What does development mean to me?
Development is such an enormous, wide-ranging term and means so many different things to different people, that it’s hard to pin down one exact definition. Increasingly though, I find my thoughts about development centring on climate change and global warming. This is not to say that nothing else matters, or that all else is overshadowed by the environment; merely that all else is affected by the environment. Gender, human rights, sanitation, poverty, health, education – I see all these issues through the lens of climate change and I believe it is the ‘fixer’ of many struggles we face today.
Others before me have regarded development in their own, unique way, and though I may not agree with them, the inclusion of their definitions are vital in the debate about discourse and development. Amartya Sen (Sen, 1999:4) maintained that development was about ‘expanding real freedoms’, while the ever positive Robert Chambers (whose work I greatly admired) thought that it was simply ‘good change’ (Chambers, 1997:1743). In contrast, development was defined by Gilbert Rist more harshly as ‘capitalism with a human face’ (Rist, 2007:487). For a long period, economic growth was thought of as development’s sole definition. I was excited to read so many different perspectives and these ideas made me challenge my own.
For me, one of the main points of development is that it’s not only confined to the South as most people usually think and as is stereotypical (especially when discussing global warming). And so, in this instalment of my blog, I’d like to focus more on the West’s involvement. The North is actually the biggest contributor to climate change, whilst developing countries bare the brunt of its effects. Rist agrees with this notion stating in his essay, we need ‘changes in our daily life, particularly in the Northern hemisphere’ (Rist, 2007:490).
I recently watched the controversial documentary Cowspiracy (Andersen and Kuhn, 2014) which set social media abuzz when it first came out last year, and even made me reconsider my own meat and dairy consumption and what I could do myself to affect change. The film feeds us provoking facts; ‘we are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people’ (Holt-Giménez, 2012), yet ‘82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by Western countries’ (Oppenlander, 2012).
If we were to change our habits in the West, it would lessen the effects of climate change on the world’s poorest countries. Perhaps some of them would even follow suit in the future and adopt a more sustainable model to follow when looking to the West for ideas, rather than mirroring our current capitalist system of economic growth.
There is no doubt that developing countries need assistance as well to tackle climate change, especially as many don’t have the infrastructure or money to implement the ambitious alternatives that countries in the West can adopt. But there needs to be a relationship between the North and South to help each other, rather than a one-way exchange. We need to work together to address global warming, and in turn, address global development.
The Guardian’s Keep It In The Ground campaign is an example of a new, more hopeful approach to environmental development. Big actors from private corporations to global institutions to governments, and even universities and religious organisations, are urged to divest from fossil fuels. A campaign like this which gathers all our voices together and creates a global consensus of ‘people pressure’ can be a good thing and is ‘responsible well-being by all and for all’ (Chambers, 1997:1749).
Andersen, K and Kuhn, K. (2014) Cowspiracy. USA: A.U.M. Films and First Spark Media.
Chambers, R. (1997) ‘Responsible Well-Being – A Personal Agenda for Development’, World Development Vol. 25. UK: Pergamon.
Deviant Art. (2012) ‘Global Warming’ [Online]. Available at: http://www.deviantart.com/art/Global-Warming-305256681 (Accessed: 4 October 2015).
Holt-Giménez, E. (2012) ‘We Already Grow Enough Food for 10 Billion People… and Still Can’t End Hunger’, Common Dreams [Online]. Available at: http://www.commondreams.org/views/2012/05/08/we-already-grow-enough-food-10-billion-people-and-still-cant-end-hunger (Accessed: 4 October 2015).
Oppenlander, R. (2012) The World Hunger-Food Choice Connection: A Summary [Online]. Available at: http://comfortablyunaware.com/blog/the-world-hunger-food-choice-connection-a-summary/ (Accessed: 4 October 2015).
Rist, G. (2007) ‘Development as a buzzword’, Development in Practice, Volume 17. UK: Routledge.
Sen, A. (1999) Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.