Last weekend at Live Earth, Chris Rock joked, "I pray that this event ends global warming the same way that Live Aid ended world hunger." Cynicism aside, the bitter truth behind Rock's quip is that poverty and environmental destruction are inextricably linked. "When you are poor, environmental conservation is a luxury that you cannot afford," says David Woollcombe , president of Peace Child International, a nonprofit organization that works with local young people to promote sustainability in less developed countries. "If you are cold, you don't care about conservation of forests, you care about keeping warm. This is why many people say that poverty is the greatest enemy, the greatest polluter of the environment."
The poor, of course, also lack the clout and the resources to keep their environs from being exploited. Mindful of this issue, the United Nations produced its millennium development goals to reduce poverty by 2015, the seventh of which aims to "integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources." This translates into the complicated task of bringing prosperity to the impoverished by maintaining the natural world around them. And, it often comes down to local groups to bring these issues home. There are, however, many ways to help.