The world’s biggest waste dump (hint: it’s big, blue and you like going there)

I used to be a big fan of seafood: crabs, mussels, prawns you name it, I ate it. Then when this year Ghent University in Belgium found that seafood lovers could be eating up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic a year, I reluctantly decided to cut my consumption to the odd treat (what’s a couple of hundred bits of microplastics between friends). Consumers in better off nations like ours are rightly worried about the as yet unknown health impacts of ingesting plastic, but little or no attention has been paid to the impact on communities in the developing world.

The escalating crisis of marine litter (this ranges from microbeads to plastic bottles to boats) is the latest, dystopian symptom of a linear economy which takes, makes and throws away.  It turns out ‘away’ is often the oceans. Every year we produce 300 million pieces of plastic and 5 to 12.5 million pieces of it end up in the oceans.   [Read more…]

How can we turn the African environment tragedy into an opportunity for good?


A man helps a woman cross a log bridge after the flash flood washed away a concrete bridge at Pentagon, in Freetown August 18, 2017. Source: Reuters.


Hannington Muyenje, a Senior Campaigner with Tearfund, reflects on how the climate tragedy can be turned into an opportunity.

Oscar Wilde, one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890s said, ‘Behind every exquisite thing that happens, there was a tragedy.’ We have all heard about the pacifying clichés like, ‘bad things can lead to good’, ‘A blessing in disguise’ or ‘beauty from ashes’.

For people in low-income settings, the tragedy of poverty has been turned into a case of double jeopardy by climate change. It is as if people in poverty are being punished twice for the same crime: that they are poor and that due to their poverty, they are unable to address the effects of climate change. This double tragedy has shattered whole economies and forced many poor people into all forms of slavery. I regarded Tearfund’s annual international gathering that took place in June – a platform that brings together experienced and passionate leaders from over 30 poor countries – as an opportunity to grapple with ways of turning this climate tragedy into economic growth prospects.  [Read more…]

An economy where both people and nature thrive


In 2016 Tearfund and the St Paul’s Institute held a programme of roundtables exploring global development and the green economy. Barbara Ridpath, Director of the Institute, and I explore inequality and the economy, and the recommendations from the programme in our follow up paper, ‘Going Full Circle:  tackling resource reduction and inequality’.

Look around your office floor or the train you’re travelling in. Can you count eight people? That’s the number of men who own the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion people in the world this year. This inequality is extreme and it’s down to a broken economic system.  [Read more…]

Nothing as sensitive as death and taxes

There maybe nothing as certain as death and taxes, but equally there are few topics as sensitive. Tax and wealth are difficult subjects to gain cross-party political consensus on and, given the power of tax on supply and demand within the market, everyone has a strong opinion.

tax photo

Yesterday we saw headlines on the need for an overhaul of the UK tax system, but do we have the politicians prepared to take this on? Justin Welby proclaimedOur economic model is broken. Britain stands at a watershed moment where we need to make fundamental choices about the sort of economy we need. We are failing those who will grow up into a world where the gap between the richest and poorest parts of the country is significant and destabilising.” Welby’s remarks were made as part of the Commission on Economic Justice, led by the think tank IPPR. The Commission’s full report and recommendations will be published in 2018, but will include calls for: [Read more…]

A climate act for all our futures


Lyson and Theresa and four of their children, Dowa District, Malawi


This month you have a chance to input into a public consultation on Scotland’s Climate Change Bill, whether you’re based in Scotland or not. Tearfund is a member of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, a diverse coalition of civil society organisations in Scotland campaigning together on climate change. Read more about why we want a more ambitious climate act; one that represents climate justice for all. 

Global temperatures in July this year were the 2nd highest ever recorded . For Nepali families recovering from recent floods or farmers in Malawi fearful of another small harvest, these rising temperatures contribute towards a changing climate that is having a very real impact.

Lyson, from the Dowa District in Malawi explains: “In the past the soil here used to be very fertile. We would grow our crops and harvest a lot. But over the years the environment has been destroyed and the soil has become infertile. Because of climate change there are less rains, and we are harvesting only a little food – which is a big challenge for us.”  [Read more…]

Sierra Leone: Can an outpouring of love in the midst of tragedy help to renew our world?


Tearfund Senior Campaigner Clare Lyons reflects on how to respond to the mudslide in Sierra Leone that cost so many lives.

In the aftermath of the tragic mudslide in Sierra Leone last week, Gaston Slanwa, Tearfund’s Sierra Leone Country Representative, told us of the ‘huge outpouring of love’ from the local community, who are caring for those in need in the midst of their own personal loss.  [Read more…]

Every day is Earth Overshoot Day (but it doesn’t have to be)

Whenever you hear words like overcome, overjoyed or overwhelmed, the sense is about extremes: strong positive connotations or the exact opposite. Today is Earth Overshoot Day, the day in 2017 when collectively the world’s population have used up all the resources that nature can regenerate in one year. This overuse of resources falls firmly into that second camp: strong negative connotations. [Read more…]

Three ways product design can reduce poverty overseas


One day, your smartphone will probably be recycled by a teenager on a rubbish tip; perhaps in Ghana or Nigeria. Months before that, it will likely have been repaired and sold on by an entrepreneur in the same country.  The health and livelihoods of these women and men depend on the way we design our products in the EU – the toxic chemicals we permit and the ease of repair that we require.  [Read more…]

Hope, identity, and character: three forgotten truths about ending poverty


Imagine a community in the Global South, perhaps a group of informal workers in an urban slum, or a group of subsistence farmers on marginal land.

Is there a successful model or simple idea that might dramatically change things for these women and men?  A magic bullet that could help them escape poverty? [Read more…]

Going circular in Finland


Joanne Green, Senior Policy Associate at Tearfund, reflects on her trip to the first World Circular Economy Forum in Finland. 

This week I attended the first ever World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) generously hosted for free by the Finnish Government in Helsinki. For those who are unfamiliar, the circular economy is a new approach to economic development that recognises biophysical limits by using resources as efficiently as possible in every stage of a product lifecycle. For more info see here. [Read more…]