By Greg Paine


The environmental crisis is already happening in many places, for many communities. Poverty is often a hindrance to sustainable living but all too often, this intra-generational issue of the present is hidden behind inter-generational concerns for the future. It needs to be made more explicit.

This matter is relevant both within societies and between societies. The most marked is between the “First” and “Third” Worlds. “Basically the way I see it the way we live in the west is expensive on the third world… .” But unequal sharing of resources can also be readily seen within our own “First World” communities. There is a need to understand “development” as two processes – as increased material security for the “marginals” in society, and as reduced consumption by the “over-consumers”. “I understand I am a westerner and therefore I am having quite a global impact in comparison with other people in the world.” “… it’s the human population of the west [which is] the crux of the real issue.” Solutions are complex and include both development and emergency aid responses: a re-transfer of resources, visible connections (“… the compelling pictures of Pacific countries losing landmass”) and the understanding there can be two-way learning about sustainability between societies.

Donation to overseas aid and development can be integral to the practising of sustainable development. “Not just in my own backyard, but worldwide. Helping in Third World communities… .” And it can have great potential: “… suppose if every second child was sponsored in a village.” Such connections need not be limited to individuals or households. They can also be established between existing and new community groupings (Pattern 3); between existing larger communities, as in, for example, the Sister City movement; and between private and public sector organisations.


Join an aid organisation that establishes connections between individuals and households in Australia and/or overseas and, in doing so, also  assists the wider family or village/ neighbourhood. Do it not for the often detached and negative purpose of guilt reduction, but as a way of generating two-way communication and understanding between participants – a growing sense of community and, as such, new pathways to sustainability.

This resumes our Walk with the Elephant Series – on the lessons, or patterns, on how to remain mindful to the task of sustainable development through personal action and change.

Greg Paine is an urban planner interested in sustainable development.  These articles draw on his research work in the field.

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