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.
Musim gugur lalu saya kaget membaca judul berita ini: Kebakaran hutan di Indonesia menghasilkan emisi gas rumah kaca setara seluruh ekonomi Amerika Serikat.
Judul lain berbunyi: Antara Juni dan Oktober 2015, lahan sebesar 2,5 juta hektar – atau 4,5 kali luas Bali – terbakar guna membersihkan lahan untuk produksi minyak kelapa sawit, tanaman hasil hutan non-kayu dengan nilai tertinggi, terdapat dalam, antara lain, produk makanan, kosmetik dan biofuel.
Belum lama ini, bersama Vice President for Sustainable Development Laura Tuck dan Indonesia Country Director Rodrigo Chaves, saya mengunjungi Sumatra Selatan, salah satu provinsi yang paling menderita akibat kebakaran hutan.
Kami melihat berbagai ilalang dan tanda-tanda lanskap rusak yang lain, mengganti kawasan hutan gambut yang kaya akan keanekaragaman hayati.
Kami berbicara dengan masyarakat setempat yang menjelaskan bahwa mereka menutup pintu dan jendela dengan handuk basah agar mengurangi asap. Keluarga mereka termasuk dari setengah juta warga yang menderita gangguan pernapasan serta sakit kulit dan mata akibat kebakaran hutan. Anak-anak mereka termasuk diantara 4,6 juta siswa yang tidak bisa sekolah, bahkan selama beberapa minggu, akibat kebakaran hutan.
Namun walaupun banyak keluarga kehilangan pemasukan karena usaha mereka terpaksa tutup sementara, ada juga yang mengatakan api itu memperbaiki kondisi tanah setempat.
This past autumn, I saw a shocking headline: Forest fires in Indonesia were creating as many greenhouse gas emissions as the entire United States economy.
Between June and October 2015, an estimated 2.6 million hectares—or 4.5 times the size of Bali— burned to clear land for production of palm oil, the world’s highest value non-timber forest crop, used in food products, cosmetics, biofuels.
Recently, along with Vice President for Sustainable Development Laura Tuck and Indonesia Country Director Rodrigo Chaves, I visited South Sumatra, one of the provinces hardest hit by the fires.
We saw scrubby fire-adapted landscapes that had replaced biodiversity-rich peat swamp forests.
We spoke with local communities who explained how they covered doors and windows with wet towels, to help reduce the smoke. These families are among the half million people who suffered from fire-related respiratory infections, skin and eye ailments; their children were among the 4.6 million students who missed school last year due to fires, some for weeks at a time.
While some of these families lost earnings or assets due to the fires, others spoke of how fire improves soil quality.
When the water is poor, people get sick: they have diarrhea; their growth is stunted; they die. When the air is poor, people get sick: they cough; they cannot leave their beds; they die. However, they do not look sick when there is lead in their blood. You cannot look at a child who has an unhealthy blood lead level (BLL) and say, "This is not right. Something must be done," because in most cases, there is nothing to see.
Lead (Pb) exposure—which is making headlines in the U.S. because of recent events in Flint, Michigan-- is a major source of critical environmental health risks. But the problem is subtle: Affected children do not perform as well in school. They are late to read. They are slow to learn how to do tasks. Perhaps a few more children are born with cognitive deficits. Perhaps these children have less impulse control. Perhaps they exhibit more violence.
These symptoms are not always understood as an environmental or a public health problem – or indeed a development problem. Instead, people will say it is an issue of morals or of education. They will discipline the children, and then they will take themselves to task and ask how and why they are failing to raise these children correctly. Furthermore, they will have no idea that the problem is in the children’s blood.
Young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. Studies have documented that exposure leads to neuropsychological impacts in children--including impaired intelligence, measured as intelligence IQ losses--at blood lead levels even lower than 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL). So, clearly, the effect occurs at even very low BLLs.
Here’s a simple example: Imagine you’re working on a complicated jigsaw puzzle without using the picture on the box top as a guide. How successful do you think you’ll be? After some trial and error, you’d probably give in to frustration, bring out the box top, and make easier work of the puzzle.
What if the puzzle you were trying to solve was to end extreme global poverty? How would you put the pieces together?
I have vivid memories of my first trip to Ghana. It was in July 2006 and I was in the country to do a research on Ghanaian farmers. It was in Accra, where I watched my team, Italy, win the FIFA World Cup final against France. Other than being a lucky charm to me, I thought Accra was a nice and safe town but,I felt that it had the potential to grow.
When I came back seven years later, I was pleasantly surprised by the changes. The city was dotted with new buildings, new roads, and had a really buoyant atmosphere. Of course, Accra is not representative of the whole country, but according to a recent report that Pierella Paci and I presented in October, growth and poverty reduction have been widespread in the country.
Now you may ask as to how Ghana was able to achieve this. In our report, Poverty Reduction in Ghana: Progress and Challenges, we show that sustained and , from 52.6% to 21.4% between 1991 and 2012.( Note: For comparing 1991 and 2012 poverty rates for both absolute and extreme poverty, the study used the 1999 poverty line. Official poverty rates use the new poverty line re-based in 2013.) The impact of rapid growth on poverty has been far stronger in Ghana than elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, until 2005 — far above the Sub-Saharan average of 1.6%.
At the time, the country was still opening up to the outside world, and the Bank had just set up a small office there. I recently returned to Vietnam after 15 years, this time as the Bank’s Global Lead for Land. I saw a completely different country: while the old city charm is still there, Hanoi has transformed to the point that it is really difficult to recognize… as if I had landed in Japan, China, or any other Southeast Asian country.
The airport used to be one gate; now, it is a modern airport not much different from any airport in Western Europe or the United States. I remember that, when I worked in Vietnam in the mid-90s, GDP per capita was averaging US$200, and around 50% of people lived in extreme poverty. Today, GDP per capita has soared to about US$2000, while extreme poverty has dropped to around 3% according to the US$1.9/day extreme poverty line... An impressive achievement in less than 20 years.
My trip to Vietnam had the goal of helping the government modernize and automate the land administration system. In the early 90s, the country launched an ambitious reform program to transform the land use model from communal farming to individual household ownership by breaking up the communal land structure and distributing land to individual households. This reform was then credited with changing Vietnam from a net importer of rice to one of the largest rice exporters in the world in only a few years.
In accordance with the Land Law of 1993, the first Land Use Certificates (LUCs) issued under the program were in the name of the “head of household”, i.e. in the name of men only. Later on, the Vietnamese government, with support from the World Bank, strove to change things around by issuing LUCs bearing both the wife’s and the husband’s names.
Halfway through the year, Paula Caballero, Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice Senior Director at the World Bank, wrote that 2015 would be the year the world was going to connect the dots for sustainable development. And girl, was she right!