Carolynn Look

Psychology of Giving: Why Aid Might Be Causing More Harm Than Good

Take up the White Man’s burden—

Send forth the best ye breed—

Go send your sons to exile

To serve your captives’ need

To wait in heavy harness

On fluttered folk and wild—

Your new-caught, sullen peoples,

Half devil and half child.

(First stanza of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden”, 1899) Read More »

Masking Poverty: Why Poor People Like to Appear Rich

Poverty is more than an income measure or financial disadvantage. It is also a state of mind, a feeling of anxiety, and it forms the perception that society has of individuals, and even the perception these individuals have of themselves. It is because of this that people living in poverty face so many limitations, ones that go beyond the mere size of their wallet. They experience a lot more stress and social pressure. Those who consider poor people to be lazy treat them as if they were inferior, and, in turn, poor people try to mask their poverty in order to receive better treatment. Read More »

YoSoy132 and Contemporary Uprisings: What are Social Movements Doing Wrong?

Somewhere in the world there is a social movement unfolding even as we speak: perhaps in India Maoists are engaged in organizing armed opposition to a transnational mining corporation; or possibly members of Brazil’s Landless Rural Workers’ Movement, the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra (MST), are holding a meeting to discuss actions to be taken against the eviction of their supporters from occupied lands outside of São Paolo. Over the past decade, we have seen countless mobilizations of people on regional, national, or even global scales, but despite many of these movements having something to say about development, they are rarely treated with seriousness in relation to development or policy change. Read More »

Live Research Bulletin: How Asian Countries Are Protecting Their Environments and Economies

Development RoastBy Carolynn Look and Garance Marcotte

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” -Chinese Proverb

Some of the greatest ancient civilizations used to roam the lands that are now India, China, and Thailand. They were known for practices that showed a deep-rooted respect for the world around them, both in their daily lives and in their spirituality. Still today, the harmony between man and nature is seen in many parts of Asia, from Mongolian nomads living in yurts, to Tibetan monks leading minimalistic lives and seeking spiritual balance with everything around them. However, in many other places, this relationship has changed. Rapid urbanization is changing the continent’s landscape as rural-urban income disparities increase, water bodies are becoming severely damaged and pollution is at some of the world’s worst levels. Read More »

Graphics: Sustainability and Businesses – How Reliable are Corporate Social Responsibility reports?

 As part of INESAD’s November Environmental Sustainability month, today’s Monday Graphics series is investigating sustainability in businesses.

This Global Sustainability Scorecard was compiled by McDonalds about its business’s sustainability. Many companies produce graphics like these to make consumers aware of their efforts to protect or contribute to the environment and society (for other big name examples, see the graphics put together by Apple and H&M). While analyzing these, consumers should keep the overall picture in mind: is going green in your office really a mark of sustainability? Are promises that businesses make about one area of their production chain, such as McDonald’s does here about fishing, neglecting their unsustainable habits in other areas? Industrial beef production, for instance, remains a huge problem and causes diseases and deforestation, and McDonald’s happens to be one of its main proponents. Are the businesses really helping the environment, or are they only making their impact ‘less bad’? Read our recently published article on the topic ‘How ‘sustainable’ is sustainable development in the corporate world?’  Read More »

How ‘sustainable’ is sustainable development in the corporate world?

According to the 2005 World Summit on Social Development, sustainability requires the reconciliation of the three elements of economic, social and environmental endurance. Up until not too long ago, companies externalized costs to society and the environment and took advantage of cheaper and more convenient labour in their restless pursuit of profit.  However, activism and awareness campaigns by NGOs have encouraged consumers to demand more sustainable products and services. As a result, today, many companies proudly advertise their sustainable business practices. The ensuing policies of “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) are in part motivated  by the long-term financial savings sustainable businesses can make; however, they are also a marketing strategy aimed at convincing people that their money is being invested in something that is good for people and the planet. Read More »

Live Research Bulletin: Accounting for the Environment in Europe—Progress and Lessons.

Throughout November Development Roast is bringing you live research updates on an INESAD working paper currently in progress that is investigating national environmental accounting efforts around the world. Today, Carolynn Looks sums up the European experience.

A kilo of tomatoes in Spain typically costs around €1.99. This price includes the efforts of the farmer who grew the tomatoes, transportation costs, and the work of the retailer. What it does not include is the cost of emissions as these tomatoes make their way across Europe, or of water usage, deforestation and loss of biodiversity as monoculture plantations spread across Spain’s rural landscapes. Because of an increasing recognition of such detrimental effects, economists and governments have started to realize that air, water and forests are not in fact free and have asked themselves: What is the price of an old Cypress tree? How much does a clean river cost? How do you place a value on a gulp of unpolluted air, or on an entire habitat?

Read More »

Irrationality and Heuristics: What can international development learn from behavioural economics?

In a perfectly rational world, Ted the taxi driver works long hours on days with many customers and goes home early on bad days to save money on driving. On the other side of the world, Mexican farming couple Carlos and Verónica send their children to the new school built in the next town, because they know that education will lead to a job that will make up for the time not spent on the farm. Ted, Carlos and Verónica demonstrate what is a central tenet of classical economic theory : the belief in homo economicus, the rational economic man—a being that makes fully calculated decisions in a rational manner to achieve the best possible outcome for himself. Read More »


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