Poverty’s impact on Resources

For this Under Construction I want to take a look at another stub, this time about how poverty impacts resources:

Impact of Poverty on Resources
Much of the potential to conserve resources in our society will come by increasing incentives for people to invest in more energy-efficient homes and vehicles, and to be more aggressive about maintenance.  But people who are poor don’t typically have access to savings or credit, so they generally can’t invest in these things, even if the payback is excellent.  Examples include buying a fuel-efficient car, installing thermal siding or attic insulation, sealing leaks in building walls, or replacing windows with thermal/solar windows to save on energy bills.  This is one of the reasons it is hard to get out of poverty:  you can’t afford to buy something that costs more up front, even if it would be cheaper in the long run.  Deferring maintenance is also expensive in the long run, but when faced with a choice between getting the car tuned or buying food, few people will get the tune-up, even if it means wasting gas and paying more at the pump.

One of the standard procedural problems in the Interlock Project is deciding which interactions are significant.  Inevitably, there are marginal cases that are tough calls.  “Is that link important enough to include?  Or is it safe to leave it out?”

This is one of those marginal links.  I generally favored leaving such connections in on the first pass, because there was always the possibility that as I did further research I would discover additional connections that would add more weight to the link.  So far, that hasn’t happened in this case, so I have two questions about it:

1)            How important is the connection I described above?  I.e., what is the degree to which poverty increases the wastage of resources, or makes it harder to reduce resource wastage?

2)            Is there any other significant way in which poverty impacts resource use, besides reducing efficiency and increasing waste?   Remember, “resources” in the context of the Interlock include energy, water, food, and critical materials (or the manufactured products that incorporate those materials).

If the answers to those questions are “minor” and “no,” then this connection needs to be removed.  If the answer to the first one is “significant,” or to the second one is “yes,” then it rightfully deserves a place in the Interlock’s calculus.

(Random thought:  One of the indirect effects of poverty on resources, specifically water, is that poor communities are frequently the last to receive infrastructure assistance, and so suffer from more leaky and/or broken water mains and more frequent power outages.  I think, however, that this is a connection that would likely be better placed in the discussion of taxes & spending –> infrastructure or taxes & spending –> poverty, rather than in poverty –> resources, considering just how indirect it is.)

So, should this be removed, or is there a real impact here that deserves consideration?  Thoughts, opinions, and (especially!) pointers to applicable data/materials would be appreciated.  Leave a comment, or send me an email at morgandkauffman@gmail.com.

(Also, see the Participate page to learn more about how you can help expand on this and other parts of the Interlock Project!)

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