Sustainability, at its core, is transgeographical. It looks the same whether practiced in first world or third world countries. At its simplest definition, sustainability, as defined by the 1987 Brundtland Report, “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” It is forward thinking, where the practices we do today will not harm the possibility of future generations to either live at the same or better standards then we do today. To meet these standards, sustainability operates under a “triple bottom line” approach, focusing on the environment, economics, and social equity. Of these, social equity is one of the toughest, yet also one of the most important pillars to reach. This pillar seeks to give people, regardless of race, gender, or nationality, equal access to justice and to modern day amenities. Essentially, sustainability looks to increase the quality of all people’s lifestyles, while providing economic growth without harming the environment, in perpetuity. This, of course, is easier said than done.
Often, regardless of where one is working, we tend to focus on one facet of sustainability at the detriment to the others. Businesses tend to look towards economic growth and sustainability, i.e. how a company can continue to fund itself. Many organizations look towards protecting the environment by sustainably using resources, i.e. not cutting down more trees than you can replace or not using more water than is replenished naturally each year. Sadly, social equity is often ignored at the hands of economic and environmental sustainability. Around, land has been preserved, while with good intentions, that prohibits native peoples from using it for agriculture and hunting. Large corporations enter an impoverished area claiming to have jobs, but end up taking advantage of, often in slave-like conditions, the poor. To truly be sustainable, all three pillars of the triple bottom line must be taken into account equally. They work as a system, with inputs and outputs that keep the gears of sustainability turning.
Sustainability in the third world looks similar to sustainability through the United States. Profits rise through continually falling and failing living conditions that pay well below what is needed to live comfortably. As people work harder for less money, they push the land harder (making charcoal, growing food on land with decreasing yields, etc.) to survive. This results in a continual downward economic, environmental, and human condition spiral.
If we look to Haiti, for example, we see a country that is 98% deforested, ripe with social injustices, and little chance of economic future for many of the citizens. To envision a sustainable future for Haiti, we would see a reversal of the environmental destruction, such as reforesting, that provides economic means to live by that are accessible to all people, regardless of which social class in Haiti you might be. Organizations throughout Haiti have looked to plant trees, create clean water, and advance agriculture, which, environmentally, is great but often does not provide jobs for local Haitians and does not give livable wages to those in these areas.
CPR-3 seeks to bring sustainable development to Haiti through projects that are led by the Haitian people and support the Haitian people, while seeking to promote economic stability through jobs and a decreased environmental footprint. The Sant Mouvman center operates by harnessing the power of the sun and decreasing our reliance on the local power grid. We use PIT latrines, decreasing our need for water to flush toilets, and we make use of every available local resource we can. Through our projects, we empower Haitians to create change in their own lives, teaching skills necessary to get ahead, and all the while providing opportunities for the family to become economically self-sufficient. We continually seek to consider how our actions not only promote increasing welfare of the Haitian people, but how it promotes environmental and economic stewardship of the resources God has given us.
Cory St. Esprit is the Director of CPR-3’s #StopDoingWrong Campaign and is the Special Projects and Research Analyst at United Way of Summit County in Akron, OH. Find out more about our team here.
Cory St. Esprit
M.S. in Sustainable Systems a
Ph.D. Geography (In Progress)