Technological Development and the Third World


I wonder if people in Third World countries know that they are considered
the "Third World?" Do they use that term in reference to themselves? Do they
have any perception of the comparison, judgment and bias that goes into that
statement? I'd like to think that they don't. In the film about the Ladack
people that we watched in class, it was mentioned that they didn't have a word
for poverty. No such word even existed in their language. But that was before.
It was before the invasion of other cultures, and it was before they had
anything to compare themselves to. And in comparison, they saw that, materially,
they had less. And in that knowledge, they believed that they, as a people, were
In this essay, I will examine third world communities and the
relationship between technological development and environmental degradation. I
will look first at the way in which development occurred in the South, and the
reason it happened the way that it did. From there, I will show how these
methods of development proceeded to eventually cause widespread environmental
damage and it's effect on the local people. .


When I refer to "the environment", I mean not only the habitat that
humans, plants and animals inhabit, but also the physical, emotional and
psychological attitudes that are encompassed by these in their daily existence.
Development, by my definition, will consequently refer to the technological
advancement of a community as well as the improved status of humans and other
species. This is my definition, and one that others employ frequently now.
However, the model I will be examining first is the development theory based on
the economic - political system. "A typical western (read: economic) definition
of development would be ' an ambiguous term for a multidimensional process
involving material, social and organizational change, accelerated economic
growth, [and] the reduction of absolute poverty and inequality.'" (1) The key
emphasis in this statement is the phrase "economic growth." In Europe and North
America, development politics has revolved around the economic aspect of
producing surplus, and gaining capital. Because of our relatively rich land
resource base, our method of technological development has been quite successful.
Statistics show us as high wage earners, wealthy in public services such as
health care and education, low infant mortality rate, long lifespan, and high
GNP per person. Because of the comfort that our economic development has brought
us, we have omitted the aspect of development in regard to human psychological
well-being and the preservation of our natural surroundings that should be
concurrent with technological development. With ours as the only current model
of successful development, newly industrializing countries such as South and
Central America, and Africa (and up until quite recently many Asian countries)
attempted to achieve results in the same way. The problem that ensued for these
countries was that instead of working slowly towards their goals, they sold
themselves to get ahead economically. Instead of recognizing the problems that
this method was causing and stopping them, governments and the wealthy private
sector, took control of the industry and continued to exploit it. With the rich
in control, the poorer classes had little choice but to follow, and the downward
spiral of poverty and instability began.


As the Third World nations struggled to become "developed," the rich
countries became involved in their affairs. Interest in the countries arose
primarily because of the trade resources that these lands provided. The
potential for profit became evident because the new countries were struggling
with their economy. They were experiencing internal unrest between their members
and they needed money and resources to get started. Before they had a stable
internal economy, they were bounding into the international market and selling
their resources for a quick profit. Cash-cropping became a way to enter the
international arena of market and trade, but the damage to the land took only a
few short years to be discovered, and by that time luxuries had become
"necessities." People wanted the cash flow to continue and instead of finding
ways to use their land sustainable, they continued poor resource management
regardless of the consequences. Deforestation became another common practice
because of the demand forwood overseas. Export, although a seemingly beneficial
development strategy, became detrimental to third world countries because it
catered to the demand for certain items. Coffee beans are a large export item in
South and Central America. With the rising demand for coffee in North America,
land that was previously used for agriculture was taken over and used for
growing coffee beans. The consequences of this were twofold; local people were
suffering from lack of land