Saturday, April 17, 2010

Be the change you want to see in the world

The longer I stay in India, the more I love the country, and the more sad I become.

I love it more because I realize more and more the quality of these people. They are so generous, loving, and kind. They are friendly and surprisingly honest despite their poverty. Kolkata wishes to get rid of its image of the poorest of the poor brought to it with the attention from Mother Teresa. And I hope they have made progress. But…because I admire these people, it is difficult to see them living in the situation that they do.
Want to see how rich you are compared to the rest of the world? Visit

Because India has a third of the world’s poor. A third! One country! Nearly HALF of the country falls below the poverty line.
And you’d think that, being surrounded by so many people, I might begin to think that a single life isn’t worth as much. But on the contrary, I have strengthened in my belief that all life is sacred.

Hunger and malnutrition are the number one risk to health worldwide — greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

The compelling truth is this: never before in human history has such a large percentage of our species—nearly 20 percent—been malnourished. Each year, between 40 million and 60 million people around the world die from hunger and related diseases. Sadly, the toll is heaviest on the world's children.

I don’t mean to be harsh, but it is difficult to think of this disparity:
67 % of adults over 20 in the US are overweight and obese
18% of adolescents are overweight/obese in the US
26% of children are overweight/obese in the USmalnourished

49% of the world's underweight children live in India
34% of the world's stunted children live in India
46% of the world's wasted children live in India

Finally, the ultimate irony….
About 1.2 billion people suffer from hunger
About 1.2 billion people suffer from obesity

To be surrounded by such skinny, skinny people day in and day out is very difficult. And less than half of a percent of US GDP is spent on alleviating world hunger! What a difference if we even doubled it. If we raised it to 3 percent…how many lives would that save yearly???
One of the MAJOR CAUSES of poverty is the use of arable land (which is limited) to create resources which do not provide nourishment in the form of food. This is of especial importance to the Mormons:
The top 2 wasteful resources are TOBACCO and COFFEE/TEA. And to you fellow vegetarians out there, you might be interested to know another major cause is BEEF (because the cost of feeding livestock is wasting food that could be used to feed people). Growing coffee and tea and tobacco are important ways of making a living for the world’s poor. However, if the demand decreased, the land could be used to grow other, more important resources such as food.
tobacco cows coffee
And don’t get me started on illegal drugs. Afghanistan, the country we know as one of the poorest and least educated, is also the largest illegal opium and hashish producer. You know those people who say “Try everything once”? That should not apply to illegal drugs. This is a major cause of the world’s hunger problem, and the cause of much violence as well. Those who use illegal drugs must know that this is more than their own lives at stake.
Ultimately, this comes down to politics. Hunger comes from poverty and poverty is caused by largely bad economics and bad economics often comes from bad politics. There are politics in how food is produced and where and for whom.
Where are the politicians talking about the real major crises of the world? When will the politicians address the things that actually matter?
I’m tired of hearing politicians talk about terrorism. That affects such a small portion of people, besides which perhaps one of the major causes of terrorism IS poverty. When you have nothing, there is nothing to stop you when you are desperate…
I’m tired of Republicans who only worry about war and soldiers and terrorism and defense and nuclear power, and I’m tired of Democrats who want to take money from the fairly wealthy of the US and redistribute it to the only slightly less wealthy of the US. Where is the politician who talks financial restraint and responsibility while generously helping those who are actually in need around the world?
The LDS Church does something lovely monthly. It asks us to go without food for 2 meals for one day per month and donate that money to be used to feed others around the globe. I would like to urge everyone, LDS or not, to think about doing this, and to raise the amount of money you normally donate monthly. I feel that the fate of the 16,000 children who die daily from lack of food is resting on the shoulders of ourselves, the world’s wealthiest.
Fast Sunday is going to forever mean something different to me after living in India. homeless
For me, unfortunately poverty was incomprehensible until I saw it. homeless
I saw thousands of people lying in the streets…homeless person
I saw children wandering through awful traffic begging for food…
I saw men with thighs the size of my wrists…

open bathing
I saw groups of people bathing in the streets…

I saw men going to the bathroom in public because there was no where else to go…
And I knew these people were my brothers and sisters and I was witnessing their slow demise (life expectancy in India: 64.7 years).
It was only then that I realized that I was part of the problem because I wasn’t actively working to end it.
But once again, hunger is only a symptom of the problem. The real solution has to be rooting out the causes of poverty.
Here are ways you can help:
1. Influence public policy to support poor people (and not U.S. kind of poor, real poor). Here is a letter you can send to your Congressman
2. Contribute financially. Here is a way to give 1 cup of food to people daily: Visit
Here is a game to play that donates rice to the poor:
Donate one dollar to help meet the goal of the UN World Food Programme:
Make your homepage and just by searching the internet, donations will be made to charitable causes for free
3. Work with poor people themselves. Vacation in poor countries, stimulate the economy of those countries, and find ways to volunteer with the poor
4. Get educated on poverty, its causes, and what you can do to help
5. Avoid overconsumption (buying what you don’t want or need and allowing it to go to waste)
6. Avoid giving money to people on the streets. This is a difficult one for me, as I am surrounded by poor people on the streets. But I know it’s better to give it to an organization than to people who might end up using it on drugs or the child sex trade or something.
7. This is a tough one…but consider giving up or at least going without a couple days/week of tobacco, coffee/tea, and beef.
8. Those of you who know me know I used to be the most awful cheapskate ;) Fortunately I am a recovered cheapaholic. Not that saving money is bad. But make saving money go to something worthwhile. Thinking only about money and ways to keep it for yourself is just as bad, in my mind, as thinking constantly about money in order to spend it. Find ways to save money not for yourself, but to actually donate it to a worthy cause.
There is something that oddly comforts me despite being surrounded by poverty, however. Mother Teresa said that the true poverty of the world is the feeling of being unloved and unwanted. And while the Indians may suffer hunger, I feel they understand love, and perhaps in some ways Westernized countries have it worse off after all—Mother Teresa was most afraid at the loneliness and isolation that pervaded our culture.

What are your solutions to fighting poverty?

By the way, I told Jacob he needed to write a post so the blog could be lightened up a bit. Thank goodness, the man balances me out. Everyone comment and tell Jacob to write a post :)


Laura said...

Wow. Just wow.

This has actually been on my mind recently. I remember watching a video in my American Heritage class about the disparities between American culture and the culture in third-world countries with regards to food. It was eye-opening to say the least. First, they talked about how Americans are basically addicted to fast food, and then the next shot, you see some people in some refugee camp in a third-world country FIGHTING over RICE!

You make some very good points. Perhaps if the U.S. helped these countries with their poverty problems, perhaps there wouldn't be so much violence. I had never thought of that before. Thanks for bringing that up.

And on that note, I already don't drink coffee or tea, and I don't eat very much beef as it is. I probably eat it once every one or two weeks, if that. I feel like I'm doing something to help, but I think I might do something more now.

P.S. Your transcriptions are coming soon!

oh said...

I received the following anonymously...As an obese person, I would like to humbly defend my compulsion to eat constantly. Especially fast food. Well, especially any food. Anyway, I know people are starving in India. I do. I think about them while I'm in the drive through. But I like to think that I'm helping the Indian economy. Who knows how many outsourced jobs I am supporting with all of the hamburgers I consume in a year? I mean, just because I eat enough for an entire Indian village, doesn't mean that they would not starve if I do. I could move out of my house into a tent, and that wouldn't mean a half dozen families would now have a roof over their heads in Mumbai. And anyway, I'm tired of feeling guilty for being fat. I already feel gross, unattractive, tired, and distraught with worry over diabetes and heart disease. Who needs guilt on top of that? I'll bet I employ a good half dozen Indian seamstresses on my shirt alone. Something to consider. Thanks for your time.

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