Poverty and Pollution
When I hear the word pollution, I almost immediately think of how the sky changes to a very dingy gray as you travel north from North Carolina to New Jersey. It is not the signs or the tollbooths that lets you know that you are on the New Jersey Turnpike; it is the pollution. Growing up in New Jersey, I never occurred to me that the industrial smog or the lack of clear blue skies was not normal. It was simply home. Having traveled the world, I know that skies are blue and that many countries live in toxic pollution that affects their health, livelihood and families far worst than the industrial cities of America.
The focus of this paper is beyond the poverty and pollution that exists in America. It examines the ethical implications of businesses polluting in third world countries. Having lived in both Korea and Panama, I witnessed the mirror images displayed in third world “Save the Children” type commercials, up close and personal. Families living in squalor and toxic conditions just miles away form military installations paints a true face on poverty and pollution in these countries. Even this level of substandard living it is far above the levels of poverty that exists for communities mired in toxic communities.
There are many arguments about poverty and pollution. While some arguments are based on industry and money others are based on culture and race. It is for this reason that I have chosen to explore the following two arguments. The first argument states that the businesses that are polluting in the third world countries place more value on profit than the place on human life, therefore, they ignore pollution standards and take away the right to a livable environment to the people of those regions.
The second argument is that wealthy countries should be obligated to support greener industries in third world countries. I contend that the reason for the obligation is not because they have more money, it is because they are responsible for the pollution. It is from this aspect that I delve into the ethical challenges of business pollution, the price of progress and possible solutions. My point of view is for those people who believe that the moral right to a livable environment is for everyone.
Ethical Implications of Business Polluting in Third World Countries
The biggest ethical implication of businesses polluting in third world countries is the devaluing of human life for profit and self-interest. When businesses pollute in foreign countries without regard for human life they are placing less value on the lives they affect than they would place on the lives of their own families. While the major focus of corporations manufacturing products in third world countries involve global marketing, channels of distribution, branding and pricing options the pollution that the manufacturing process creates and its affects on the environment should also be considered. Read pollution questions for students
A new report, “The World’s Worst Pollution Problems 2012: Assessing Health Risks at Hazardous Waste Sites states that there are over 125 million people living in developing countries is at risk from industrial pollution and emissions, a problem that grow as manufacturing shifts to Third World nations. The report which tabulated toxic effects on 49 countries, shares that the health impact of industrial pollutants is almost equal to or higher than some of the worst global diseases, including malaria and tuberculosis.
Statistics such as these affects the lives of the people, their right to a livable environment and the destruction of the environment itself. What the study finds alarming is that while the focus is on researching and finding cures for the major disease less attention is being paid to industrial pollution and hazardous waste (Caravanos, J. et al. , 2011, Goodbaum, 2012).
What was even worst is that people exposed to these pollutants are disproportionately affected because with limited resources they are unable to move to non-polluted areas.
The expansion of chemical emissions has taken away, what the moral theorists, William T. Blackstone argues us the right to a livable environment (Shaw, 2011). The Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD) has estimated that by 2020, the global output of chemical with be 85 percent higher than in 1995, this makes one wonder why businesses disregard pollution control (Goodbaum, 2012). Why do businesses disregard standard of pollution control There are many reasons why businesses may conduct operations in a third world country and disregard any standards of pollution control.
Most of these reasons involve cutting cost to meet the regulatory requirements set by the Environmental Protection Agency. They do not want to meet the internal cost of equipment such as pollution-control devices and training. Avoiding the external cost of fines, lawsuits and possible plant closure are major factors in why companies seek to manufacture their products overseas which policies are less stringent. Because these standards are more relaxed many corporations feel that they can get away with contaminating developing countries while profiting from the products they are developing with cheaper labor and less controls.
These practices may save corporations millions of dollars but there is a greater price to pay for progress, that price is the affect pollution has on the environment and the people who live in it. Is Pollution the Price of Progress? Pollution is the price of progress and its costs is environmental, economical and social. To understand how these costs affect third world countries, it is important to understand the externalities of pollution. Environmental costs include the damage that is done to the ecosystem through the air, water and soil.
The economic cost affects labor and agricultural productivity as well as structures and infrastructures. The social costs include public health, medical costs and loss of life expectancy. The Blacksmith Institute’s report calculates the global burden of disease from contaminants in a commonly used measurement called DALYS – Disability Adjusted Life Years.
DALY’s represent the sum of two other calculations, Years of Life Lost (YLL) and Years Lost to Disability (YLD). YLL captures the number of years lost to early death from disease while YLD captures the affect on an individual while he is alive.
An example would be a person whose life expectancy is 85 years old, he contracts liver cancer at 50 and dies at the age of 55. His years of life lost would be 30 and his years lost to disability would be 5. Whereas the results from these calculations can be quite astounding, they illustrate in real time what the true price of progress can be for the human life and the need to protect the moral right of every individual to a livable environment (Caravanos, 2011). A Livable Environment There are certain essential elements needed for a human being to live a sustainable life.
A livable environment fulfills these basic needs of water, food, air and shelter that is not contaminated. This is a moral right that is true for all people regardless of where they live. This is a moral right because the environment and humans are organisms that are interdependent upon one another. Shaw states that human beings are a part of nature and thus intricately connected with and interrelated to the natural environment (Shaw, 2011). When industrial pollution affects the air, water and soil that sustains human life it is denying the existence of this right.
Third world countries do not have the capabilities to reduce the health risks associated with hazardous waste contamination. Support is needed to sustain the ecosystem and remove pollution from these areas
An Obligation to Support Greener Industries
Wealthy nations have an obligation to both provide poorer nations with greener industries and to help them develop sources of energy. When determining the depth of this obligation it is necessary to look at the factors that contribute to this problem and the available resources of the different countries.
Yu was quoted in the New York Times as saying “It must be pointed out that climate change has been cause by the long-term historic emissions of developed countries and their high per capita emissions. She further stated that developed nations have responsibilities for global warming that cannot be shirked (Yardley, 2007). In examining the difference in how financial resources are used in developed versus developing countries, it was discovered that the wealthy countries spend much of their resources on luxuries and excesses while the poorer countries spend most of their resources on subsistent living.
The availability of greater financial resources allows the developed nations the ability to develop the needed technology to support greener industries. In contrast, the poorer countries who have less resources are less committed to develop sources of energy. While these developed countries have far greater resources than lesser developed countries they are obligated in most cases because they are responsible for industrial pollution in these countries. They are also responsible for the cleanup of any waste they have contributed to these countries.
There are many debates on both sides of this issue. Those in support of assisting the poorer countries state that with fewer resources the third world countries are combating poverty and social issues and should not be expected to commit at the same level. . Those against the support feel that assistance would be generous but not an obligation. It is for these reason that uniform global pollution control standards are needed (idebate. org).
Uniform Global Pollution Control Standards
Global laws and regulations are needed in the form of uniform global pollution control standards that will control measures to improve the quality of the environment and create guidelines for the safe elimination of industrial waste. These standards should include proper equipment, safety standards and regular inspections. In addition to the inspections, fines will be levied against anyone who neglects to comply with the standards. These standards will serve to support both developed and developing countries equally.
In conclusion, striving for a livable environment is something that supports the entire planet for as the shifts in the ecosystem occur they affect every living organism. As people are affected with disease through hazardous waste it affects their family, community and the economy. It is the moral rights of every individual whether they live in poverty of enjoying the benefits of wealth, to breath clean air, drink fresh water and not have to pay the exorbitant price of progress.