ecostory 116-2007
"A long, difficult path out of poverty"

back home | climate | energy | sustainability | water

The Financial Times

stands for "integrity, accuracy and authority." Its values are: "to be "brave, imaginative and decent"" ( And the Editors columns bears the header "With fear and without favour". We assume the the Editor in Chief, Lionel Barber

Martin Wolf is the chief economist editior of the Financial Times. Earlier this year he surprised us by claiming that The Club of Rome had been wrong - in defense of the growth paradigm.
Now there could be a change of opinion. We are not quite sure yet.

Mr Wolf's historical accounts and conclusions are pretty debatable. More important are his conclusions at the end of the article, which seem incoherent.

"Unacceptable", which demonstrates that resources are becoming increasingly scarce.

On the other hand he says "The condition for success is successful investment in human ingenuity," which seeks refuge in hope and the works of the human spirit.

The late Julian Simon made a sport of calculating how many people this earth could sustain. 80 billion were conceivable, in his mind, if humans would use their "Ultimate Resource", their creativity.

We know that no amount of creativity can revive extinct species and recreate lost resources, burned, consumed and gone forever. We are afraid Mr Wolf believes that ingenuity i.e. technology can feed more people with more goods whilst simultaneously the raw material stocks are declining.

Human intelligence should lead to a revision of long-cherished paradigms of endless progress. We will face the hard material realities of the end of luxury. This is not a matter of political thought or finding energy sources.
It is matter, that is earth, food, water, the necessities of subsistance. Either we reduce our consumption or we will perish.

Helmut Lubbers
ecological psychologist and
environmental scientist @ 29.12.2007

Also see "Hostility to the notion of limits to growth" (with reeaders' comments)
Environmental developments:
  • The day of "Peak oil", i.e. the highest daily amount of oil extracted, is approaching. It is expected within one to twenty years. Thereafter petroleum will be used for prioritary applications. (compare fossil energy developments)
    Your comment or question
  • home | a-z site map | write to writing for change... halt  | ecostory | feedback
    zurück - retour - backback ecoglobe since 1997 top article

    "A long, difficult path out of poverty"

    (Copyright notice) Editorial December 27 2007

    Let us start with the good news. Never has so great a proportion of the world’s people been free of extreme poverty. In 1981, two-fifths of the world’s population lived under the extreme “dollar-a-day” poverty line; in 2001 the figure was one fifth. The world economy has rarely grown faster over a sustained period, and very large, very poor countries are major sources of that growth. This growth presents political and especially environmental challenges, but it is a dramatic development success story.

    What is more, while there are obstacles ahead, there is every reason to hope that this progress can continue, lifting many more people out of poverty. Everyone who cares about the fate of the world’s poor should be celebrating far more than they tend to.

    But it is hard to feel too cheery when war and famine lurk on the doorstep. Dramatic progress in poverty reduction notwithstanding, hundreds of millions of people live in countries that are extremely poor and look likely to stay that way. Development economist Paul Collier has dubbed them the “bottom billion”. Their plight is one of the big policy challenges of the new year – and for many years to come.

    The institutions charged with thinking about these problems are aid agencies. But development requires much more than aid – indeed, it frequently does not require aid at all. It is not that the aid industry does a bad job – if truth be told, some aid agencies are excellent, some are not, and donor governments have not made it a priority to find out which is which. But the difficulty is more profound: aid is not, mostly, what the poorest countries lack.

    Most of the bottom billion have lived through civil war, either in their own countries or by proxy as the unfortunate neighbours of a country at war with itself. Many are landlocked in a world that relies ever more on global trade in goods and services. Soil erosion and water shortages are sadly commonplace. So are malaria, Aids and other devastating illnesses. Extreme corruption is endemic – in a desperately poor country, the main business opportunity is banditry, after all.

    All this means chaos and insecurity, evils in their own right and severe disincentives to long-term plans from state and private sector alike. Under the circumstances, it should not be surprising that aid alone has not lifted the poorest people out of poverty. That is not a reason to abandon aid – although aid agencies should try harder than they do to evaluate aid programmes rigorously. Rather, it is a case for a broader agenda.

    The most obvious way in which rich countries could help is by keeping the peace in regions ravaged by war, or at least funding and supporting peacekeeping forces. But that is also the most difficult, risky and contentious way to carry out development policy.

    Trade policy, too, has a part to play. US efforts to open that country’s markets to African manufacturers have worked well, but they should be broader and other rich countries should be co-ordinating their initiatives.

    Free trade, in any case, can only do so much for landlocked countries with no roads and appalling internal bureaucratic trade barriers. Research by the World Bank has found that customs inspections and other red tape cause more delays for some poor countries than does the wretched state of infrastructure. It is a reminder that not every development problem has to be intractable – some can be solved with a stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen.

    China’s development looks miraculous; but the Chinese government did not have to change much to begin the process of growth. African countries are no poorer than China was in the 1970s, but their path out of poverty looks far less assured.

    It is unacceptable that so many people still live in the most extreme poverty. This is a challenge the world can and should meet. But let us not underestimate its scale. Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

    We have reproduced these article for scientific reasons only because of the volatility of the internet. Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007