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Posts Tagged ‘Poverty’

This morning on my way out, I rode past a vacant plot of land that has just been cleared of trees. An apple tree had been cut down, and green apples were strewn around and lay in the morning sun – to rot or be eaten by birds and insects. No one had claimed the apples, and no one was cheeky or daring enough to scoop them up. Perhaps also, no one had the inclination?

We live in such a rich society here in Australia. Even with the devastation of recent floods, fires and cyclones, there is an abundance of food around us so that none should be going hungry in the next few months (despite the price hikes in some fruit and veg).

The reality around us plays into our understanding of the wider world, and can influence how we consider this question:

“How do Christians choose between caring for the poor and caring for creation?

This is a frequently asked question directed to Scott Sabin, the Executive Director of Plant with a Purpose, by curious Christians.

In Caring for the Earth Is Caring for the Poor, Flourish authors argue that we don’t have to choose one at the expense of the other.

In Caring for the Earth, Sabin is quoted as saying that his care for the earth grew out of concern for the poor.

While we in the West have more than enough food waiting for us in our supermarkets, the quality of life of the poor is acutely tied to the quality of life on the land around them.

Sabin explains:

…serving the poor – helps to serve the environment and helping to restore the environment serves the poor. Both activities serve the Creator.”

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So says Viraphone Viravong, director general of the Laos energy and mines department.

Jonathan Watts reports in a Guardian article that Laos has sought regional approval for it’s first major hydropower development on its stretch of the mighty Mekong River.

Yet, this energy won’t provide local (Laos) industry with cheap energy, on the contrary, 90 percent of it will be sold to the neighbouring countries of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Watts explains that this move is part of a broader plan by the Laos Government to use more of its natural resources to generate finance. He continues:

According to Viravong, 20% of Laos’ GDP will come from hydropower and mining by 2020, up from about 4% today.”

Fair enough?

Yet, the complexities of growth, development and sustainability begin to reveal themselves with more information about the Mekong and the countries on its banks. For example, this dam is one of eleven proposed for the lower part of the Mekong. And, these aren’t the first dams for the river either: China has already heavily dammed the upsteam section.

It isn’t just conservation groups who are concerned with this mass damming program. Organisations like Oxfam Manna Gum, and coalition group Save the Mekong are united with a shared concern for the impact that these dams will have on local residents, such as the numerous fishing communities whose livelihoods depend on the fish that traverse the waters.

But there is without a doubt an environmental aspect to this issue as well. Fish are going to be affected. Sedimentation is a concern.

Watts explains,

Four of the world’s 10 biggest freshwater fish migrate up the Mekong to spawn. Among them is the Mekong giant catfish, which is the size of a bull shark, and the Mekong stingray, which can weigh up to 600kg.”

When asked about the environmental impact, Viravong responded: “If we do it ourselves, only cheap energy from hydropower will do.”

What does it mean for Australians to help our neighbours? What if our Government contributed to subsidising sustainable energy for developing countries like Laos? Do we have a responsibility for the fishing communities, and for the fish of the Mekong?

For more information check out “Preserving Plenty” a report by Oxfam/Manna Gum.

For a photo of the biggest river fish I’ve ever seen, go here.

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