HEADLINES OF THE DAY: ANOTHER 15,000 PEOPLE DIED YESTERDAY BECAUSE THEY WERE TOO POOR TO LIVE. THE RICH INCREASED THEIR WEALTH YESTERDAY BY $0.3 BILLION. THE 21st CENTURY VERSION OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION IS ONE DAY NEARER.
“O Ye rich ones on earth! The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be not intent only on your own ease.”
A preview of the unpublished book A CIVILIZATION WITHOUT A VISION WILL PERISH: AN INDEPENDENT SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH by David Willis at email@example.com. CHAPTER 1: INDIFFERENCE TO POVERTY (Part 85). This blog is a continuation of the review of ENDING GLOBAL POVERTY: A GUIDE TO WHAT WORKS by Stephen C. Smith, published in 2005.
The Fifth Key: Access to the benefits of new technologies for higher productivity
Basic literacy and numeracy are of intrinsic value. But to be most effective in helping the poor to take advantage of market opportunities, raise their productivity, and escape from poverty traps, there must also be access to useful knowledge and improved technologies. Access to new technology lets a person with basic literacy become functionally literate in that branch of knowledge – connecting a poor person to some of the technologies that could life her out of poverty.
Clear benefits have been recorded
There have already been great benefits of new technologies for poverty reduction, from contraception and medicines, to high-yielding crop varieties, to telecommunications. In India, computer-assisted learning for the poor coming to school at a somewhat older age has proven highly effective. When electrification has reached rural villages, and been distributed in a way that gives access to the poor, clear benefits have been recorded. A child who works in the fields after school can now do his homework at home after dark. Cellphones in Bangladesh have made an enormous difference. For example, you don’t have to spend the whole day going to the city in order to have a conversation with someone or resolve a problem. This way people can use their time more productively, working on their farms or businesses. But cellphones and access to the Internet do not come automatically. In many cases NGOs concerned with poverty have taken the vital first steps.
They need to learn to learn and how to adapt
Ultimately, the poor need more than just specific job skills – these may become obsolete. They need to learn to learn, to learn how to adapt and make flexible use of new technologies. Teaching new skills in the context of immediate problems faced by the poor reinforces learning and helps participants to move to the next steps needed to escape from poverty. The contexts in which the poor learn new skills become important in themselves. Learning skills as a member of a solidarity group can also help build confidence, offer personal support, and reinforce learning.
The Sixth Key: A non-degraded and stable environment to ensure sustainable development
Lake Victoria beckons from the history books and the map, an apparent oasis, a great lake of Africa. Surely the people who live there, if anywhere, have a beautiful environment and a steady source of food. The reality on the ground is far different. Watching the Kenyan boys fish along the shores of Lake Victoria, one sees some of the limits to the old catchphrase, “teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” There are many impediments to making this simple solution work. Fishing skills are of limited help in a dying lake. In Kenya the human population is rising and the fish population is falling, due to a combination of overfishing and pollution. Water hyacinths, introduced from Asia, choke out other life and provide a breeding ground for malarial mosquitoes and parasites.
Environmental crises are looming
Just as we have seen an escalating pace of new diseases emerging in the world, no doubt there will be an acceleration of environmental shocks, the results of which we cannot anticipate. Some result from the accidental importation of pests, such as the Asia beetle invasion in the United States, a byproduct of increased world trade. Others, like global warming, result from accumulated choices of millions of people decentralized around the globe, especially those of us in the rich countries. Rising sea levels from increased warming threatens to inundate many islands and densely populated coastal regions of developing countries. Eight million people in densely populated Bangladesh live in coastal areas likely to be affected by rising sea levels in the next few decades. Environmental crises are looming as the biggest barrier to progress against poverty. As Walt Kelly put it so well, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”