Rich countries prospered without worrying much about the environment.
Poor and middle-income countries do not have that luxury
ON THE southern shore of Lake Naivasha, Kenya’s lush Rift Valley holds an unexpected scent of English summer. For inside vast plastic greenhouses grow mile upon mile of roses. Exported to Europe, they account for a fifth of the commercial roses sold there and provide a tenth of Kenya’s foreign exchange. But the business is a victim of its own success.
Attracted by a scent more pungent than flowers, a quarter of a million Kenyans followed the rose growers into the valley, hoping to make money. To feed themselves, they ploughed the surrounding hills, felling the trees that filter and constrain the streams that flow into the lake; it is now polluted by silt and run-off.
That might seem a classic story of development choked by the environmental damage it causes. But this one has a twist. The rose growers have started lending money to the smallholders, encouraging modern farming methods which leave the trees in place. Though it is early days, the results are promising; they benefit growers, small farmers and the lake.
Paying for environmental services is not a new idea. Pioneered in Mexico and Costa Rica, such projects keep clean the water supplies of many of Latin America’s giant cities. In China’s north-west, the Loess plateau, an area the size of France, was brought back from near-desert by paying farmers to stop uncontrolled grazing and to look after terraces and waterways. Local incomes doubled in a decade.
These schemes have a wider significance. They are examples of “green growth”, an attempt to improve the often destructive relationship between economic development and the environment. In the run-up to the “Rio+20” conference on sustainable development in Brazil on June 20th-22nd, it has become the new mantra for business people and policymakers. But does it work?
via The Economist
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