Poverty and Pollution

Poverty and Pollution

  1. Determine the ethical implications of businesses polluting in a third world country. Explain your rationale.

There are various ethical implications of businesses, especially from developed countries polluting in the third word countries.  Poverty has been regarded as the main cause of suffering in third world countries, and the only way to redeem these nations from vicious cycle of deprivation is by promoting economic growth through industrialization (Goulet, 2003).  However, these polluting industries instead promote poverty.  Environmental degradation is one of the major consequences of these investments, and third world countries shoulder a significant burden of the resulting effects. Although these polluting industries spur economic development in third word countries, the growth is not sustainable and they cause a myriad of environmental problems, which outweigh the economic benefits accrued from the investments.  The adverse social-economic impacts originate from the direct effects of pollution such as emission of poisonous gases, discharge of lethal heavy metals, to contamination of drinking water and agricultural soil. Global warming, which is a consequence of pollution in both developed and developing countries is a major impediment to sustainable economic development.  When businesses establish industries emitting greenhouse gases in developing countries,   both developed and developing countries suffer the consequences, but the third world countries bear the heavier burden due to their inferior economic status (OECD, 2012).  Other pollutants contaminate   air, water, and soil in third world countries, which further undermine the economic productivity of these nations, leading to higher levels of poverty.  The ethical implication of businesses polluting in third world countries is that they should not be established in these nations. These businesses are economically beneficial to the developed countries, while third world nations sink deeper into poverty and reduced quality of life.

  1. Suggest the reasons a business may conduct operations in a third world country and disregard any standards of pollution control.

There are various factors that encourage businesses to undertake operations in the third world without following the standards of controlling pollution. These include ignorance in the third world about the environmental impacts of such businesses in their countries. This ignorance could be attributed to lack of proper environmental knowledge and policies or their poor implementation especially in regard to importation of hazardous materials from developed countries.  The growing emphasis of global trade for instance has increased the risk of dumping hazardous goods that are even banned in their country of origin to third world countries. Dumping of such products imply that the third world countries are not aware of the environmental implications of such commodities or the existing anti dumping measures are not fully implemented (Greenwood, 1985).  Third world countries are often affected by humanitarian crises, such as drought, disease epidemics and frequent conflicts.  Such emergencies sometimes compel these countries to disregard pollution and safety standards of urgently required supplies, such as food and drugs. For instance widespread drought and famine could make a third world country import genetically modified foods or food infected with disease causing organisms such  as beef from cows infected with mad cow disease.  In such situation, a business could disregard measures for pollution control (Greenwood, 1985).  An apt example of disregard to pollution measures is the use of the highly toxic DDT insecticide in the control of malaria infection in the third world countries, especially Africa.  Malaria epidemics are prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa, killing thousands of vulnerable groups especially women and children annually (OECD, 2012). DDT is highly effective in eradicating the mosquito vectors, but is highly toxic. The need to eradicate malaria could encourage importation of DDT in the continent.  Most third world countries have poor governance structures, which allow unethical practices such as corruption to thrive. In such situations, the corrupt individual could conspire with businessmen to import hazardous goods or set up industries that cause environmental pollution. High poverty levels and the high demand for employment in third world countries also encourage businesspeople to disregard measures of controlling pollution. In such situations, third world governments overlook the environmental impacts of the investments to safeguard jobs in order to secure political goodwill of the people.

  1. It has been said that pollution is the price of progress. Assess the connections between economic progress and development, on the one hand, and pollution controls and environmental protection, on the other.

Economic progress and development are closely interdependent aspects.  Different countries have diverse priorities in their developmental policies depending on their level of economic progress. According to World Bank (2008), development is measured in terms of human development, which involves determinants such as life expectancy, literacy levels and the average income of people. All these parameters determine the freedom and wellbeing of people.  In other words, development comprises of the aspects that enhance the wellbeing of a person ranging from health, incomes to political freedom. Economic progress is the main tool used for attaining human development.  Most countries with impressive economic progress, in terms of wealth have high levels of development, through enhancing people’s wellbeing. However, other countries have attained high economic growth at the expense of human development through practices such as autocracy, inequitable distribution of wealth, unsustainable utilization of natural resources and restricting human freedom. Economic progress attained through such practices which limit human development is not sustainable and cannot last long. Sustainable economic growth is achieved through consistent human development (World Bank, 2008). Therefore high economic growth does not necessarily imply that a country is developed, unless the growth is accompanied by sustainable development practices.  In the contemporary society, pollution is one of the major consequences of unsustainable economic development and in view of its negative implications on human development, environmental protection and pollution control measures are highly advocated. The major causes of pollution are human activities, such as unsustainable use of natural resources, burning fossil fuels and use of toxic materials among other practices applied during production of goods and services, to promote economic wellbeing. These activities emit hazardous materials which contaminate the environment.  High levels of pollution cause irreparable damage to the environment, by contaminating major natural resources such as air, water, and soil. Therefore, pollution controls are important measures for protecting the environment against degradation. In other words, environmental protection is achieved through pollution control measures.

  1. Support the argument that human beings have a moral right to a livable environment regardless of the country they live in.

People regardless of their country of residence have a moral right to live in a clean, safe environment.  The supposition that people from third world countries deserve and want to live in a polluted environment is callous. This unfortunate supposition is informed by unregulated capitalism, which advocates creation of wealth, regardless of the means used to acquire it. Polluted environment adversely affects the health and wellbeing of all people regardless of their age, social economic status and their countries of residence. The atomic bombs that were dropped in Japan and the subsequent long lasting side effects demonstrate the vulnerability of all human life to man made environmental catastrophes just like the insecticide explosion in Bhopal, India that killed thousands of people and adversely affected the health of many other Indians at the epicenter of the explosion. No human life is more superior to the other and it is morally wrong to expose people to polluted environment deliberately, since the adverse effects of the pollution to human health and quality of life are well documented. Therefore since all human beings are affected by pollution, the most logical approach is for all people regardless of their country to unite in pollution control and environment protection, rather than dumping polluting industries in poor third world countries.

  1. Take a position on whether wealthy nations have an obligation to provide poorer nations with, or help them develop, greener industries and sources of energy. Explain your rationale

Wealthy nations should assist poor nations develop greener industries and sources of energy because the rich countries are the leading emitters of greenhouse gases, which cause climate change. For the past ten years, the top greenhouse gas emitting countries are from North America, Europe, Asia and South America (OECD, 2012; Baer. et al 2000). These regions are the leading economic super powers in the world.  Poor countries are severely affected by global warming a phenomenon originating from emission of vast greenhouse gases. Some of the effects of global warming in poor countries include erratic weather patterns, such as drought and flooding, which cause considerable human suffering and heavy economic damage. Although poor countries are the least greenhouse gas emitters, they suffer greatest consequence of climate change, because of their poor economies and overdependence on natural resources for economic growth (OECD, 2012).  Moreover, in attempts to diversify their economies, industrialized countries have established their industries in poor countries. This industrial diversification has increased pollution in developing countries, exposing many poor people to health problems and economic stagnation originating from the polluted environment.  Developing green industries and green sources of energy would promote sustainable development in the third world and help in poverty eradication efforts.  Therefore, developed countries have an obligation of assisting poor countries in the development of greener industries and sources of energy.

  1. Propose a plan for uniform global pollution control standards and how you would enforce them.

It is apparent that greenhouse gas emissions and dumping of hazardous materials in water and soil are the major causes of pollution in the world. A plan for uniform global pollution control standards should therefore focus on regulating the causes of greenhouse gas emissions and disposal of hazardous materials. The plan is intended to minimize the level of these pollutants in the short-term and eliminate them altogether in the world.  To control and minimize emission of greenhouse gases, it is important for all countries to develop and use clean sources of energy and minimize the use of fossil fuels within the next 25 years. To enforce this regulation, it is important to start from green energy use at household level to the national level. Homes should be installed with clean sources of energy such as solar and wind power in order to eliminate the use of petroleum products.  At national level, excessive use of automobiles should be minimized and public trains that use nuclear power and bicycles used instead. Industries should be compelled to install applications to detoxify noxious gases into harmless forms. To minimize dumping of hazardous materials in the environment, all countries should comply with anti dumping policies. These include regulating the trade of hazardous materials and their disposal. To enforce this regulation, stringent safety and disposal rules should applied, and the offending parties penalized for environmental damage and where necessary denied the chance to conduct the business.



Baer P., et al. (2000). Climate change: Equity and greenhouse gas responsibility. Science,                          289(5488/2287):1-5. Retrieved from                                                                                                  http://www.climate-talks.net/2004-ENVRE130/PDF/20000929-Science-Equity.pdf

Goulet, D. (2003). Obstacles to the world development: An ethical reflection.  World        Development, 11(7): 609-624.

Greenwood, C. (1985). Restrictions on the exportation of hazardous products to the third world.             Regulatory imperialism or ethical responsibility?  Boston College Third World Law                   Journal, 5(2): 130-159.

OECD (2012). Green growth and developing countries: A summary for policy makers. Retrieved             from http://www.oecd.org/dac/50526354.pdf

World Bank (2008).  What is development? Retrieved from                                                                                     http://www.worldbank.org/depweb/beyond/beyondco/beg_01.pdf

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