IDS working papers;3

The Poor and the Environment: Whose Reality Counts?

Published on 1 January 1994

Sustainable rural livelihoods will be needed for many more people in the 21st century. Three
widespread views tend to mislead and need to be qualified: that more people in rural areas is
always and necessarily bad for the environment; that poor people inherently take the short-term
view; and that their livelihoods and farming systems are, and are best kept, simple. In fact, it is
the rich and powerful who do more environmental damage, take shorter-term views, and simplify.
Blaming the victims can lend support to policies which do more harm than good. For the local,
complex, diverse, dynamic and uncontrolled (LCDDU) reality o f the poor to count more, and to
support sustainable rural livelihoods requires new policies, research and methods (a) to
differentiate local conditions, histories and trajectories, (b) to enable local people to conduct more
o f the analysis themselves, and (c) to achieve radical professional change. For it is when the
reality o f poor local people comes first that a balanced search can lead to adequate, decent and
sustainable livelihoods; and these promise to be win-win solutions for the poor, the environment,
and future generations.

Publication details

published by
Chambers, Robert


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