In his section, Bill Gates outlined his dream of an “energy miracle”. This is easily one of the most important priorities for the globe. Experts are united that clean energy is the way forward. Falling oil prices might just present a serious challenge to this push, but hopefully this is a temporary glitch that will not derail investments in research and development in the search for clean energy. This search also ties in with the Gates’ traditional areas of strength, which are science and technology-driven, looking to extend the frontiers of knowledge in an effort to improve human welfare.
As critical as advances in science and technology are, Gates does well to remind us of the power that governments have and thereby, points to the importance of generating a political consensus:
“Governments have a big role to play in sparking new advances, as they have for other scientific research. U.S. government funding was behind breakthrough cancer treatments and the moon landing. If you’re reading this online, you have the government to thank for that too. Research paid for by the U.S. government helped create the Internet.”
Photo: Global Environment Facility/Flickr
Waste pickers are the principal actors in reclaiming waste for the recycling industry. Across the world, large numbers of people from low-income and disadvantaged communities make a living collecting and sorting waste, and then selling reclaimed waste through intermediaries to the recycling industry. Where others see trash or garbage, the waste pickers see paper, cardboard, glass, and metal. They are skilled at sorting and bundling different types of waste by color, weight, and end use to sell to the recycling industry. Yet waste pickers are rarely recognized for the important role they play in creating value from the waste generated by others and in contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions.
Fortunately, around the world, waste pickers have been organizing and cities have begun to promote the virtuous circle that comes with integrating waste pickers, the world’s recyclers, into solid waste management.
Brazil was the first country to integrate waste pickers, through their cooperatives, into municipal solid waste management systems and the first to adopt a National Waste Policy, recognizing the contributions of waste pickers and providing a legal framework to enable cooperatives of waste pickers to contract as service providers. The national movement of waste pickers in Brazil was awarded a contract to clean the stadiums during the World Cup.
Despite rapid economic growth in South Asia, the majority of workers in the region have low-paid jobs in the informal economy, where productivity is sub-standard and social protection is lacking. In fact, a new report on labor in India – by the Institute for Human Development (IHD) in New Delhi – estimates that 276 million workers live below a poverty line of $2 per day . What can be done to create better jobs in the region? Preet Rustagi, a Professor at the IHD, argues that the key will be improving the quality of human capabilities, notably through better education and skills training.
In the developing world, the informal workforce is at least half of the total workforce, and therefore subject to with low incomes, high risks, and no formal contracts or benefits. We recently spoke with Martha Chen, a Lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School and the International Coordinator of the WIEGO Network. In part 1 of this two-part series, she argues that "informal is normal."