Poverty is a big deal. Millions of people are living now without access to clean water, enough food, and appropriate shelter. I have been fortunate enough to have had relatively simple decisions to make during my twenty three years of existence. I have never needed to choose between food or something else. I have always had enough food to comfortably get by. I have always had a place to live. Below you'll see a map made using information from the 2006 World Food Program's percentage of the population malnourished data. As you can see, poverty is nearly everywhere.
What do we do about it?
This is a much more difficult question to answer. I believe that there are several things that individuals, communities, and governments can do to make progress towards ending poverty. Here is what I think:
- First this is my list of things that should be made free and readily available to everyone (at least in the United States, because many parts of the world wouldn't need a kick ass public transportation system)
3. health care
5. public transportation
Food, housing (or shelter), health care, and education are certainly a must. Food allows people to relax and focus their energies on personal and development. Hungry people think about food. Housing will keep people safe from the elements and offer a sense of security. Everyone needs free access to health care because there are few things worse than being truly ill. Education is more of a need for society. Society needs people to be educated enough to understand they way the world works and to be empowered enough to be able to make changes and improvements. This is what we need.
- We can start making changes to provide those previously mentioned 5 things now. Sustainable agriculture and fair trade (not free trade) are part of that solution. Sustainable agriculture starts out with efficient use of rain water and allows us to preserve and grow our environment
- Housing should be made to be energy efficient and with the conservative mindset. People should really move away from the consumer's philosophy and begin thinking about living in sustainable communities. Here is a link for creating sustainable communities Smart Growth Resource Library.
- Fair trade is a big deal. Due to several free trade agreements the winner has usually been powerful corporations. The loser is always the poor worker. Look at the Amerikas. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), people have been flocking to the United States in search of decent paying work. Those jobs are desperately needed to help feed their families. Those are jobs people are willing to risk dying for. Those jobs were lost when NAFTA made it cheaper to produce consumable goods. Free trade is bad for evolution. Fair trade is the way to go.
Learn more at the fair trade resource network
- Governments need to begin making future minded policy decisions that allow for sustainable growth and evolution. One way to provide immediate assistance is to funnel more aid money to the programs that need it. Is that even possible with such a massive deficit? Yes. Just change the way taxation works so that larger corporations and wealthier individuals (top 10% of the population) pay more of the tax. The bottom 60% would pay the absolute least amount of money (1% of income). These are just arbitrarily chosen numbers but I think it is a good place to start doing some research into whether a government can function like this.
This is just a start. The tip of a massive iceberg of change. We really need to take it upon ourselves to learn about new and better-for-everyone ways of doing things. It certainly shouldn't be easy but consider this a brick wall worth breaking through.
picture by Ben McLeod