II. The challenges we face - Interlocking dimensions of the crisis

14. The interlocking dimensions of the crisis can only be shown by some examples. As a first illustration we choose the connection between economic injustice and deforestation in the Amazon region. The debt crisis severely affects Brazil. A large part of the debt was incurred by military spending and was partly used to develop the Brazilian arms industry. Efforts to repay the debts particularly harm the poor. The failure to implement land reform has meant that settlers move into the rain forest. The way of life of the indigenous population is severely disrupted and threatened. Transnational corporations too have bought up large areas of forest which they clear. This has lead to a dramatic loss of genetic resources. Burning of wood has a damaging effect on the world's atmosphere.

15. As a second illustration we refer to the refugee crisis involving millions of people. War has forced many to flee their countries. Civil wars have caused internal displacement. In the Horn of Africa, war and environmental degradation have destroyed the basis for life for large sectors of the population. Neighbouring countries, which are themselves poor, are forced to receive hundreds of thousands of refugees. The numbers accepted by European countries are very small by comparison.

16. The issue of population is a further example of this linkage. Unbalanced and unstable population growth and distribution aggravates poverty and hunger, social conflict and damage to the environment. While the rich countries have relatively stable populations, they consume the majority of available energy resources. Poor countries, with rapidly growing populations suffer from a shortage of energy resources and are forced to meet their energy needs in manners that are destructive to the environment. The question of dealing with population growth needs to be approached in a responsible manner that both respects the conscience of persons and takes into account the social and environmental dimensions of these interconnected problems.

17. A final aspect must be stressed - namely that injustice, war and environmental damage affect women more directly and drastically than men. Women are half of humanity, who bear the main burden of the current crisis. As a consequence of this, children are also severely affected and victimized. The oppression of women and violation of women's rights have been overlooked to an alarming degree. Women are marginalized and excluded from decision-making structures. Sexism is a contributing factor of the global crisis. The term "feminisation of poverty" clearly expresses the way in which the cost is unfairly distributed. For women in the South, at the edge of subsistence, this is literally a matter of life and death.

© 2001 by Ulrich Schmitthenner • Bildschirm-Version