Trade is not the answer to global poverty

“Trade Not Aid” is the mantra of many campaigners against global poverty. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment should encourage a different view. It will do no good whatsoever to impoverished nations if they destroy their ecosystems in pursuit of trade, which is what the rich nations are encouraging them to do.

Campaigns ought to recognise that quality of life is more important than monetary wealth. A rush for development at the expense of the environment is a step backwards, not forwards — and the plain fact is that most “development” involves precisely the destruction of natural habitats for farmland and industrialisation.

Trade should happen, but not unfettered trade. It needs to be constrained and informed by an overriding concern for the long-term future of the planet, since our own long-term future depends on it. Overall, there needs to be less trade, not more. More freedom of trade, but less quantity, because Earth will not sustain us all if we continue to consume the amount we do in the “developed” world.

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