01 April 2013

Is Development Truly the Answer?

In a world where governmental structure and corporate power rule the things we do in our everyday lives to ensure a means of living, self- sufficiently isn’t always a main priority when you need to put food on the table. As we enter into a period of the history during a new phase of dwindling fossil fuels and the resultant rising energy costs, I have become more and more aware of how difficult it is to express to the world about the fact that this point is becoming increasingly apparent everyday. But people need to survive, and as of the year 2013, we have come to a point where the majority of the world lives in a manner of complete disconnect from the very necessities that are sustaining this survival. Why bother understanding when the government has taken the liberty of monopolizing our every way of living and transformed it into a commodity. We can now buy everything we want without even needing to know what was put into it or how it was created, so what is the point of trying to understand?
I am not saying that all development is wrong or bad or dangerous, but at what point have we crossed this line into complete detachment? As I continue to learn about the problems that development and globalization have caused to different communities and their cultures, I ponder upon a bit of hope. I hold onto the fact that I, as well as others are aware and can see and feel this disconnect, thus realizing the destruction that the continuous cycle is causing for the future of our world.

In a country that is considered underdeveloped because they don’t have the same infrastructure, political ideals, or technologies, is Thailand really less advanced then America, a developed country? In my opinion, no they are not any less resourceful because many people choose to work in agriculture rather then the office, or the fact that they choose to live in villages rather then suburbs. Many people are able to live lives without the tremendous use of fossil fuels, yet we do, knowing full well that in the very near future that they will be depleted. These people have preserved traditions, ways of life, and connections that as people of developed countries, we will never be able to understand.
Although many people in Thailand dedicate their lives to tradition, they are aware of how heavily their lives are dependent, and influenced by government and distant corporations. Thankfully, I see some communities fighting for living as sustainably and self- sufficiently as possible. However, for our future, these transitions and ways of living are neither quick nor smooth. This means that we need to prepare today to deal with possible shortages. Thus, in my opinion, developed countries need to take a lesson from countries like Thailand and slow down to realize the destruction that continued unsustainable development is causing. We need to find ways where we can revert back to more traditional ways of living, before we run out of the time to do it in less impactful manner.
Hannah Rae Damgaard
Susquehannah University


Peter said...

I really enjoyed this entry. I've been having similar thoughts about development during my time in the Dominican Republic, and I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one. You make a really good point when you mention the perceived superiority of white collar work to agriculture and the like. To me, a job in agriculture is much more important than one in, say, finance. Leading a "simple" life is something that is pretty rare in countries like the USA, but, as you suggest, it's probably just what we need to do in order to, in essence, save the Earth from ourselves.

Holly (CIEE Santiago SL) said...

A response to your question, would take long, convoluted conversation about what is "development" and how do we practice development now and how we'll practice it in the future.

I've never really liked the ambiguities around the term, because it has come to mean so many different ideas and possess a lot of different connotations.

I don't disagree that certain development projects have been very western-centric and often apply technical solutions to systemic problems per a western-industrialized model of development. However, there are a lot of different development initiatives that look at local solutions, working with the established system instead of against it. Also there are many development efforts in education and human rights.

I've felt a similar frustration with studying development and questioning the value of the work. I've tried to look at it this way: We can help people who want the help with the things that they want to change. Not in a paternal way, but in a mutually supportive way, because we'll learn just as much from them as they'll from us.

Jacqueline Ayala said...

Hannah, I wrote a paper on the same topic for an environmental sociology class. I agree with you completely. Developed countries like America need to step back and relearn the benefits of traditional sustainable ways of life. In my program, we have learned about organic farming and its benefits for the environment and our health. Having already seen the magnitude of the natural disasters global warming is having around the world highlights the importance of being aware of our impact on the environment. There’s definitely a need to remind those from developed countries about the global interconnects that exist so that we can be more considerate and aware about how development often has negative effects that are causing human loss and suffering.