Implications of Poverty and Alleviation Strategies in Uganda

Implications of Poverty and Alleviation Strategies in Uganda

Roughly 10% of the world population – which is over 700 million people – live in abject poverty. As the greatest social determinant of health, poverty is predominantly driven by inequality. Situations such as overcrowding and uneven land distribution, in conjunction with disparities among equitable access to resources, also lead to scarcity in vulnerable regions.

Notably in Uganda, circumstances such as large family size, inherited health issues, and lack of skilled laborers are among the leading drivers of poverty. They are considered the world’s youngest population, with a youth unemployment rate of around 62%. Countries with a youthful population have high numbers of young people and smaller numbers of older people.

Scope: Uganda

Since there are more potential workers in a youthful population, there is a higher potential for income. However, many of the employment opportunities available are in the informal sectors, instead of in developing businesses. The government does not tax informal wages. This relative instability creates a reliance on unskilled labor

Also common among youthful populations is a higher rate of disease. Many governments do not handle disease outbreak well, which can jeopardize their future economic stability. This poses a myriad of issues as children are far more likely to die of illnesses than adults. Those who are working likely face a considerable responsibility to support and provide social services essential to vulnerable populations. Vulnerable populations usually consist of the children and elderly, who are more socially and economically dependent (United Nations).

In Uganda, and in many similar countries, it can be both challenging and expensive to register a new business. While ranked the world’s most entrepreneurial country, Uganda has historically faced issues with business growth. Challenges ranging from high levels of corruption to inefficient government services have hindered potential business growth.

How Business Can Help

In order to foster economic development and provide dignity, business is key. Entrepreneurship creates programs and projects, which are aimed at improving living conditions in underdeveloped communities. Tackling issues such as environmental pollution or inadequate housing is made possible by workers – and their employment helps to raise them from poverty. Secure employment allows people to remain independent and able to take advantage of the goods and services that businesses provide (ADEC Innovations).

Businesses should also ensure that they are respecting human rights, especially of the disproportionately represented, including persons with disabilities, women and children, and indigenous peoples. They can do so through various actions and solutions, such as creation of products and services tailored for lower income customers or investing in poverty eradication activities (SDG Compass).

Mentorship

When a business provides mentoring and education to their employees, they also provide dignity. Through mentoring, one may develop business skills in exchange for labor. These acquired skills can lead to higher levels of success for the individual.

When mentors provide expert guidance in a specific area, the mentee receives a specialized education and skill set that equips them for a successful career in business. Mentor/mentee relationships can also create partnerships for future business endeavors, which further boosts economic gain.

Mentoring is mutually beneficial for all involved. Mentors themselves may benefit from exposure to different perspectives, a rise in self-confidence, and increased job satisfaction. Mentees also gain much outside of career development. They may learn how to self-reflect, develop stronger communication skills, and learn from other’s experiences. Organizations also benefit from mentoring through higher engagement among employees, higher retention rates, and increased productivity (Guider).

Access To Capital

Beginning a business starts with access to capital – the funds and resources needed for operational costs and growth. For many, a sum that large is difficult to come by. Around 29% of businesses fail due to lack of sufficient capital, so partnering with someone who can handle the upfront costs can benefit hopeful entrepreneurs.

Access to capital provides the essential elements people and businesses need to regulate their economic well-being and promote savings. Other benefits include investment opportunities, job creation, and growth. Additionally, financial access can empower women, making it easier for them to build wealth and create small businesses (World Bank).

Business Connect’s Role

Business Connect aims to strengthen partnerships and collaborate across cultures, building businesses to help alleviate poverty in communities. We want to share tools for success and empower future entrepreneurs, rather than simply provide charity. In our efforts, we strive to provide access to capital, foster mentorships, and enable individuals with the tools needed to start a profitable business.

Lou Haveman, founder of Business Connect said, “[w]hen you look at a problem of the world and you can find a business solution, which brings profit to you and blesses people at the same time, you have found something that is very rare.” Through their partnership with Business Connect, Ugandan entrepreneurs have been able to find further opportunities to expand their businesses. Additionally, our business partners in Uganda have been able to do things like pay for their first child’s birth and install water filtration systems in schools.

We provide our products on consignment to local entrepreneurs, allowing them to have merchandise upfront. By having access to capital, business owners are able to turn a profit quicker and continually invest in their business.

Through mentorship, Business Connect equips entrepreneurs with the tools needed to begin new businesses. Learning the skills needed to succeed in business allows individuals to retain their dignity and to help others in their communities.

When we partner with locals to help them grow a business, it not only helps them better themselves, but also impacts their communities and ultimately their country. For people who would otherwise not be able to afford large expenses, the stability that comes with having a business uplifts individuals and communities.

If you would like to be part of this network, please connect with us. We are always looking for ways to make new connections and grow together!

Everybody Gets Dirty: Tim’s Story

Everybody Gets Dirty: Tim’s Story

Being an innovative businessman and entrepreneur, Tim White, the creator of one of Business Connect’s newest products, Crud Cloth, was always passionate for human centered design and creating sustainable products that help the unmet needs of people around the world. He always strived towards helping people have a sense of cleanliness and restoring the dignity for those in need. 

Tim’s passion for helping people has fueled him to travel across the world to multiple countries to learn more about humanity’s struggles with clean water and hygiene. His willingness to learn first hand and educate those on how to use water products shows how genuine his passion is. Originally, Tim created the Crud Cloth for the sole purpose of cleaning up after a long bike ride through the mountain trail or after a day of camping. However, his partnership with Business Connect to distribute Crud Cloth around the world may have never happened if he did not take his passions to a more personal level. Looking back at his experiences in the Dominican Republic and seeing how important hygiene was for all people no matter their circumstances, Tim realized that the Crud Cloth could have a much bigger impact worldwide.

His passion for sustainable products also stems from his love for outside activities and the importance of cleaning up afterward. Tim and his family love to get dirty! As avid mountain bikers, Tim wanted to create the perfect product to help him and his family clean up after a trail ride. After meticulous trial and error, the Crud Cloth was born, solving all of the problems that regular wipes and washcloths could not. It is truly a shower in a bag that can clean a person, leaving them smelling amazing and feeling refreshed. 

KOHLER Clarity

Before the creation of Crud Cloth, Tim worked for Kohler Co., a manufacturing company, where he created Kohler Clarity, a safe water filtration system. Since 2016, Kohler Clarity has been a part of a disaster relief and community development effort around the world to help people access safe drinking water. With help from Business Connect, Tim and Kohler were able to distribute the water filters in the United States and internationally in countries that struggled with clean water.

According to the CDC, 2.2 billion people still lack safe drinking water in their homes. Tim knew that the water filters would have a positive impact on homes affected by this global issue. Still, he felt that the distribution alone would not be good enough.

Tim has traveled to numerous countries across the world in order to research and gain feedback on the filters. He spent his time learning more about the water issues first hand and how the filters were helping and holding up. He met with hundreds of less fortunate families to educate them about how to use the filters. Honest feedback was something that he found to be extremely important because it would give him an even better understanding of how he could help meet the needs of people struggling with water issues around the world.

In the Batey

One experience in particular changed Tim’s outlook. On a trip to the Dominican Republic, he worked in the homes of a Batey, a sugar plantation town, where he noticed something very eye opening. Most homes he visited had pristine cookware and plastic surrounding the couches. Tim realized that even in very different circumstances, people’s dignity comes from similar priorities.

“I realized at that moment that it doesn’t matter if we are upper or middle class in Minnesota or poor in a Batey; having nice things and keeping them nice is a source of pride and an aspirational thing.”

Tim understood that there was an ongoing global issue with water and hygiene. In fact, 3 billion people worldwide lack basic hand washing facilities at home and more than half of the global population does not have access to safe sanitation. 

Tim has learned so much about the importance of hygiene and the dignity that it brings to people at a universal level. Since his experiences in the Dominican Republic and traveling across the world for Kohler Clarity, Tim has created the Crud Cloth. It is a product that mimics a shower to the best of its ability in a portable fashion. 

When looking back at his experiences, Tim realized now that the Crud Cloth and its use can go beyond the convenience it can bring for a mountain biker after a ride or a camper after a day in the woods. He noticed that his invention had the potential to make a difference on a global scale.

“Everybody gets dirty. Whether you are a mountain biker like me, a golfer, or a camper, you will find yourself covered in grime. You may not have access to a shower at the time and the Crud Cloth can help you with that. However, some people do not have access to a shower period.”

Crud Cloth is special in the sense that it has that universal appeal.

Global Reach

Tim saw this golden opportunity and took it. His original vision for the product to be used by anyone who enjoys outdoor activities still stands. However, that vision grew into an even bigger mission. The mission is to distribute Crud Cloths worldwide to countries that are in need of a sustainable hygienic product built to clean people and leave them feeling better and healthier. There was no better way for Tim to do that than with Business Connect. Tim felt that Business Connect was the perfect choice to partner due to the great relationship and similar vision Tim and Jereme Lambert, CEO of Business Connect, shared.

“My work with Jereme and the team at Business Connect was amazing while with Kohler. We built a relationship where I knew as soon as I wanted to do something with Crud Cloth globally that Business Connect would be open to my ideas and willing to make something happen.”  

Crud Cloth has since been making its impact in the United States and internationally. It has helped many families stay clean and give them a sense of dignity. Tim’s work with Business Connect distributing Kohler Clarity and his more recent product, the Crud Cloth, has helped over one million people around the world fight against the water and hygiene crisis that they struggle with everyday. Tim’s passion for invention and innovation for sustainable products has made a huge impact in the movement towards a cleaner and healthier world. His genuine concern for the less fortunate has brought a new hope for those struggling. 

Support Crud Cloth and Kohler Clarity

At Business Connect, we share the same passion Tim has for distributing sustainable products made to help fight against the water and hygiene crisis. This is why Business Connect works with global distributors to distribute the Crud Cloth and Kohler Clarity worldwide. Buying the Crud Cloth or the Kohler Clarity will help support the cause and significantly impact the ongoing hygiene and water crisis in a positive way. Special thanks to Tim for working with us here at Business Connect to help those around the world who are in need. Thank you to all who have and continue to support us on our mission to provide citizens living in the global south with affordable and easy access to clean water, through the creation of a sustainable, local business model.

Poverty: What It Is and What We’re Doing To End It

Poverty: What It Is and What We’re Doing To End It

Poverty is an international concern. It affects every country in the world, even countries that are considered “developed” experience poverty.

Many people have plans to reduce or end poverty. There are a lot of good people working on a lot of good plans. Perhaps one single plan will not fix all the problems but combined it can enact real change.

What is Poverty?

Poverty is difficult to define.

Usually, poverty is defined as a family with an income that fails to meet a federally established threshold. This number can be different based on their country of origin.

If you use an international standard introduced by the World Bank, those who live in extreme poverty live on less than 1.9 international dollars a day.

Another way of defining poverty is by the terms of absolute poverty and relative poverty.

Absolute poverty defines poverty by the amount of money a person needs to meet their basic needs. This definition does not include issues of quality of life, or whether an individual is poor in relation to other people in the same society. Ideas of social or cultural disparities are not relevant to this definition. Rather, it focuses on whether a person has clean water, shelter, basic health care, clothing, and food.

Relative poverty looks at the way an individual or family income is compared to other members of the same society. In this definition, a person is poor when they make far less than the average income of their greater societal context.

Other people define poverty in terms that include things beyond just economic standards.

Looking at poverty this way includes a much broader explanation than simply the annual income of a family. While economics is definitely a part of it, some social scientists believe that definition lacks depth. These people seek to understand the reasons for poverty. They explore things like cultural influence, social structure, government involvement, and other things that are not in the control of the individual who is in poverty.

People who study poverty this way are often looking for solutions to help people overcome extremely difficult circumstances, and seek to change the systems that keep them locked in a cycle of poverty.

Poverty is Declining – Depending on Where You Look in the World

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The poverty problem can be very bleak and disheartening. It can be overwhelming to even comprehend, and it can feel impossible to change.

The good news is while there are still 583,861,5500 (give or take) people currently living in extreme poverty in the world, those numbers are falling. In fact, it’s estimated that someone escapes extreme poverty every 1.2 seconds. According to the Economist, “Absolute poverty rates have dropped faster in the past thirty years than any other time on record.”

Bill Gates, a big advocate for ending world poverty, explained that extreme poverty has dropped from 36% of the world in 1990 to 9% in 2013. In fact, that number has actually dropped to 7.7% in 2019.

Big Changes in China and India

This impressive change in poverty can be traced back to two major countries: China and India. In the 1980s, the majority of Indian and Chinese citizens were living in extreme poverty.

Today 21% of India’s citizens and only 2% of China’s citizens are living in extreme poverty.

This is a major improvement.

Bill Gates explained that a big part of the change that happened in China and India is an investment in human capital.

In China, there has been increased productivity in farms and there was a mass migration from poor rural areas to cities that offered jobs and better wages.

The decline of poverty and the growth of industry in India has been slower, but it has followed a similar path to China. India has worked hard to create smarter more efficient systems to produce food and other commodities.

Another thing China did was focus more on education. In 1990, about 1 in 3 children were chronically malnourished both physically and mentally. The typical Chinese youth did not even attend high school.

Today, almost all graduate from high school and almost half attend college.

Bill Gates explains, “You just look at those cities in China and you see something miraculous came out of those human capital investments.”

Major Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa Expected to Grow

Today, the poorest area in the world exists in Sub-Saharan Africa. While poverty has also declined in this area from 54% in 1990 to 41% in 2013, the population has increased exponentially over the past few years.

Due to this, the number of extremely poor people has risen from 276 million to almost 400 million. This number is predicted to reach 2 billion by 2050. So while the percentage may have dropped, the actual number of people in extreme poverty has risen.

These African countries are urbanizing quickly, but unlike in China, the growth in population and migration to the city is not leading to decreased poverty. Instead of improving conditions, the population boom has put a strain on their limited resources. Many people live well below the $1.90 a day income margin.

Part of the reason the area is not seeing greater success is because they’re also experiencing violence, poor sanitation, clean water shortages, insufficient food supplies, and a lack of opportunity and stability. Many of their governments are not providing health care or education at a basic level.

Most people living in these harsh conditions spend their time attempting to find enough food to survive. This doesn’t leave much time or resources for innovation, productivity, or education. The majority of people in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially women, have very little to no formal education. Even informal education is limited due to time and energy constraints.

Bill Gates urges the world to invest in the people in these areas and to help overcome extreme poverty.

Next, let’s take a look at some organizations who are already successfully contributing.

What Are Some Organizations that are Dedicated to Putting an End to Poverty?

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Thankfully, many people and organizations around the world recognize the issue with extreme poverty. These issues don’t just affect one area in the world, they are present globally.

Not only that, but as humans on the same planet, we can’t turn away from massive areas of pain and suffering. There are solutions to these issues and ways to majorly improve circumstances.

Here are some organizations that have come up with innovative and essential solutions to these difficult problems.

Connect For Water

Connect for Water is a non-profit whose mission is to provide a clear path to clean, safe water to those in need. Their goal includes how to sustainably, responsibly distribute water filters in countries around the world, in ways that won’t hurt the local economies.

They recently began the Sponsor Water program, which encourages people to give $5 per month, and after one year of giving they will have impacted 5 people with clean, safe water for the next 5 years.

While it may not seem that providing clean water directly combats poverty, the truth is that the less time people spend looking to provide for their basic needs, the more time they can spend at school and at work. For every dollar invested in clean water, there is $8 return on investment in the local economy.

Connect for Water also provides assistance through their Angel Alliance Fund, which provides small, strategically targeted micro-loans to emerging businesses in the global south. The money they loan out goes toward providing entrepeneurs with the initial stock from which they can sell, profit, and grow their business from the ground up.

Partners Worldwide

Partners Worldwide is a Christian global network that helps people thrive by teaching them to grow their own businesses. They offer loans, hands-on training, mentoring, and advocacy.

They believe that unlocking a person’s potential and teaching them how to run their own businesses is a key component in ending poverty.

They currently partner with over 70 partners in over 30 countries around the world. Through these partnerships, they serve thousands of people who strive to be entrepreneurs.

They also partner with volunteer Business Affiliates which are people that serve their own communities and others.

They explain their approach in this way, “Around the world, we partner with locally-led organizations to support business growth and job creation so that people may be equipped to lift themselves—and their families and communities—out of poverty for good.”

PovertyCure

PovertyCure is an initiative that aims to reduce and end poverty globally.

Like Partners Worldwide, they hope to help people locally and internationally achieve independence through entrepreneurship.

They emphasize the need to love and seek to offer relief to those suffering from poverty, but also to provide a way out of their poverty. They explain, “Charity and almsgiving play an indispensable role in our efforts to help the poor, and yet the goal for charitable organizations should be to help the poor move beyond dependency.”

A system of dependency is not sustainable. It is temporary and requires ongoing support without hope of a better tomorrow.

Their goal is to shift the responsibility of international organizations to individuals living in poverty.

They seek to make it easier for individuals to maintain businesses and network freely. They also want to make it possible for businesses and entrepreneurs to flourish in positive climates free from fear of theft or oppression.

Ultimately, they want to give people in poverty the ability and opportunity to better their circumstances through business, entrepreneurship, and development.

They write, “The economy is not a fixed pie or zero-sum game where people can only get richer if they take from someone else. History and economics teaches that economies can grow and one person’s wealth does not mean another’s impoverishment.”

Growing Home

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While Sub-Saharan Africa and other underdeveloped areas in the world experience extreme poverty, poverty is still present in countries like the United States.

Teva Sienicki is president and CEO of a non-profit called Growing Home. This organization hopes to improve areas and decrease poverty in the United States.

In a Tedx talk, Sienicki told a story of working at her own homeless shelter. One day, she saw a young woman carrying a baby and walking beside a toddler. At first, she did not recognize the young woman, but soon she found out that she did, in fact, know her.

The same young lady had been to Sienicki’s shelter when she was a girl. Now she was back with her own children, living in the same circumstances she had been living in as a child.

Teva Sienicki was devastated. She realized that while her shelter offered temporary relief, it was not ending cyclical intergenerational poverty.

She knew that she had to think differently. She had to instill changes in Growing Home that actually changed people’s circumstances.

They changed the model of their non-profit.

Rather than helping families here and there, they sought to transform the entire neighborhood. Growing Home started out by going door to door in a community and asking people what they thought of the community the lived in, and what help they needed there.

Sienicki explains, “…when you reach out to members of the community and you invite them to be a part of the process, it stops being about doing things for people and it starts being about doing things with people.”

Their plan sought to include people in the community as sources of change, not just changing things for them.

Their mission page explains, “Growing Home works to create community by supporting neighborhood leaders as they learn to leverage their collective power to improve conditions for themselves and their neighbors.  Growing Home combines high-quality direct service strategies with efforts to advance systems change as we work toward equality of opportunity for all.”

They go on to say, “We envision our community working together so that all children and their families have a place to call home, food on the table, and the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

The End of Poverty

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The end of extreme or relative poverty may not come in a single lifetime, but there are a lot of things that can be done to help alleviate the pain and suffering related to poverty.

Though there are many different beliefs on the best way to eradicate poverty, many scholars, humanitarians, and organizations agree on one important idea.

The best way to help end poverty is to invest in people. By offering people opportunity, resources, education, and involvement in the process, there is a much higher chance of success.

Looking at countries like China and India, great victories against poverty may come faster than we could imagine.

Our Rainforests Are In Peril. Here’s What Needs To Be Done

Our Rainforests Are In Peril. Here’s What Needs To Be Done

Most experts say that over 80,000 acres of rainforest are being destroyed every day, with an additional 80,000 being significantly damaged as a result of logging, agriculture, farming, mining, and dam building. Commercial deforestation occurs on a staggering scale globally, and scientists estimate that we lose 50,000 species of plants and animals annually to extinction due to deforestation.

A few specific industries are causing widespread upticks in deforestation rates, which the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization notes are 8.5 percent higher this decade than they were in the 1990s. Further, researchers estimate that the loss of primary tropical rainforest, which is the wildest and biologically diverse category, has increased by as much as 25 percent since the 1990s.

As many developing nations grow at a rapid rate, their appetite for raw materials as well as land to farm and develop is threatening rainforests around the globe. However, there are still plenty of ways that we can save rainforests, which will save species from disappearing forever while also alleviating other devastating global issues including the water crisis.

The Rainforest Makes it Rain

One of the most interesting and potentially devastating effects of deforestation is the way deforestation creates a ‘negative feedback loop.’ The same trees that absorb carbon dioxide and regulate moisture levels in the air suddenly release CO2 when they are chopped down, and they are no longer there to constantly filter the air. The Amazon rainforest’s massive network of trees creates a natural cycle that causes rain clouds and moisture to accumulate nearby.

Without this cycle, the Amazon region could quickly trend towards arid, further disrupting global weather patterns which have already created a dangerous water shortage in many regions across the planet.

National Geographic Magazine has explained the interaction of the world’s rainforests as creating a “giant flowing river in the sky” as different regions’ rainy seasons push and pull moisture through the air. Rainforests have a profound effect on the weather, and until conservation efforts begin researching and prioritizing the devastating, drought-inducing effects of deforestation, the water crisis will only intensify.

This is particularly true of many developing nations which happen to be located in tropical regions which are currently home to large swaths of rainforest which are being harvested for wood to use in construction and land to farm as these nations’ populations boom.

Food-Hungry Nations Drive Deforestation

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Oftentimes, deforestation is spurred on by a demand for food products that grow in tropical regions. In West Africa, the cocoa trade has spurred on massive deforestation in the Ivory Coast, where rainforest cover has been reduced by more than 80% in the last sixty years.

The global demand for cocoa has created a rampant black and grey market for cocoa beans that has caused enforcement agencies in countries like Ghana and the Ivory Coast to turn a blind eye to the illegal practices that account for up to 40% of the cacao in the global supply chain.

Because it is so difficult to discern the provenance of cocoa once it is gathered in bulk for processing, industry giants like Nestle and Hershey are fueling the demand for the illegal cocoa, which is farmed primarily in freshly-deforested areas, where local farmers believe the “fresh” soil and ashes from burned down trees produce the highest crop yields.

However, deforested areas end up drought-stricken and infertile due to their inability to naturally self-regulate, which only fuels further demand for the illegally-procured deforested farming plots.
Similarly, palm oil farmed in deforested sections of Sumatra is causing major ecological crises and loss of already-threatened species like elephants, tigers, rhinos, and orangutans. Much like the cocoa industry, palm oil is aggregated at processing plants which effectively obscure the oil’s origin, thus “absolving” buyers of direct responsibility for illegal deforestation.

However, the demand for these products is created by major international companies which are acutely aware of the practices required to create large amounts of palm oil and cacao, both of which incentivize farmers to operate illegally in order to boost production and have access to a profitable market.

Sumatra’s deforestation rate is among the world’s highest alongside Indonesia and Brazil, and the deforestation also contributes to drought and unusual wildfires which, in 2015 alone, created more CO2 emissions than the entire United Kingdom combined.

The logging-induced fires that year destroyed over 8,000 square miles of rainforest and contributed to over 100,000 premature deaths caused by exposure to smog or fire. Palm oil is a common vegetable oil that is used in foods, cosmetics, cleaning products, and fuels; it is a biological alternative to petroleum in many instances, but its harvesting is often similarly destructive to fossil fuel production.

Palm oil is the cheapest and most efficient vegetable oil to produce, which is why it’s in a staggering half of all consumer products on the market today. But just because it offers good economic incentives for major corporations, its environmental costs may make it among the most costly commonly-used ingredients today.

In addition to being obscured behind the generic name “vegetable oil,” palm oil is also frequently masked in consumer goods using names like “sodium lauryl sulphate, stearic acid, and palmitate,” all of which do little to betray their origins or allow consumers to make informed decisions.

In Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sumatra, the equivalent of 3oo football fields per hour of rainforest are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. The impacts of deforestation are alarming and widespread, but many developing nations are slow to legislate or enforce environmental action as they prioritize economic growth, even when it comes at the expense of human rights or global ecological well-being. The island of Borneo has lost more than 16,000 square miles of ancient rainforest to palm oil plantations, which has threatened thousands of species of tropical flora and fauna.

To put this in the context of one species which is quite closely related to humans, almost 150,000 critically endangered Bornean orangutans were killed between 1999 and 2015, all lost to deforestation, which occurs in large part due to demand for palm oil.

Local Solutions to Global Problems

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The unfortunate reality is that concerned environmentalists have little to no direct impact or power over the local governments which would theoretically protect rainforests. However, consumers, corporations, and environmental organizations can have a large impact through education initiatives and incentivizing viable alternatives to environmentally harmful products like palm oil and single-use paper goods.

Whether it’s public information campaigns that share the destructive backstory of palm oil with consumers in an effort to pressure major manufacturers or it’s small tech companies and nonprofits offering tools to help local enforcement agencies monitor and protect the forests under their jurisdiction, there are ways we can protect the fragile ecosystems of the world even if we do not have direct voting power in the nations they are located in.

The Rainforest Connection is using machine-learning and second-hand smartphones to create a network of “eyes and ears” in the Amazon rainforest to listen for noises associated with (illegal) logging activity as well as animal chatter that indicates the presence of certain critically-endangered and internationally-protected species.

This project solves a series of problems in protecting rainforests–when forests are still standing, they are extremely dense and difficult to navigate and monitor, which is both a challenge and an excuse for many local agencies. It also gives international watchdog groups credible evidence that CITES-listed endangered species are being directly threatened by logging activity in specific areas, which is a far more directly actionable data point than even the most thorough and credible research hypotheses.

Final Thoughts

Deforestation in global rainforests effects every one of us, no matter where we live. The good news is that every one of us can directly protect the rainforest by reducing the demand for products that contribute to deforestation, all while providing major corporations economic incentive to be transparent and support ecological initiatives instead of turning a blind eye to ecological and environmental catastrophes.

The Earth’s Population Is Reaching New Heights. Are We Prepared for the Consequences?

The Earth’s Population Is Reaching New Heights. Are We Prepared for the Consequences?

In the year 2000, the population of earth was 6.11 billion people.

According to the US Census Bureau’s World Population Clock, that number is now 7.49 billion.

The UN anticipates world population to increase to just shy of 10 billion people by the year 2050.

Without any context, those numbers are just that, numbers.

However, framed against the backdrop of earth’s finite resources and whether the planet can sustain a species that consumes faster than it can replenish, it’s clear why overpopulation is a growing concern for many.

But is overpopulation, with the many other challenges we face every day, really something that humans should worry over?

We’ve made it this long, so why wouldn’t we be able to continue to stretch the resources and technology available to accommodate our growth.

To adequately answer that question, let’s explore where this rapid rise in population originated, the potential impact to our planet, and ultimately if the earth can sustain us.

The Population Goes Boom

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In broad terms, overpopulation relates to whether our planet is capable of sustaining humans as our numbers increase and resources decrease. Overpopulation though can also occur at a micro level.

Individual countries can experience overpopulation, and many developing areas face the hardships that come with this crisis more so than developed nations.

Make no mistake though, whether it’s just one individual or 1 billion or a modern country or one that remains underdeveloped, we all need the optimal conditions that earth provides to survive.

How did we get to this point of stretching our only home so thin? There are several factors.

Birth Rate Versus Death Rate

First and foremost, the population of earth is a simple numbers game.

Let’s go back to the US Census clock and take a look at US numbers. In our country, there is a birth every 8 seconds. Every 12 seconds a death occurs. Not accounting for immigration, that means we are adding 2½ people every minute to the populace.

On a global scale, the numbers are higher. Four births each second versus two deaths, means 30 people are added to the world’s population every minute.

Though global births have seen a decline over the past several decades, they continue to outpace deaths at a steady rate.

Modern Medicine, Longer Life

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Medical technology is arguably the most significant contributor to the increase in human life spans. In 1900, the average lifespan of a person from the US was 47 years. In the year 2000, it was 77.

From the eradication of diseases that once consumed large swaths of people to developing vaccines and drugs that treated countless other ailments, medicine has been the primary driver in prolonging life.

Beyond that, technology has also pushed fertility rates (while also reducing maternal mortality) to greater numbers, again with medicines that benefit women who once we unable to conceive.

Poverty and Immigration

Both poverty and immigration are hot-button issues in almost every corner of the world. Though the fervor and nature of the conversation of each vary from place to place, both problems contribute to overpopulation.

With poverty, infant mortality rates tend to be higher among low-income families, especially in undeveloped countries. In this environment, large families would emerge from the necessity of having enough able bodies to do the work necessary for survival.

Also, those that live in poverty in developing nations lack education and are often illiterate. They do not grasp the concepts of family planning or sex education and the strain that large numbers of people put on resources and the related consequences.

Immigration, for its part, is often a concern for the resources for developed nations. To escape the hardships of their native countries, immigrants will seek out refuge in places that can best support their needs.

Hospitals, schools, and jobs are all beacons to draw those looking for a better life. The inevitable downside though is the stress placed on the infrastructure of a country. Higher demand for resources will in most cases lead to a shortage of those same needs.

An Exhausted Planet

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Arguably the most significant impact to an area that is overpopulated, whether its a city, country or the planet as a whole, is the potential drain on resources.

It’s hard to refute against the reality that the more of us there are, the more resources we consume and the less there is to go around. This creates several issues that can put many at risk in ways that might not immediately be clear.

Scarcity of Water

We could fill this section with any number of strained natural resources that prove vital to everyday life across the globe.

Oil, natural gas, or other earth elements that play a role in the systems we take for granted every day. However, the one resource that warrants the most attention is water.

More specifically, freshwater.

The earth, of course, is awash in water. The problem, however, is that of the 70% of the water that covers our planet, only 2.5% of it is fresh. To complicate the numbers even further, just 1.7% of the freshwater total is easily accessible.

The scarcity of fresh water only increases once you look at the developing world. Countries such as India are already facing critical shortages against a backdrop of a booming population.

According to one estimate from the World Health Organization, over 2 billion people cannot easily access safe drinking water. Another 4.5 billion, or more than half of the world’s population does not have what developed nations would consider acceptable sanitation.

Ecological Harm

Beyond the depletion of natural resources such as fresh water, overpopulation can also inflict direct physical harm to ecosystems spread across the globe. Even if you sidestep the debate on whether or not climate change is real, there is no escaping the damage humans have done to the environment.

Air and water pollution from automobiles and factories.

Harm to sensitive ecosystems and food supply through disasters such as oil spills.

Deforestation and hunting food sources to dangerously low levels.

Stripping or polluting the environment for our immediate needs will also hasten the potential environmental catastrophes that future generations will face.

Conflict

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Imagine yourself jammed into an elevator with a dozen or so other individuals. Your first, and in some cases only instinct, is to stake your claim to what little space you have.

Now picture the earth as one big elevator, with 7.5 billion of us all fighting for a spot.

Whereas we fought wars and conflicts of the past over ideals or to protect from aggression, future struggles will be over resources and basic tenets like oil, water, and fertile lands.

A 2013 World Bank report estimated that over 750 million people lived beneath the $1.90 a day international poverty line. In many parts of the world, the struggle to feed a family, find work or tend a viable farm, or access a decent water source may drive many to desperate measures and in turn, inciting violent conflicts. This is a real possibility even in developed nations.

Can the Earth Sustain More of Us?

The answer, unfortunately, is not a straightforward as one would hope.

According to a 2012 report commissioned by the UN, encompassing 65 different estimates, Earth’s human capacity could vary anywhere from 2 billion people to upwards of 1 trillion. Below is a quick recap of the vast disparities of the individual studies:

  • 6 studies estimated 2 billion
  • 7 studies estimated 4 billion
  • 20 studies estimated 8 billion
  • 14 studies estimated 16 billion
  • 6 studies estimated 32 billion
  • 7 studies estimated 64 billion
  • 2 studies estimated 128 billion
  • 1 study estimated 256 billion
  • 1 study estimated 512 billion
  • 1 study estimated 1 trillion

Although a clear majority puts the Earth’s sustainable carrying capacity at 8 billion, a total we will quickly exceed, the real takeaway is that the exact number is difficult to know.

These studies, while aiming to measure the same thing, take different approaches and focus on variable factors to reach their conclusions.

As the UN report also points out, there are certain factors about the earth that we do not yet understand.

How long until the release of CO2 into the atmosphere reaches a tipping point?

What is the temperature at which the Arctic ice sheets ultimately fail?

Just how much food, medicine, water, and other basic necessities will future humans need to survive reasonably?

All vital questions. All of them without clear answers.

Can We Lighten the Load?

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Let’s return to our original question and if the global issue of overpopulation is a concern for now.

As one of the few global problems that have the potential to impact every human on earth, understanding overpopulation and then working to ease the stress on our planet is a necessary undertaking.

Though we cannot ethically stem the population increases immediately, small steps can put us down the right path to ensuring a reasonable population level and sustainable earth.

Education, particularly in developing countries, will help people understand the consequences of overpopulation. We must also place a heavy emphasis on women’s empowerment, family planning, and sex education.

In addition, smarter and more efficient use of our resources is a must. This is especially true in developed nations where resource use far outweighs the actual need. The goal is that our consumption doesn’t outpace replenishment.

So yes, we do need to concern ourselves with finding a sustainable balance between our growth, what we need to survive, and the interaction we have with our planet.

If we don’t, the consequences could be dire.

If we do, then the earth will be ours to call home for many more years to come.

The Truth About Earthquakes: Everything You Need to Know

The Truth About Earthquakes: Everything You Need to Know

In an average year, there are hundreds of small earthquakes every day. These earthquakes usually only reach a 2 on the magnitude scaled and may not even be noticed by people on the surface.

However, major earthquakes, those of a magnitude of 7 or greater, occur on average more than once a month. Once a month may not seem frequent, but with the devastating effects that they can create, once a month is substantial.

Earthquakes can occur anywhere in the world, and they can affect all types of people. Natural disasters like earthquakes are no respecters of persons and therefore it’s important to understand why they happen, what can be done to prevent damage, and how to help those who have been affected by earthquakes.

How do Earthquakes Occur?

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Earthquakes are caused by plates under the Earth’s surface breaking or colliding with one another. The tectonic plates under the Earth’s surface are believed to be in a state of movement on top of the Earth’s mantle.

The plates collide at a location called “fault lines,” and as they intersect they don’t move past each other smoothly. Instead, they are jagged and get stuck against each other, causing friction, and building up energy. When they finally do release and move past one another, the energy is released which causes waves of energy, which in turn causes an earthquake at the surface.

Can an Earthquake be Predicted?

Seismographs are used to tell how big an earthquake was and where the earthquake occurred, but they can’t predict when an earthquake will happen. Scientists have been trying to determine methods of figuring this out for some time, but without success. They can tell that particular fault lines will eventually produce an earthquake, but they have no way of knowing when it will.

What Makes Earthquakes Dangerous?

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Earthquakes are dangerous for a number of reasons. Of course, there is the initial shaking of the earth which can cause a variety of issues like large items in homes falling over, buildings cracking or falling, and windows blowing out. There are also secondary issues created by earthquakes like mudslides and landslides.

Below is a list of issues that can be created from an earthquake.

  • Burst gas lines, water lines, and sewage lines
  • Decimated houses and buildings
  • Landslides and Mudslides
  • Tsunamis
  • Volcanoes
  • Liquefaction
  • Subsidence
  • Fires
  • Aftershocks
  • Illnesses due to poor sanitation and burst pipes

How to be Safe During an Earthquake

Since it’s difficult to predict an earthquake, it means that people often don’t have a chance to evacuate before an earthquake strikes. Should you ever find yourself caught in an earthquake, here is a list of things to do to help maintain safety.

DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON!!

This short description refers to dropping to the ground and crawling to a safer place such as underneath a strong table. Cover your head and neck with one arm, and hold on to your shelter with the other arm.

DO NOT RUN OUTSIDE

While it may seem like a good idea to leave the inside of a building in case the structure begins to break, it’s not a good idea. Exterior walls are the most dangerous place to be because windows, facades, and architectural details are usually the first things to break and fall creating a great hazard to people escaping from buildings.

DO NOT STAND IN A DOORWAY

For older homes that have strongly reinforced doorways, this may not apply, but today’s architectural standards are different. Doorways are now no longer stronger than other parts of the house, and do not give you better protection than other parts of the home. It’s safer to stay underneath a sturdy table.

BE PREVENTATIVE

If you live in a location prone to earthquakes, it’s a good idea to use preventive measures in your home to reduce the risk of injury. This includes making sure that your home is built to be more earthquake resistant, securing furniture with flexible fasteners, and making sure that heavy objects aren’t stored up high.

Major Earthquakes In the World in the past 10 Years

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Earthquakes can happen anywhere in the world but there are some places like Los Angeles, Tokyo, Jakarta, and Manila, where they are more likely to happen. This is because these locations are located on fault lines where earthquakes begin.

The devastation of an earthquake has a lot to do with where, what time of day, and what time of year that the earthquake occurs. While a highly populated, highly structuralized location will sustain more damages, they are also more likely to have stronger structures and quicker response times. For places in the world with poor infrastructure and poorly funded response teams, the effects can be more long-lasting.

China – May 12, 2008 – in Sichuan Province

In 2008, China experienced an earthquake in the south-west province of Sichuan. The earthquake was of a magnitude of 7.9 and left 87,000 people missing or dead. Due to poor infrastructure, 4,800,000 people were left homeless, and 137.5 billion dollars was spent rebuilding the areas that were affected.

Indonesia – September 30, 2009 – in Sumatra

With a magnitude of 7.5, this left thousands of people injured, and 130,000 homes damaged. It left a death toll of 1,117.

Haiti – Jan 13, 2010 – in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince

Haiti’s earthquake in 2010 was one of the most devastating in recent history. It was a 7.0 earthquake that left between 250,000 – 300,000 dead, and 895,000 homeless. Like Sumatra, Haiti’s buildings were not made to withstand catastrophic earthquakes and many buildings were reduced to rubble in the wake.

Sadly, Haiti’s earthquake destruction did not end there. After 100 years, Haiti received its first outbreak of Cholera. This was due to poor water and sanitation infrastructure that was more greatly damaged by` the earthquake. The outbreak of cholera resulted in 500,000 infections, and an additional 7,000 deaths.

Chile – Feb 27, 2010 – started off the coast of Chile

Just a month later in Chile, there was a massive earthquake off the coast that had a magnitude of 8.8. There were at least 700 lives lost and 500,000 homes damaged. The earthquake also created a tsunami which took the lives of several people on a Chilean island.

New Zealand – Feb 22, 2011 – in Christchurch

Christchurch, New Zealand, was hit with a 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22, 2011. 185 people lost their lives and several thousand were injured. Most of the people lost their lives when the Canterbury Television and Pyne Gould Corporation buildings collapsed.

Japan – March 11, 2011 – in North East Japan

In 2011, Japan experienced an incredible 9.0 magnitude earthquake that triggered a tsunami. It was reported that 18,000 people were missing or dead, and in some places along the coast, entire communities were washed away.

Iran – August 11, 2012 – in Tabriz

In 2012 Iran was hit with twin earthquakes one that measured a 6.4 magnitude, and the following one that measured 6.3. At least 300 people were killed in the two earthquakes.

Pakistan – September 24, 2013 – in Balochistan province

In 2013, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit Pakistan. It hit in a remote area, but still took the lives of 825 people and decimated the town of Dal Badi.

China – August 3, 2014 – in Yunnan province

In 2014, the Yunnan province in China was struck by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake that left more than 700 dead and 2,000 injured.

Nepal – April 25, 2015

In 2015, Nepal experienced two earthquakes. One on April 25, and one on May 12. Between the two earthquakes, the United Nations estimated that 8 million people were affected, some of which were in neighboring countries like India, Tibet, and Bangladesh. The first earthquake also triggered an avalanche off of Mount Everest that took the lives of at least a dozen more people.

Afghanistan – October 26, 2015 – northeast Afghanistan

Again in 2015, an earthquake struck, this time in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was affected but so was nearby Pakistan. The 7.5 magnitude earthquake took the lives of at least 300 people.

Ecuador – April 16, 2016 – Pacific Coast

Ecuador was hit by an off coast by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 16, 2016. At least 650 people lost their lives and 26,000 were displaced.

Italy – August 24, 2016 – near Rome

On August 24, 2016, Italy was struck by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake. The earthquake affected a group of mountain communities outside of Rome, and took the lives of 300 people.

Mexico – September 19, 2017 – central Mexico

On September 19, 2017, central Mexico was hit by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that took the lives of 300 people, and was the worst earthquake the capital has witnessed since 1985.

How to Help Earthquake Victims

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Since earthquakes are unpredictable, and can occur all over the world, it’s important to know how to help offer relief after an earthquake disaster. Below are some ways that you can get involved to help people in need.

UNICEF

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was designed to help in emergency situations around the world. They employ 12,000 people worldwide, and stand ready in case of global emergencies including earthquakes.

According to their website, “…UNICEF stands ready to provide both immediate and long-term necessities — food, water, shelter, protection, healthcare and psycho-social support — whenever an earthquake strikes.”

UNICEF always accepts donations and provides a number of ways to do so including donating to specific causes that they help with.

Other Places to Donate

It’s always important when donating to organizations to do your own research to make sure that they are upstanding and using the donations appropriately. Below is a starter list of places to consider in the event of a natural disaster.

It’s also a good idea to donate to organizations that are local to the disaster if possible. They’re often the best groups to help because they understand the needs of the local people and most importantly, how to help them. Because of this, in some cases, it would be more beneficial to see where the earthquake has occurred before donating. By waiting you can research organizations that are most prepared to be helpful to that specific region.

Fundraise

If you’re aware of an earthquake disaster and you’d like to help, consider running a fundraiser in your community and then donating the proceeds to an organization that can help. Not everyone can physically help after a disaster, and in many cases, it wouldn’t be possible or financially helpful to try. However, lots of people are capable of donating a few extra dollars towards relief efforts.

Donate Blood

Donating blood is a great way to help people in need — and you don’t need to wait until a disaster happens to donate. In fact, the process works better if there’s already blood stored in the event of a disaster.

If too much blood is donated immediately after a disaster, two things will happen. First, some of the blood will be wasted because it can’t all be used right away and has a limited shelf life. Secondly, even if people donate blood immediately after a crisis, the blood used right after a disaster will likely be blood that was already on the shelf. Partly this is because the blood needs to travel to the location, and partly it’s because it takes several days for the blood to be tested for safety.

It can also be beneficial to wait a few weeks until after things have settled since it’s often the case that many of the needed blood donations occur later.

Still, the very best way to donate blood is to do so regularly so the blood banks can keep a ready supply on hand.

Volunteer

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Volunteering is another great way to help when there are disasters in the world. Volunteers can work on teams landing in disaster areas, or they can work behind the scenes gathering supplies, recruiting workers, and working on communication. There are volunteer opportunities for many different skill sets because rebuilding communities requires many talents.

Generally, it is better to volunteer through a relief organization rather than buying a plane ticket and going directly to a place alone. Although with good intentions, traveling to damaged locations without a trained organization may actually detract from the work of those who are trained to provide help.

Conclusion

Earthquakes and natural disasters can happen anywhere in the world, and can affect anyone regardless of location or social status. There are some things that people can do to diminish the amount of damage left by earthquakes like building structures that can better withstand them, and earthquake proofing their homes.

Most importantly, it’s our job as people on the planet to help out our neighbors and lend a hand when we can. This year it may be a neighboring country, and next year it may be on our doorstep. We should all look for ways to help out when disaster strikes.

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