The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law series
Chapter 14: Poverty and the Loss of Cultural Heritage Sites
Stefan Gruber* 14.1 INTRODUCTION The connections between poverty and environmental degradation are numerous (Klugman, 2002). For example, unsustainable farming practices and overgrazing often cause soil erosion and even desertification. Deforestation destroys whole landscapes to gain arable land, produce firewood or timber for exports. Droughts are worsened by unsustainable water use and the overexploitation of ground water. Overfishing and the use of illegal fishing methods, such as the use of explosives, deplete fishing grounds. The impacts of climate change are likely to exacerbate the situation further as the world’s poor are expected to be particularly affected by the related changes in the environment and availability of resources (Brainard et al., 2009). Those effects have in common that environmental resources are depleted beyond a sustainable level, thus exceeding the capacity of the natural environment to maintain ecological and human communities. While poverty often forces communities to overexploit local environmental resources in order to sustain themselves, they also destroy their source of income and that of future generations, which ultimately causes further poverty in addition to the potential collapse of ecosystems and other serious environmental damage. That phenomenon has been called the ‘Poverty-Environment Nexus’ (Hughes et al., 2009, p. 144ff; Jalal, 1993, p. 9ff; Jehan and Umana, 2003). This chapter examines how poverty, in addition to the depletion of environmental resources, often further leads to a significant drain on the cultural wealth of societies. The effects of poverty and lack of resources not only cause damages to ecosystems but also in many cases...
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