Should we call ourselves ‘developed’?

Developed. This word is used so interchangeably these days does anyone actually stopped to question its implications.

capitalism is organised crime

Maybe a ‘developed country’ is one with educated populations? Admittedly Britain has a good education system. However, the image of children being cultivated into little university-ready figurines by the age of 19 is tarnished when you suddenly remember that the current system allows a hefty cloud of debt to sit on their shoulders from the moment they sit in their first lecture. Why should wanting to acquire more knowledge about the world you live in be demanded such a intensive payback? Anyway rant over, on to the next question.
Does developed insinuate a place of no poverty? No, sadly that’s not it. 1 in 5 people living in the UK are in poverty.

Developed means that wealth is divided equally? Nope, 1% of the wealthiest people in the UK hold the same amount of wealth that 55% of the poorest people own combined. Picture it as a community of 100 people. 55 of those people have to share £100 between them all to survive for a week, while one person in that community gets £100 all to himself for that week.

Does a developed country equate to a secure economy? Nope. With a reliance upon imports and an economy bolstered up its deficit by borrowing. With the world’s 2nd largest external debt, behind only the US, the UK owes 406% of its GDP to its overseas creditors.

Ok so we aren’t getting anywhere with delving into the ways of a developed state, what about the term ‘undeveloped/underdeveloped/developing’…?

In my eyes, and I have discussed this with several of my course mates at university, the word ‘undeveloped’ suggests achievement of the ultimate goal; the nirvana if you like. This in turn would insinuate that those that are so called ‘developed’, have made it. They’ve hit the big time. A place of perfect harmony between man and his resources. There is nothing to be desired or needed. They’ve solved socio-economic and environmental issues and no longer want for anything. I do not think therefore that the countries that are often referred to as ‘developed’ i.e: UK, US, Germany, Sweden, France, South Africa or Australia have done that yet.

If you look at the exact definition of developed it goes something like this: ‘an advanced or elaborated to a specified degree.’

Now, correct me if I’m wrong but I can see so many things that are inherently wrong in countries where they are referred to as ‘developed’. Phone hacking scandals by those who have uncontended power, oil exploration to the expense of wildlife and water sources, unpublicised trespassing laws for the sake of fracking, blind eyes turned to human right exploitations when corporations utilise sweatshop activity overseas to gain profits. The importation of illegally felled wood and thus endorsing its unsustainable practices, the selling of produce harvested by underpaid and mistreated farm workers across the pond in Africa and other ‘undeveloped’ countries. It seems to me that the ‘developed’ countries remain so at the expense of those ‘developed’ countries to maximise profits. They caught in an underdeveloped state which they cannot escape from and one which those with the financial ability to help them out, simply just don’t. 

Aid is not the answer, they need to be able to progress for themselves. By endorsing unsustainable practices, it is effectively preventing the behaviour change that is necessary to let these countries move forward in a way that is responsible.

Lets take the subject of forests and what goods they produce to keep economies in ‘developed’ countries afloat. Wood, palm oil and soya products, animal feed and meat produce. Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and large parts of South America like Brazil and Columbia are rapidly losing their forests because of the demand that comes from the likes of the US and the EU. The Brazilian and Indonesian governments struggle to look after the people vulnerable to illegal practices and all the time that developed countries import their ‘dirty’ goods, this won’t change.

The whole time a supply of cheap goods that lack transparency and responsibility for sustainable sources is given, demand for them will continue. It’s about time those with regulatory power rose stopped dibbling and dabbling with terminology and just get down to the real reasons there is inequality. Its because the rich want to stay rich and to let that happen, there has to be losers.

Growth, growth, growth. Fast pace with immediate rewards, success and status. This is what development in economic terms gets us on the surface. But if you move deeper into the source of this economic growth and delve into the realms of the supply, the picture changes considerably.
What does this ‘development’ actually cost?
Corporations make money from environmental degradation, the extraction of resources. Bottling water, next stop; drought in California. Palm Oil, next stop; peat and forest fires in Sumatra. Fracking. Oil exploration in the Arctic, car emissions, industries. The list is endless.

Then there is the notion of ‘sustainable development’. Can this work?

Development by definition involves exponential growth through use of both natural and human resources. Sacrifice is a hardwired element entrained within modern, western capitalism and constant expansion is inevitable under the name of progress. Development is a human focussed concept where for profit to be made the demand for goods and services needs to be out of balance. To claim its sustainability, a business would have to make its products from the best quality materials or ingredients, and there would be less demand for them because they wouldn’t break or deteriorate. The requirement of a balance between supply and demand however, is necessary in order to safeguard the future of natural resources which provide for the economy and society. Therefore highlighting the huge contradiction found in the term ‘sustainability’.

We can also apply this to the energy industry which is a conversation with extremely controversial implications worldwide. Increased consumption in ‘developing’ countries means new sources are needed to supply the demand. In theory, renewables are more sustainable but projects such as the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil show that this is not necessarily the case.

The clearance of forest to make the world’s 3rd largest mega dam would seriously harm the indigenous tribes people in the region. But hey, who cares about the sustainability of the forest when there is renewable energy which is ‘sustainable’?

Some Brazilian indigenous, during an indigenous march against the hydroelectric of Belo Monte in the surroundings of RioCentro (UN Conference on Sustainable Development on June 20, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/LatinContent/Getty Images)

Can sustainable development for the economy also be sustainable for both people and the environment?

How can the economy develop, while allowing the environment to remain the same and the people who have been intrinsically linked to the environment for centuries be left undisturbed too?


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