Sustainable development is rubbish – literally

In: Uncategorized

16 Jun 2009

This week’s Economist has an article about how Colombia’s constitutional court has officially recognised scavengers at a rubbish dump in Cali, the country’s third city, as entrepreneurs. For the free market magazine this is a wonderful example of popular capitalism in action. It approvingly quotes Martin Medina, who has written a book on the subject, calling co-operatives of garbage pickers “a perfect example of sustainable development”.

I understand that poor people need huge amounts of ingenuity simply to survive. They often have no choice but to do jobs that are deeply unpleasant. But for westerners to hold up garbage picking as a model of development is truly rubbish.