The End of Poverty?

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I want to recommend this documentary to everyone.  I watched this last week and it really had me thinking hard.  I am ashamed that I’m part of the 20% of the worlds inhabitants that consume 80% of it’s resources, 30% of which is nonrenewable.

How is it that poverty became such a burden in the world in which we live?  In short, rich powerful nations began exploiting poor nations for their resources.  In the pre-industrialized world, communities supported themselves with their own resources.  You ate and used that which was grown and manufactered locally.  Each group of people/community/nation supported itself.  As nations grew and gained power they quickly began consuming more than what they could produce.  The answer: rely on other nations to support their consumption.  Rely on other nations to grow their food and mine resources needed to sustain it’s demand.

With this, nations began growing or manufacturing that which they were most suited to export.  Well, when you do that, you are plowing over your own crops to mass grow and export crops to support another nation.  You are no longer using your land to support yourself and your community.

This alone leads to .  It makes the nation exporting slave to the nation importing.  To make matters worse, European nations began seizing opportunities to make poorer nations even more dependent by demanding more, taking the ability of the poorer nation to manufacture finished products from them.  If you live in India and grow Tea, you are exporting raw Tea to nations who have the money and ability to refine that Tea into a finished product.  So you sell Tea to European contries only to have it sold back to you as a finished product with huge markups.  The wealthier nations become wealthier and the poorer nations get poorer and become more dependent.

So is capitalism a system in which everyone can be given a fair shake?  I’m not so sure.  The only end to poverty is to revert back to a system in which communities produce locally the resources they consume.  Can Americans support themselves on their own land?  I believe yes, but it means cutting back.  We hate hearing this, but when you think about the ramifications of our lust for resources, one becomes much more willing to do what is necessary to ensure we’re being fair in our trade and consumption.

If I go into the marketplace knowing that what I buy in excess feeds into a system that is keeping people in poverty, it makes me much more aware of the problem.

So what to do?  There are a few things we can do that will make a huge difference.  It just becomes a matter of going through a bit more hassle to make sure we are being ethical in our consumption.

1.  Buy local.  I am going to really try shopping for my produce at local farmers markets.  I am challenging myself here as well.

2.  Conserve fuel.  I’m not sure yet how I’m going to implement this myself as I don’t really drive very far for work and for my necessities.  Maybe riding a bike locally will be a personal challenge for me.  Also, making sure I set my thermostat at a reasonable temperature and not taking a boiling hot bath three times a week.  I’m a huge fan of candles and use them frequently already, plus I enjoy working to candle light more than my lamps and lights anyway.  I just need to be more conscious of the candles I purchase.  Also line drying clothes vs. a dryer makes a huge dent in our energy consumption.  It isn’t possible for me to do this now, but I am making arrangements to ensure I begin doing this soon.

3.  Buy used.  Again, I’m going to challenge myself here to buy more used products. From clothing to other resources, we can buy used and recycle older items instead of buying new products that are still feeding into this system.

These are just a few of the things I can come up with.  I haven’t researched this at all yet on purpose.  I’m looking for ideas from friends, not blogs and internet, so if anyone has ideas, please let me know.

I think it also helps when we volunteer more of our time.  I feel better when I’m using my time wisely in conjunction with the above steps.  I feel like I’m giving more than I’m taking as a whole, not just when it comes to material goods.

Please let me know if you have any other ideas.  I would greatly appreciate them.

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