Tuesday, May 24, 2011

On inequality, poverty, and ecological degradation

I have written just a little bit about the issues of poverty and inequality. My first foray into this issue was inspired by Vanessa Baird's piece Trash: Inside The Heap. Today, I would like to revisit these issues and promote a very interesting project. A couple of my friends, Lisa and Ingrid have started a blog called Half of The World. The blog is about how poverty and inequality are driven and perpetuated by neocolonialism and transnational organisations, but more fundamentally the way we in the most powerful nations on the Earth, each and every one of us, choose to behave. Our behaviour is deeply ingrained and self-serving, and results in calamities such as the dumping of petrochemical wastes in Africa, or the shipping of electronic wastes to Asia, or the degradation of environment in Delray, Africa, and Asia being far less financially and politically fortunate.  

The blog challenges people to live on $2/day for a week, and the purpose is threefold - 
  • Highlight the disparity between the disparities between standards of living in industralised nations and unindustrialised nations - By forcing ourselves to make the sorts of calculations and sacrifices that are common for most people in the world, they wish to gain some understanding of how the Majority World lives, and how radically different our own lives are.
  • By forcing ourselves to live with less, they hope to question our own taken-for-granted habits and think about the types of choices we have been making. They want to discover what we have become dependent upon, what we can actually live without, and what viable alternatives exist to reduce our daily consumption patterns. When making routine purchases, they desire to more frequently ask ourselves, “Do I really need this?”
  • Most importantly, they wish to use this project as a springboard to share information and increase awareness about the nature of global poverty. They believe that one of the most decisive needs in the struggle against global poverty is a critical mass of people who are willing to substantially alter their lifestyle and work together to challenge the systems of inequality that both sustain their way of life and simultaneously produce mass starvation among the rest of the world.
There are striking parallels between what I have been writing about for the past year, and the motivations that have guided Lisa and Ingrid. Trash had provided a wonderful, although not fully adequate, lens through which to view the impacts of our choices. Although poverty may be a little more difficult to grasp, images of poverty surround us, even here in Ann Arbor, or just forty miles away, and this poverty results from the exact same choices that we make that result in trash, and ecological degradation more broadly. Rather than frame the issues through trash, they choose the lens of consumption, the differences I have written about here. This further reinforces to me that issues such as poverty, inequality, greenhouse gas emission, toxins in water, fracking, and trash are just different manifestations of more fundamental problems plaguing our societies. We cannot, and should not, think that we can address one without addressing them all; this is something we all need to accept.

Gap Between Rich And Poor Named 8th Wonder Of The World

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Darshan! I am going to link to your blog on ours as well.