A Personal Story
Prior to coming to business school, Ed and his wife spent five months backpacking through China, India, Lao, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Tanzania, Egypt and Cuba. During their travels, they met local people, living and eating with them to learn about their way of life, struggles and aspirations. During this time, Ed had a realization that the rising standards of living for the world’s poor may be short-lived. As the population puts more pressure on the earth’s limited resources, environmental sustainability issues will be exacerbated and, over the long-term, are likely to reverse our progress on poverty, health, education and many other important social problems. He thus came to see environmental sustainability as a foundational issue for progress on some of the world’s most pressing social issues, and, hence, the largest source of leverage to create significant long-term social impact. Given that America is the world’s largest consumer of natural resources, Ed decided that he could have the most impact by starting his efforts at home.
Sinal, a friend from Southeast Asia is a great example of how our actions here in the US affect the poor around the world. Sinal and his family live in a 200 square foot bamboo hut on the outskirts of an impoverished city. Ed and his wife met him while traveling through Southeast Asia. Like many around the world, Sinal, relies on the environment for his daily needs. The local forest provides the wood he used to build his home and to keep his family warm. The mountains produce the rivers and streams that supply his drinking water. The bay provides the fish that feed his family. Our everyday actions, here in the U.S. have a real affect on Sinal’s and other families like his. Every time we buy lumber at the local Home Depot, a tree gets cut in the backyard of someone like Sinal. The gems on our rings, and rare metals in our phones and computers could have been stripped mined from the mountains producing the drinking water for families like Sinal’s. The battered-fried shrimp we ate last week at a local restaurant was very likely farmed upon destroyed mangrove forests that served as nurseries for the kind of fish that feed Sinal’s family. The U.S. constitutes 5% of the world’s population, but consumes 25% of the world’s resources. With 7% of the world’s land, it means we import a lot of our resources from around the world. When we do that, we are borrowing from poor families like Sinal’s.