1.4.2  Development as a means of interaction

  • Assume for a minute that a textile factory is planned to operate in your woreda. Now, think what benefits and disadvantages may arise from the introduction of this factory.

  • Any development requires an interaction with the environment. The obvious advantages are in terms of providing cloth, creating job opportunities and contributing to the growth of the national economy. The disadvantage is when the factory produces environmental risks. The factory uses energy, raw materials and human labour for its process of producing cloth. It generates pollutants in the form of solid waste, liquid waste, air polluting substances and noise. Such wastes can pollute the air we breathe, our food, water and soil. The poor management of these wastes results in human exposure that may subsequently affect human health as well as the environment.

Figure 1.5 shows diagrammatically the relationship between development and the environment.

In this diagram, the two arrows lying between ‘human activities’ and ‘ambient environment’ indicate the relationship between them, i.e. that development requires resources from the environment (forward arrow) and, as a result, waste could be generated as a by-product (backward arrow). In fact, there are three possible types of interaction: humans can affect the environment, the environment can affect humans, and humans and the environment can co-exist (where they sustain each other). The red arrows in Figure 1.5 indicate the negative effect if the generated waste is not properly handled. This affects the environment in the form of pollution of air, water, etc., and can have a negative influence on development.

Human–environment interaction model
Figure 1.5  Human–environment interaction model.

Matters of development and health have been on the agenda in UN international conferences and meetings. The issue of sustainable development is a key message for the friendly coexistence between development and the environment. The World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainable development as:

  • development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
  • Referring to Figure 1.5, think of different examples of the three types of interaction between human activities and the environment.

  • You may think of different examples; here are some that we thought of:

    • a.Humans affecting the environment: deforestation, polluting surface water, loss of wildlife.
    • b.The environment affecting humans: soil erosion, flooding.
    • c.Friendly coexistence (sustainable development): operating a factory so that it provides goods and jobs that are needed now, without polluting the environment so that our children will have safe water in the future.

1.4  Human interaction with the environment

1.5  The role of environmental health in public health