Population, resources, environment and development: putting poor people first
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Normal thinking about population, resources, environment and development in the past supported direct solutions - family planning, resource management controls, conservation, and maximising economic growth - which on their own did not work very well. In the meantime, population growth and the invasion of Third World rural areas by 'core' (rich world, urban, commercial, governmental) institutions and interests, have together forced many rural people to migrate to overcrowded urban areas and fragile rural environments. To meet both the needs and priorities of the rural poor, and the concerns of outsiders with population resources, environment and development, sustainable livelihood security is an integrating concept. Secure, adequate and sustainable livelihoods for the rural poor promise to contribute to stabilising population, reducing migration, fending off core exploitation and taking the long view in resource management. Especially in resource-poor conditions, potentials and opportunities for sustainable livelihoods have been underrecognised: bioeconomic potentials are often high compared with current performance; population pressure can paradoxically provide a condition for more intensive and sustainable exploitation; professional biases have concealed and neglected opportunities for the poor which can now be explored; and some policies have impeded sustainable livelihoods. Practical implications include: giving priority to policies for sustainable livelihoods for poor rural people in which they have secure ownership and command over resources; sponsoring and rewarding a new professionalism which puts the poor first; and evolving new methods for rural research and development in which poor people are professional partners. Population control, sustainable resource exploitation, environmental conservation, and rural development are best served by starting with the rural poor, with what they want and need. Poor rural people are not the problem but the solution. Reversing normal professionalism to put the poor first is the surest path to sustainable rural development.