the Millennium Development Goals, these Sustainable Development Goals reflect a concerted global effort to provide for the growing number of people on the planet by alleviating poverty, improving livelihoods, and sustaining the ecosystems necessary to maintain all of the Earth’s inhabitants in the coming decades. We have included these goals below, as they are relevant to every chapter in this book. As you think about where “development” is headed, consider what actions governments will need to take to realize all of these goals and how different the world might look if some or all of the goals are achieved.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:
End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
Ensure healthy lives and promote well‐being for all at all ages.
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.
Promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation.
Reduce inequality within and among countries.
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.
Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss.
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
Now sustainable development is more integrated and global development goals are increasingly focused on the social and environmental basis of well‐being in addition to conventional economic indicators. Countries have adopted ambitious targets and indicators, and the world is watching to see what kind of progress can be made in the coming years to meaningfully advance towards these goals – including whether wealthy nations will step up financial and other assistance to help achieve these goals.
It’s one thing to have development plans; it’s another thing to make it happen. Planning and building a more sustainable world is not cheap or easy. The United Nations has set an aid target for the rich countries to contribute 0.7 percent of their wealth (as determined by their GNP) towards official development assistance (“ODA”) for developing countries. As of 2017, US $135 billion flowed through official development assistance channels.
Foreign aid is used regularly to help donor nations achieve their political objectives and can include military aid as well as economic assistance. Development assistance is usually given with the objective of helping a nation develop, often in exchange for the recipient country making changes or promises to use the money a certain way. More than two thirds of ODA ($98 billion in 2016) flows bilaterally, that is from a specific donor country directly to a specific recipient country. The remaining tens of billions flow multilaterally through international institutions and funds that help channel money for specific development purposes.
Multilateral institutions that control the biggest flows of development finance include the World Bank and regional public financial institutions such as the Asian, African, and Inter‐American Development Banks. The Global Environment Facility, established during the 1922 Rio Earth Summit and headquartered at the World Bank, helps administer development assistance to support the environment. UN institutions such as the United Nations Development Programme also have specific rules for administering development projects across the world. More specialized funds, such as the Green Climate Fund and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, help channel funding flows in support of specific issues like fighting infectious diseases and climate change.
Curiously, even though the overall development model has moved past the focus on national incomes, the “developed” and “developing” country divide continues to be officially based on average per capita incomes. As of 2018, some 150 countries were considered “developing countries” (the vast majority of countries in the world) based on per capita incomes below US $12,276.14 Note that climate finance is seen as separate and additional to official development aid, as politically countries view climate finance as obligatory payments by wealthy historic emitters for the costs of coping with climate impacts caused by their emissions. Adding to the already complicated picture of development assistance, some island nations have been deemed ineligible due to inequality: one or two billionaires on a small island can raise the average GDP beyond the average income threshold, even though many countries on the list had not yet met the Millennium Development Goals.15
Speaking of billionaires, while it is primarily countries who command the billions for official development assistance, private actors and philanthropy are increasingly significant players. Perhaps most substantial is “The Giving Pledge,” a most unusual effort by two American billionaires – Bill Gates and Warren Buffett – to get other billionaires around the world to give at least half of their wealth to charities, as they are doing.16 As of 2018, 187 billionaires from 22 countries had signed the pledge.17 While many are private about their total net worth, by one report, estimates are that the Giving Pledge reflects a total giving commitment of at least US $600 billion.18
While private philanthropists have great latitude in how they spend their money, countries have carefully negotiated a set of rules and processes for official development assistance. For example, countries track relevant funds against sustainability markers (“Rio markers” as well as the Sustainable Development Goals. The Organisation for Economic Co‐operation and Development (“OECD”) evaluates all official development aid based on its efforts to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.19 It also evaluates how much additional private funding gets leveraged from the spending of official development aid, finding in 2018 that 77 percent of all leveraged private funding went to middle income countries, and not to those most in need. 20
Part of this also involves making sure funds are both programmed and spent effectively, a concern in many countries. In 2014, a report by the ONE Campaign estimated that corruption deprived countries’ economies of 1 trillion dollars (that’s $1,000,000,000,000).21 To give perspective, this sum would be enough to provide about 165 million vaccines or educate 10 million children per year.22
The unanticipated consequences of the use of technology (discussed in more detail in the Technology Chapter 9) can be seen in a situation of which I (Seitz) have some personal knowledge. When I was in Iran in the late 1950s with the US foreign aid program, one of our projects was to modernize the police force of the monarch, the Shah of Iran. We gave the national police new communications equipment so that police messages could be sent throughout the country quickly and efficiently. The United States gave this kind of assistance to the Shah to bolster his regime and help him to maintain public order in Iran while development programs were being initiated. All fine and good, except for the fact that the Shah used his efficient police – and especially his secret police, which the US Central Intelligence Agency helped train – not just to catch criminals and those who were trying to violently overthrow his government, but to suppress all opponents of his regime. His secret police, SAVAK, soon earned a worldwide reputation for being very efficient – and ruthless. Such ruthlessness, which often involved torturing suspected opponents of the Shah, was one of the reasons why the Shah became very unpopular in Iran and was eventually overthrown in 1979 by the Ayatollah Khomeini, a person who had deep anti‐American feelings.
For a fuller discussion of the unanticipated consequences of American aid to the Shah, see John L. Seitz, “The Failure of US Technical Assistance in Public Administration: The Iranian Case,” in Eric Otenyo and Nancy Lind (eds), Comparative Public Administration: The Essential Readings (Oxford: Elsevier, 2006), pp. 321–34.
Part of the way donor governments address concerns about effectiveness of funding is to cherry pick what they spend and where they spend it, and as a result some of the neediest causes remain unfunded. For a more global approach, donor governments channel money to development institutions with relatively strong policies governing how the money gets spent. Multilateral development banks maintain specific policies and procedures that not only require careful management and accounting of funding, but also which help avoid unacceptable social and environmental harms. What is interesting is that these institutions originally started out after World War II by lending money in support of the twentieth‐century development approach, but the results were so disastrous for communities and for the environment that they had to change their policies to constrain lending towards sustainability, refusing to fund projects with unacceptable social and environmental harms. These social and environmental safeguards have now become the norm for international finance, both public and private.
The amount of foreign aid that wealthy nations have contributed in relation to the donors’ wealth fell rather dramatically in the second half of the twentieth century. There was a slight upturn at the end of the century, but the aid was still far below the United Nations’ target. From 2000–2014, official development assistance increased 66 percent; however, bilateral aid dropped considerably during this same time period. While the United States gives the largest amount of aid, in relation to its wealth as measured as a percentage of gross national income, it is near the bottom of aid donors.
Plate 1.1 Street children in Nepal
Source: Ab Abercrombie.
There are about 15,000 nations on our planet and about 200 nation‐states. The nation‐states are the political entities, what are commonly referred to as countries. They are often made up of several or many individual nations, or different cultures. The nation is a group of people that share a common history, a common ancestry, and usually a common language and a common religion. They often have common traditions, common ways of doing certain things and of interacting with each other and toward outsiders. Because of these similar features that make them different from other peoples, each nation’s people see the world and their place in it differently than others, approach problems differently, and have arrived at different solutions to situations humans face. The unique language of the culture is used to pass the common history and traditions down to the young. The United Nations now estimates that of the approximately 7,000 languages in the world, by the end of this century about 90 percent of them will be endangered.23 The term “endangered language” means that the group that speaks the language – which is often unwritten – is becoming so small that there is a real possibility the group will die out or become absorbed by the larger dominant culture around it and will disappear forever.
For most of the twentieth century, “development” was associated with certain economic policies and associated consumption culture, particularly in the United States. The United States has been one of the largest producer of goods and services and its culture is closely associated with material wealth. Because of the worldwide popularity of US movies, music, fast food, and clothes, and of the English language, it is common to read that the American culture is replacing local cultures in many countries. But some recent studies indicate that only some rather superficial aspects of the American culture are being adopted, such as Coca‐Cola and Big Macs, while more important values are not.
Social integration is proceeding at such a rapid pace that one can say that there is the beginning of a world culture. Much of this culture is exported from the United States, but it is also truly international as foods, music, dances, and fashions come from various countries. Many European cultures place a higher value on leisure and government social services than did the dominant twentieth‐century culture in the United States, which emphasized earning higher income so people could acquire more material objects. The degree to which people seem to be happy to trade income for more leisure to enjoy life varies across the globe, and, maybe not surprisingly, those who do may have a higher “satisfaction with their lives” than those who prioritize primarily material gain.24
What will be lost if a culture dies out? Cultures represent the amazing variety of human life on Earth that reflect the different ways members of one species – the human species – have decided to live. A culture represents the accumulated knowledge of one group, knowledge that is available to others to pick and choose from, so they can improve their own lives (some would call this “development”). In addition, the multitude of cultures makes life on Earth extremely rich and varied. The discovery of that variety often leaves an observer with a sense of awe and with a realization that the loss of any culture leaves life less wonderful.
In the Amazon region of Brazil live the Yanomami. It is believed that the people have lived in this region for thousands of years. The approximately 9,000 Yanomami represent the largest group of indigenous people living in the Americas who still follow hunter‐gatherer methods.25 Although they had very limited contact with other cultures for many years, this changed in the late 1980s when gold was discovered in the Brazilian Amazon region. Thousands of miners flew into the area where the Yanomami lived. The miners brought with them diseases to which the Yanomami had no natural immunity. Amnesty International estimates that from 1988 to 1990 about 1,500 Yanomami died.26
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