Edward Norton on inequality and sustainability

Edward Norton, UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity, outlines how the neglect of our natural world is connected to all kinds of inequality. Promoting environmental sustainability aligns with lifting people out of poverty.


EDWARD NORTON: Development that’s not sustainable is not in fact development. It is a short-term loan against a long-term debt to the future.

[Inequality is logo. A graphic black equal sign with an orange slash through it. #InequalityIs. Edward Norton, UN Goodwill ambassador for biodiversity. A white man wearing a black button down shirt over a light gray T-shirt.]

We treat the ocean like a garbage dump, we treat fisheries as an inexhaustible resource, same with the forests. We treat the atmosphere as a carbon dump. We don’t recognize that water has limitations. The way we value the environment is very inextricably intertwined now with all forms of inequality. A lot of the poorest people in the world live stitched in with the ecosystems that the rest of the world is still reliant on. We don’t have rainforests in North America to act as a carbon sink, but lots of poor people in the equatorial regions have decisions to make about whether they’re going to pursue the same extractive economic models that we pursued or whether they’re going to act as stewards of the forest that the rest of the world needs to stay healthy. And so suddenly, we’ve got this lightbulb moment that we’re in where the desire to lift more people out of poverty and to create more equality of economic opportunity actually aligns with the agenda to promote a more sustainable interaction with our ecology.

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