Change does not happen overnight. It is a long process. Sometimes our daily actions can seem so minuscule that we don’t necessarily reap the benefits for ourselves. They are for future generations. I feel like one of the biggest thoughts or fears that hold people back from trying to make a difference is, “I’m just one person, what can I do?” However, there are tons of people who didn’t think like that and have helped to change the world. For example, in the 1970’s, there was a woman named Amrita Devi that led a group of 84 villages. They put their lives on the line in order to start something that came to be known as the Chipko (meaning “embrace”) movement. This movement had the protesters holding onto trees in order to prevent them from being cut down. This is where the term “tree-hugger” originated from, which eventually has come to be a derogatory term of sorts. Though this protest is often referred to jokingly, it is one of the first notable examples of community activism making a difference. This group of people saw nature being hurt as themselves being hurt. The trees in question were in a field that were supposed to be taken away and used by a sporting goods company. This is a perfect example of the rich and powerful trying to take away from nature and in return hurting the people who rely on that nature.
Material deprivation is basically when somebody has less than other people, typically referring to poorer or marginalized communities. This is also the demographic that is more at risk of being hurt when the environment around them suffers, because they either rely on the environment or are the ones who have to deal with the cleanup. In the article Sustaining the Environment to Fight Poverty and Achieve the Millennium Development Goals by Steve Bass it’s written, “Poor people depend more on environmental assets than those who are better-off, and yet they find these assets both difficult to access and increasingly degraded. This threatens poor people’s livelihoods and developing countries’ prospects for sustainable development. Governance failures, notably poor people’s lack of rights, limit how much they can benefit from environmental assets and, consequently, their motivations to invest in them. Elites are able to capture the benefits, through asset-stripping of, for example, forests and fisheries.”
Having money is a privilege and living in an area with a healthy environment is a privilege. The latter should not be, but it is. It is those without privilege that are oppressed, and they are the ones who suffer the most when the environment suffers the most. This often leads to binding together and organizing in order to create change. A recent example is Standing Rock. This is when an entire community in North Dakota protested in order to stop a pipeline from being built, as it would have disrupted their entire lives and town. The people that would be most affected were the Standing Rock tribe who, as Native Americans, are already an oppressed group in this country. The stand they took and the outreach and support they received was a true testament to the power of local activism.
Bass, Steve, et al. “Sustaining the Environment to Fight Poverty and Achieve the Millennium Development Goals.” Review of European Community & International Environmental Law, vol. 15, no. 1, Apr. 2006, pp. 39–55. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9388.2006.00502.x.
This article was written for the 2005 United Nations World Summit, and it is peer reviewed. It has lots of information about how the environment relates to poverty.