Growth and employment must be the same for everyone.

Growth and employment must be the same for everyone.

July 22, 2016

Growth and employment must be the same for everyone.

One of the United Nations’ developmental goals has to do with economic growth and employ-ment, something which must not become a differentiator between populations, but rather must be a catalyst for sustainable development for everyone.

These days, sustainable development is another term for “harmonious economic, environ-mental, and social growth”. This concept is explained by Paolo De Castro, an Italian financial and agricultural politician, in the latest edition of Eating Planet where it seems clear that being able to guarantee this kind of harmonious growth for every-one on the planet “ the greatest challenge which commercial policies have ever had to face.” This also according to United Nations (UN) experts who have dedicated one of their 17 sus-tainable development goals for the year 2030 to this very topic. It is goal number 8: Promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.

Environmental Justice: not only in defence of the environment
The concept of Environmental Justice is one that best describes the UN sustainable develop-ment goals and the inextricable connection between environmental and personal well-being. This is the definition provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency: Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, col-our, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and en-forcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. In other words, it has to do with guaranteeing everyone the chance to live in a healthy environment, to have a say regarding the choices which affect the management of environmental resources, and to have access to respectable work that allows for truly equal economic and social growth for all.

The environment at the centre of social development
In its first and most common meaning, the expression “environmental justice” describes a movement which focuses on the environment as the protagonist of sustainable development: protecting the natural environment is a way to protect and improve the lives of those who live in it (people and animals) given that environmental security is closely tied to human rights and to the social needs of a population. One of the primary struggles in the environmen-tal justice movement, which is just now getting off its feet in the United States, is, for example, that which supports a more equal distribution not only of the benefits but also of the prob-lems associated with the environment. People have been working for years to avoid situa-tions in which the poorest communities are forced to live and work in unhealthy environ-ments. And there have been some positive results, starting with an executive order issued by the United States under former President Clinton in 1994, that requires federal agencies to ensure that poor and minority communities are not over-burdened with pollution. An order with many flaws and limitations, but undoubtedly an important first step.

Many international examples
Since its origins in the final twenty years of the last century, environmental justice has come quite a ways: there are many examples of national governments and international organiza-tions dedicating a great deal of attention to this topic in an effort to encourage development. This does not only cover strictly economic aspects, but rather also aims to protect the envi-ronment, people, and their cultural values. One of the most beaten paths for those who work in environmental justice is that of guaranteeing equal and sustainable employment to groups of people, even better if in their land of origin there are already strategies in place capable of improving growth without having a negative impact on the environment. One example stands out: the Rural Coalition/Coalicion Rural, which is an alliance of farmers, farmworkers, indigenous, migrant, and working people from the United States, Mex-ico, Canada, and beyond who are working together to build a new society that values unity, hope, people, and land and seeks to build a more just and sustainable food system which brings fair returns to minority and other small farmers and rural communities, establishes just and fair working conditions for farmworkers, protects the environment, and supplies all consumers with safe and healthy food.
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