Cameroonian Sustainable Development

During my study abroad experience last Spring, I felt as though I had an unfortunate opportunity to glimpse the negative effects of unsustainable development in Cameroon. Many of Upreti’s points about unsustainable development echo the North/South (or West/East) inequality discourses that focus on global, Western powers creating systems permissive of (and often promotional of) unsustainable development, both environmentally and economically. Several points about conflict, tensions, urbanization, and other demographic issues, however brought home the points made in Chapter 11 on the importance of population in state conflicts.

The “good governance” that Upreti advocates can look out for the environment is impossible in the internationally-controlled development employed throughout so much of the world. Such structural adjustment with the egregious effects of deforestation, etc. permits civil wars and violent conflicts when they environmental fallout is felt by the population (222). Poor people being vulnerable to the environment is not limited to the Global South and developing countries, but very much exists in the U.S. The difference falls in the role of the U.S. and other international powers in causing such destruction like deforestation and poor water management. Much of the Cameroonian rainforest has been destroyed for its wood which builds houses in America and the West. Cameroonians may work as loggers for companies that pay little because they are vulnerable as poor people and the government has permitted land-grabbing which effectively transports resources to the West at little cost.

To repel this sort of environmental aggravation, Sciubba et. al.’s population argument becomes relevant. Social learning as explained by Upreti (226) reviews the merits of teaching populations how to live and work sustainably. Going back to Cameroon, most demographics within the population littered. The lack of good governance and teaching environmental prioritization prevented this lesson from being taught which results in burning trash. A constructivist approach with multiple realities could facilitate relevant teaching mechanisms to counter unsustainable behavior. Organskik’s power transition theory posits that as population size, productivity, and political capacity comprise state power, shifting priorities could counteract “bad governance” and while the Biya administration continues to permit land grabs and IMF programs, the population itself could promote sustainable development.

One example of such bottom-up sustainable development is exemplified by Breaking Ground, a Cameroon-based American NGO that works primarily to finish development projects that local communities have already started and in many cases have been working on for years. A community determines a need, raises as much money as possible and works on the project until this NGO catches wind of the situation and steps in to finish. Instead of cutting down trees for an American company, Breaking Ground uses community members to build capacity (in leading and constructing a project) and only works on projects previously determined to be necessary to a community. Demographic shifts that teach such sustainable development leads to more political capacity, and in turn shifts the power to the people.

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