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An exploration of the root causes of major environmental problems

These problems were identified on the basis of the Diagnostic Study of the San Juan River Basin and Guidelines for an Action Plan, through the validation of its main findings, and based upon complementary studies carried out during the PDF-B planning program.

The Root of Our Environmental Problems

These complementary studies were aimed towards the identification and collection of data on the coastal-marine zone, and the identification and analysis of the transboundary elements of the SJRB environmental issues. In addition, various national and binational workshops were held before and during the execution of the PDF-B planning program, through which additional information was obtained and the analysis was validated.

The problems identified were grouped in the following categories: Accelerating degradation of transboundary ecosystems. Overexploitation of valuable natural resources.

Exploring the Roots of the Environmental Crisis: Opportunity for Social Transformation

Soil degradation and increasing sedimentation. Pollution of water bodies.

  1. The exploitation and pollution of the planet has impacted the poor and people of colour disproportionately more due to such things as disabling poverty, low-income housing units being placed near old or existing industrial sites, or migrant works being exposed to agricultural chemicals see Bullard, 1994; Commission on Racial Justice, 1987; UNDP 1998; Hinrichson and Robey, 2000; Pulido, 1996;.
  2. This bias which informs the exploitation of the Earth also leads to the exploitation of people and can be seen to inform racism, sexism, the abuse of women and children, and war.
  3. Human identity and fulfillment are achieved in community.
  4. What is required is balance.
  5. One who is aware of his or her divine connection with all life, and with the spiritual self, does not continually strive to find satisfaction by accumulating more and more material things, the manufacture of which creates an unnecessary burden upon the earth. Actions can include, for example, buying Fair Trade products, supporting coops and credit unions, and supporting locally operated and locally owned businesses and agriculture.

High vulnerability to natural hazards. Disintegration of social groups and uprooting from territory. Inadequate political, legal, and institutional framework for integrated management of the SJRB.

An exploration of the root causes of major environmental problems

Loss of economic potential in the SJRB. Due to its comprehensive nature, the root cause analysis integrates the various factors and elements related to the use and management of water and natural resources within the basin. In that way, physical and biotic elements, institutional and policy issues, and social and economic factors, they all interact with each other in a very complex chain of causes and effects.

The categorization presented above attempts to simplify and, therefore, ease the understanding of the cause-effect analysis, retrieving those problems which due to their regional impact and relevance must be addressed, if the integrated management of water and natural resources and the sustainable development of the SJRB wants to be achieved.

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As a result of the analysis of current and emerging environmental problems, it is observed that the first five categories can explain the main perceived problems and their root causes. The remaining three categories are identified within the causal chain of the first five.

  1. Reducing human impact on the earth.
  2. This unfolding leads to an Earth community which becomes increasingly complex, where change is a constant and natural process, and where creativity and surprise are innate. The dream of the Earth.
  3. Overexploitation of valuable natural resources. Better care, education and rights for women mean that children should also benefit.

However, due to the complexity and relevance of those three categories, they are discussed individually in this document. The Arabic numerals that appear in parentheses under each of the immediate causes indicate the relationship that exists between each of those causes and the major problems. The Roman numerals appearing in parentheses under the ultimate causes indicate, in order of priority, the existing relationship between these and the root causes of the problems.

In this table, it should be noted that the three additional problems, grouped in the following categories, are part of the five major problems previously identified: Disintegration of social groups and uprooting from territory; Inadequate political, legal, and institutional framework for integrated management of the SJRB; and Loss of economic potential in the SJRB.