Four Big Thinkers' Ideas on Going Green, Ending Poverty


Today is Blog Action Day, and we'll be using our forum as a green blog to talk about this year's theme: poverty. Check the end of the post for links to all our Blog Action Day posts. Photo credit: psd via Flickr/Creative Commons

Poverty isn't a simple problem, and there are no simple solutions for it, but that hasn't stopped a handful of the world's smartest green thinkers from postulating on how to end poverty. While the bad news might be that poverty still exists, the good news is that these four theories, from four remarkable thinkers, all foresee a future without (or with much less) poverty and with a clean, green environment.

Read on to get details on ideas from Wangari Maathai, Bill Clinton, Van Jones, and Paul Hawken.


Photo credit: e pants via Flickr/Creative Commons

Wangari Maathai: Protecting the environment will combat poverty

The Nobel Prize-winning activist knows that the environment and poverty and forever intertwined:

At the United Nations you will know that they are talking about millennium development goals. For me, the millennium development goal number seven, which is the environment, sustainability of the environment, is the most important, it should be number one, not poverty, because if you destroy the environment, all the other millennium development goals can not be achieved.

...we must invest in the protection of the national resources on which these goals as I said if you flip it over, instead of starting with the poverty, start with the environment, protecting the soil, protecting the forests, and invest in the people because that's one thing that we keep saying that Africa is not doing enough, is investing in education...

Secondly, I think that it is very important for us, especially working at the grass root level, to invest in initiatives that empower these local people so that they can do what they can do for themselves and that is what the Green Belt Movement has been trying to do for many years is to help people manage their natural resources more responsibly, understand how they govern themselves so that they can challenge their leaders, and demand better management of the resources that they have, both within the country and what comes in from France, so that we can move forward.

Related reading on Wangari Maathai
The TH Interview: Wangari Maathai (Part One)
Protecting the Environment Will Combat Poverty: Wangari Maathai
The TH Interview: Wangari Maathai (Part Two)
Quote of the Day: Wangari Maathai Speaks for the Trees
Wangari Maathai "Unbowed" and Unbroken


Photo credit: Justin Ruckman via Flickr/Creative Commons

Clinton Global Initiative: Social global action, NGO networks can save lives, promote economic growth

CGI brings together global leaders from business, government, academia, and NGO's who work together to implement solutions to world problems. Big thinkers and world leaders -- San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, Shimon Peres former president of Israel, oil mogul turned wind power evangelist T. Boone Pickens, leader of the Danish Social Democratic Party Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and World Bank President Robert Zoellick, for example -- get together to postulate solution for the four CGI target areas: global health, education, energy & climate, and poverty alleviation. In the past two years alone, the results have been staggering, and point to a future where poverty is no longer a global problem.

Examples of the impact 2007's commitments will potentially have around the world include:

  • 8.5 million out-of-school children will be enabled to enroll in school for the first time.

  • 50 million people will have access to treatment of neglected tropical diseases.

  • 170,031,331 acres of forest will be protected or restored.

  • 11.2 million people will have increased access to sustainable incomes.

In 2008, 15 CGI member organizations came together to make a commitment nearing $460 million dollars that will improve the very basic quality of life and improve the health of some 6 million of the world's poorest people.

The man behind CGI, former President Bill Clinton, has this vision for the initiative:
I think the time has come for not-governmental organizations, companies, workers and international organizations to try to develop environmental and social policies that can be up to challenges and opportunities raised by the globalization. The global economic system alone can't solve all the problems, nor locally neither globally. Issues like environmental degradation and poverty and inequality increase cannot be faced barely by the forces of market. Therefore, I don't find realistic to imagine we can have a globalized economy without a social global action.

Even in countries without a very effective government, there are derelict but intelligent people that are able to survive, with everything conspiring against them. When a good NGO network arrives to a place like this, their work can save many lives, open companies and promote economic growth."

More Clinton Global Initiative coverage in TreeHugger
Clinton Global Initiative 2007: Overall Impact
Millions May Gain Access to Clean Water After Clinton Global Initiative 'Mega-Commitment'
Clinton Global Initiative Highlights: Strategies to Improve Maternal, Newborn & Child Health
Bill Clinton on Environmental Preservation and NGOs
Highlights from the 1st day of the Clinton Global Initiative


Photo credit: markn3tel via Flickr/Creative Commons

Van Jones: Green collar jobs will slow poverty, honor the Earth

The author of
The Green Collar Economy and founder of Green For All and the Green Jobs Now campaign has been promoting an investment in 'green collar' jobs and social progress for several years now. What's his recipe for alleviating urban poverty?

We need a different on-ramp for people from disadvantaged communities The leaders of the climate establishment came in through one door and now they want to squeeze everyone through that same door. It's not going to work. If we want to have a broad-based environmental movement, we need more entry points. ...

You can't take a building you want to weatherize, put it on a ship to China and then have them do it and send it back. So we are going to have to put people to work in this country -- weatherizing millions of buildings, putting up solar panels, constructing wind farms. Those green-collar jobs can provide a pathway out of poverty for someone who has not gone to college.

If we can get these youth in on the ground floor of the solar industry now, where they can be installers today, they'll become managers in five years and owners in 10. And then they become inventors. The green economy has the power to deliver new sources of work, wealth and health to low-income people -- while honoring the Earth. If you can do that, you just wiped out a whole bunch of problems. We can make what is good for poor black kids good for the polar bears and good for the country."

Related Links on Van Jones
Quote of the Day: Van Jones on the Green-Collar Solution
National Initiative to Create 250,000 Green-Collar Jobs for Urban America
Green Jobs Now Day of Action: America is Ready For a New Green Economy
Green Jobs Now! Campaign Promotes "Home Energy Makeovers" to Stimulate Green Economy
Green Jobs - The Future is Now


Photo credit: Raymond Baltar

Paul Hawken: From the ground up

Similar to the Clinton Global Initiative, Hawken believes that leveraging social change -- and altering the culture of poverty -- is the solution to alleviating poverty. Forget governments and corrupt corporations; the poverty-free future lies in people.

We're awaiting the next J.F.K., the next Martin Luther King, the next Gandhi, the next Nelson Mandela. We're looking for those people, and we find them. People like Wangari Mathaai, women or men who do espouse and uphold a lot of these qualities. We give them Nobel Prizes and we're very happy that these people exist.

But the fact is, that's not how real change occurs. Real change occurs from the bottom up, it occurs person to person, and it almost always occurs in small groups and locales and then bubbles up and aggregates to larger vectors of change.

So the movement we're talking about, the unnamed movement of environmental social justice and indigenous organizations, are forming and collecting to address the salient issues of our time: in poverty and water and climate and the enormous inequities that exist economically in the world, the continuous and rapid degradation of our resource bases, the injustice of pollution itself, in terms of what it does to people's health and their children.

More coverage of Paul Hawken in TreeHugger
The TH Interview: Paul Hawken--Blessed Unrest (Part One)
The TH Interview: Paul Hawken--Blessed Unrest (Part Two)
Quote of the Day: Paul Hawken on the Environmental Movement
More Blog Action Day-inspired reading about poverty
Five Poverty-Fighting Clean Water Projects and Designs
Closing the Digital Divide: 5 Ways to Get Free Internet Access
British PM Putting Unemployed To Work Insulating Attics
Four Argentinean Design Projects Helping those in Need
Apple Day at Roots and Shoots

Four Big Thinkers' Ideas on Going Green, Ending Poverty
Poverty isn't a simple