April 16, 2010

We Can Do Better Than This











As I was reading the newspaper the other day I noticed two images similar to the ones above side by side in a features section. Were they intended to be juxtaposed in order to jolt our reality chip, or was it just a sick mistake? It reminded me that the gap between rich and poor continues to widen.

If we were starting from scratch, is this really the kind of world we would design for ourselves? One in which a few have multiple homes including hundred-room mansions on acres of park-like gated property, while millions live in mud and squalor?

"Unlit highways run past canyons of smouldering garbage before giving way to dirt streets weaving through 200 slums, their sewers running with raw waste. So much of the city is a mystery. No one even knows for sure the size of the population – officially it is 6 million, but most experts estimate it at 10 million – let alone the number of murders each year [or] the rate of HIV infection.

Lagos, moreover, is simply the biggest node in the shantytown corridor of 70 million people that stretches from Abidjan to Ibadan, probably the biggest continuous footprint of urban poverty on earth.
" http://www.ranadasgupta.com/notes.asp?note_id=31

And the problem is not getting any better in spite of developed nations paying plenty of lip service to the elimination of poverty in recent years. The "State of the World's Cities - 2010/2011" report by the Nairobi-based UN-HABITAT shows that the number of slum dwellers has been increasing due to unequal access to peace and prosperity for an increasing number of the world's citizens.

Number of slum dwellers skyrockets
By Bradley Brooks, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


SAO PAULO, Brazil - The number of people living in slum conditions increased by 51 million during the past 10 years, despite global efforts to halt poverty, according to a United Nations' report released Friday.

The report by the Nairobi-based U.N.-Habitat said that the number of slum dwellers rose to 828 million in 2010, while also noting that about 227 million people were able to escape such conditions in the past decade - double as many forecast in the U.N. Millennium Goals set in 2000.

"Success is highly skewed toward the more advanced emerging economies, while poorer countries have not done as well," said Habitat executive director Anna Tibaijuka. "For this reason, there is no room for complacency." http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/World/2010/03/19/13295831-ap.htm


The following statistics on Poverty and Inequality highlight a system that is not working for a majority of humanity.

  • "While global GNP grew 40 percent between 1970 and 1985 (suggesting widening prosperity), the number of poor grew by 17 percent.

    UNDP reported in 1996 that 100 countries were worse off than 15 years ago.

    In 1998, that 20 percent of the world's people living in the highest-income countries accounted for 86 percent of total private consumption expenditures while the poorest 20 percent accounted for only 1.3 percent. That's down from 2.3 percent three decades ago.

    These related phenomena led UN development experts to observe that the world is heading toward "grotesque inequalities," concluding: "Development that perpetuates today's inequalities is neither sustainable nor worth sustaining."

    UNDP calculates that an annual 4 percent levy on the world's 225 most well-to-do people (average 1998 wealth: $4.5 billion) would suffice to provide the following essentials for all those in developing countries: adequate food, safe water and sanitation, basic education, basic health care and reproductive health care. At present, 160 of those individuals live in OECD countries; 60 reside in the United States.

  • The wealth of the three most well-to-do individuals exceeds the combined GDP of the 48 least developed countries.

    The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reported in 1998 that the world's 225 richest people have a combined wealth of $1 trillion. That's equal to the combined annual income of the world's 2.5 billion poorest people." http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/218/46377.html



    We created this unjust and unequal system and we can create a new one which is more equitable and inclusive. The lives of billions depend on us doing the right thing. Will we disappoint them yet again, or is now the time we are going to take actions to start living right on this planet?

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