Mission, Service, Leadership Part 2





This talk addresses the Millennium Development Goals; the failure of the rich countries to live up to their promises; the unnecessary loss of life, especially in Africa; the poor farming practices in much of Africa; the looming prospect of the entire continent of Africa being unable to feed itself; Bruce’s belief that the Farm School model is what is needed in developing countries today; and the wisdom that Bruce would want you to take home with you from your Greek Summer experience.



The Millennium Development Goals

In his book The End of Poverty: How We Can Make it Happen in Our Life Time, Jeffey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and director of the UN Millennium Project, tells us that

‘For the first time in history, our generation has the opportunity to end extreme poverty in the world’s most desperate nations. We can make a real difference for the one-fifth of humanity who still live in extreme poverty. We can end poverty by 2025 and change the world for ever. We can help the 15,000 people daily dying needlessly from preventable, treatable diseases – AIDS, TB, and malaria – for lack of drugs that we take for granted; we can help the 8 million people who die each year because they are too poor to stay alive; we can close the yawning gap between what the rich world claims to be doing to help the poor and what it is actually doing; and we can forge a common bond of humanity, security, and shared purpose across cultures and religions.’

An uncomfortable truth

Bono, the rock star who is helping Jeffrey Sachs get the message of compassion across to the rich, has opened the eyes of millions of fans and citizens to the shared struggle for global equality and justice. He states:

‘These statistics make a fool of the idea many of us hold on to very tightly: the idea of equality. What is happening in Africa mocks our pieties, doubts our concern, and questions our commitment to that whole concept. If we are honest, there’s no way we could conclude that such mass death day after day would ever be allowed to happen anywhere else. Deep down, if we really accept that their lives – African lives – are equal to ours, we would all be doing more to put the fire out. It’s an uncomfortable truth.’

Poverty is our greatest long-term challenge

In his March 6, 2002 Millennium speech the President of the World Bank, James D. Wolfensohn said:

‘We will not create that better and safer world with bombs or brigades alone. We will not win the peace until we have the foresight, the courage, and the political will to redefine the war. We must recognize that – while there is social injustice on a global scale, both between states and within them; while the fight against poverty is barely begun in too many parts of the world; while the link between progress in development and progress toward peace is not recognized – we may win a battle against terror but we will not conclude a war that will yield enduring peace. Poverty is our greatest long-term challenge. Grueling, mind-numbing poverty – which snatches hope and opportunity away from young hearts and dreams just when they should take flight and soar. Poverty – which takes the promise of a whole life ahead and stunts it into a struggle for day-to-day survival. Poverty – which together with its handmaiden, hopelessness, can lead to exclusion, anger, and even conflict. Poverty – which does not itself necessarily lead to violence but which can provide a breeding ground for the ideas of those who promote conflict and terror.’

Woodrow Wilson’s speech of 1918

Wolfensohn also said:

‘Eighty-four years ago in this city, Woodrow Wilson spoke of war and peace to a joint session of Congress. “What we demand” he said, “is that the world be made safe for every peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live its own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice, and fair dealing by the other peoples of the world. All peoples are partners in this interest, and for our own part we see very clearly that unless justice be done to others it will not be done to us.”

‘Let me end, as I began, with the words of Woodrow Wilson – words that reach out across cultural and national divides: “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget that errand.”’

Millennium Development Goals

Regarding the Millennium Development Goals, Wolfensohn said:

‘Last year, at a summit held at the United Nations, more than 140 world leaders agreed to launch a campaign to attack poverty on a number of fronts. Together, we agreed to support the Millennium Development Goals. By 2015, we said, we will: Halve the proportion of people living on less than one dollar a day; Ensure that boys and girls alike complete primary schooling; Eliminate gender disparity at all levels of education; Reduce child mortality by two-thirds; Reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters; Roll-back HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; Halve the proportion of people without access to safe water; And develop a global partnership for development.

How could anyone take issue with these goals? How could anyone refuse to stand up and say that for my children and my children’s children, I want that better world?’

Can we afford the Millennium Development Goals?

‘And yet, there are those who legitimately ask: Can we win a war against poverty? And if we can’t be sure, should we wager our resources? To these people I would ask: Can we afford to lose? How much are we prepared to commit to preserve our children’s future? What is the price we are willing to pay to make progress in our life time toward a better world?’

‘We estimate that it will take on the order of an additional $40 to $60 billion a year to reach the Millennium Development Goals – roughly a doubling of current aid flows – to roughly 0.5% of GNP, still well below the 0.7% target agreed to by global leaders years ago.’

‘Contrast that with the fact that today the world’s leading industrial nations provide nearly 90% of the multibillion dollar arms trade – arms that are contributing to the very conflicts that all of us profess to deplore, and that we must spend additional monies to suppress.’

‘Let me repeat: We should do it because it is ethically right; We should do it because it will make a better, more understanding, more dynamic, and indeed more prosperous world for our children and our children’s children; We should do it because it will increase the security of all of us, rich and poor; We know that disease, the environment, financial crises, and even terror do not recognize national boundaries; We know that imaginary walls will not protect us.

If we want to build long-term peace, if we want stability for our economies, if we want to build that better and safer world, fighting poverty must be part of national and international security.’

Educating our children to be global citizens with global responsibilities

‘But we must go further. We must change the mindsets that build walls. Across the world, we must educate our children to be global citizens with global responsibilities. We must celebrate diversity, not fear it. We must build curricula around understanding, not suspicion; around inclusion, not hate. We must tell our children to dare to be different – international, intercultural, interactive, global. We must do better with the next generation than we have done with our own.’

Progress towards the Millennium goals

In the International Herald Tribune of September 25, 2008 there was an article on the fast-fading world of good intentions in which we were reminded that world leaders pledged, at the turn of the Millennium, to cutting extreme global poverty in half with a 2005 pledge of assistance of $130 billion by the year 2010. “Aid from the world’s developed countries fell by almost 13% between 2005 and 2007 – to under $104 billion, after inflation. The aggregate aid budget of the most developed nations amounts to 0.28% of their gross national income, woefully below the target of 0.7% agreed by world leaders in 2002. The United States, shamefully, is at the bottom of the list, spending 0.16% of its income on development assistance.”


In the same issue of the International Herald Tribune, there were also articles on the $700 billion bailout plan for the financial system and the bitter struggle over outsize pay. $700 billion given without batting an eyelid to the financial failures, but no petty cash to honor the pledge to fighting the war on poverty. Plenty of money for the super-rich to enjoy outrageous salaries, but not a dime to spare for those on a dollar a day.


The rich get richer while the poor get poorer

The UN’s Food Development Report has produced evidence that the world’s richest 358 billionaires have a wealth equivalent to the combined income of 45% of humanity or 2.3 billion people. In 1960, the richest one-fifth had 70% of global wealth. By 1990, their share had grown to 80%. The poorest one-fifth saw their wealth drop from 2.5% to 1.4% over the same period. The wealthy and the privileged few, indifferent to or unconcerned with economic and social injustice, remain intent on protecting their privileges, consolidating their power, and isolating themselves from the suffering and deprivation that is to be seen everywhere.




Dust storms in China

The Washington Post called Lester R. Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute, ‘one of the world’s most influential thinkers.’ In his book Outgrowing the Earth: The Food Security Challenge in an Age of Falling Water Tables and Rising Temperatures, he tells us that:

‘On April 18, 2001, the western United States was blanketed with dust. The dirt came from a huge dust storm that originated in northwestern China and Mongolia on April 5. Measuring 1,800 kilometers across when it left China, the storm carried up to 100 million tons of topsoil, a vital resource that would take centuries to replace through natural processes.’

‘Almost exactly one year later, on April 12, 2002, South Korea was engulfed by a huge dust storm from China. These two dust storms, among some 20 or more major dust storms in China during 2001 and 2002, are one of the externally visible indicators of the ecological catastrophe unfolding in northern and western China. Overgrazing and overplowing are converting productive land to desert on an unprecedented scale.’

Dust storms in Africa

‘Africa, too, is suffering from heavy losses of topsoil as a result of wind erosion. Andrew Goudie, Professor of Geography at Oxford University, reports that dust storms originating over the Sahara – once so rare – are now commonplace. He estimates they have increased tenfold during the last half-century. Among the countries most affected by topsoil loss via dust storms are Niger, Chad, northern Nigeria, and Burkino Faso. In Mauritania, in Africa’s far west, the number of dust storms jumped from 2 a year in the early 1960s to 80 a year today.’

‘The Bodélé Depression in Chad is the source of an estimated 1.3 billion tons of dust a year, up tenfold from 1947, when measurements began.’

‘The 2 – 3 billion tons of fine soil particles that leave Africa each year in dust storms are slowly draining the continent of its fertility and, hence, its biological productivity.’

The population explosion and loss of agricultural land

‘The addition of more than 70 million people each year requires land for living and working – driving the continuous construction of houses, apartment buildings, factories, and office buildings. Worldwide, for every 1 million people added, an estimated 40,000 hectares of land are needed for basic living space.’

‘These threats to the world’s cropland, whether advancing deserts, expanding automobile fleets, or housing developments, are gaining momentum, challenging some of the basic premises on which current population, transportation, and land use policies rest.’

The bottom line: Probable starvation in Africa

Brown continues:

‘With the advent of agriculture, the acceleration of soil erosion on mismanaged land has increased to the point where soil loss often exceeds new soil formation. Once this threshold is crossed, the inherent fertility of the land begins to fall. Each year the world’s farmers are challenged to feed another 70 million or more people but with less topsoil than the year before.’

‘The bottom line is that the accelerating loss of topsoil from wind and water erosion is slowly but surely reducing the earth’s inherent biological productivity. Unless governments, farmers, and herders can mobilize to reverse this trend, feeding 70 million more people each year will become progressively more difficult.’

At the Technological Museum of Thessaloniki there is a caption that by the year 2025 the continent of Africa will be able to feed only 25% of its population.




The story of postwar Greece

In 1986 Bruce Lansdale wrote the book Master Farmer: Teaching Small Farmers Management. He believed that the story of postwar Greece holds invaluable lessons for many developing countries today. In 1947 Greece had just emerged from a decade of war and strife; its villagers were demoralized and fleeing rural life for the cities; and its farms were unable to produce adequate crops to feed its people. In less than forty years Greece became a major exporter of foodstuffs, most villages had made the transition from underdeveloped to developing, and rural people were no longer yearning to move to the cities.

The Farm School’s philosophy

Central to the Farm School’s philosophy is faith in the capacity of peasants to solve their own problems and to accelerate the development process in agriculture. The school has concentrated on teaching both rural people and development workers the essential elements of management – planning, organization, leading, controlling, and adjusting. Master Farmer: Teaching Small Farmers Management offers valuable insights into nonformal education, organizing short-course centers, managing secondary agricultural schools, operating student projects, and the problems of technology transfer.

The American Farm School: Mission, Service, Leadership

The second director of the American Farm School, Charlie House, explained to Bruce and Tad on their arrival that John Henry House, the missionary who founded the school, “didn’t just preach an ideology, he lived it. And, he expected everyone else to. This is what the American Farm School was and is all about. Mission. Service. Leadership.”

It was Mission, Service and Leadership that produced such amazing results on land so barren and unproductive that it was called snake land. The founder was able to say:

‘A little over twenty three years have passed, and that barren spot is now a beautiful village, with orchards and vineyards, vegetable and flower gardens, and grainfields, barns, workshops, electric and water plant, with pure blooded cattle, pigs and fowl. There are dormitories, residences with equipped infirmary, a fine hall with library, natural history museum, and laboratory.”

The uncomfortable truth

The rich nations, even before the current financial crisis had shown that they were not interested in fulfilling their promises to implement the Millennium Development Goals. Yet we still face the fact that 15,000 people are daily dying needlessly from preventable, treatable diseases; that 8 million people die each year because they are too poor to stay alive; that there are 70 million additional mouths to feed each year; that the planet is losing its fertile top soil at a frightening rate because of poor farming practices; and that, unless people of good will take action, within our lifetime people on the continent of Africa will be starving to death in even greater numbers than today.



Global citizens, global responsibilities

What Wolfensohn said about educating our children to be global citizens with global responsibilities is exactly what Bruce had in mind when he started the Greek Summer program. Wolfensohn said:

‘We must educate our children to be global citizens with global responsibilities. Our children must celebrate diversity, not fear it. Our children must be international, intercultural, interactive, global.’

And this is what you are learning through your stay here in Greece.

Mission, Service, Leadership today

As government and big money is unable/unwilling to do the job of making a difference for the one-fifth of humanity who still live in extreme poverty, it is now up to individuals of good will. Individuals like John Henry House, Charlie House, and Bruce Lansdale who between them devoted 86 years of their lives to this cause in Greece. People like Albert Schweitzer who devoted his life from the age of thirty to this cause in Africa.


Albert Schweitzer: Mission, Service and Leadership in Africa

In Albert Schweitzer: The Man and His Mind George Seaver says:

‘Albert Schweitzer is probably the most gifted genius of our age, as well as its most prophetic thinker. A doctor four times over – in philosophy, in theology, in music, and in medicine, he foresaw the collapse of western civilization.’

Albert Schweitzer wrote:

 ‘While at the university and enjoying the happiness of being able to study and even to produce some results in science and art, I could not help thinking continually of others who were denied that happiness by their material circumstances or their health. Then one brilliant summer morning there came to me, as I awoke, the thought that I must not accept this happiness as a matter of course, but give something in return for it. I settled with myself before I got up, that I would consider myself justified in living till I was thirty for science and art, in order to devote myself from that time forward to the direct service of humanity. One evening my eye caught the title of an article “The needs of the Congo Mission”. I resolved to realize my plan of direct human service in Equatorial Africa.’

Shortly after his arrival in Lambaréné he wrote:

‘I had during the very first weeks full opportunity for establishing the fact that physical misery among the natives is not less but even greater than I had supposed. How glad I was that in defiance of all objections I had carried out my plan of going out there as a doctor.’

Schweitzer established his mission at Lambaréné and spent the rest of his life there, returning to Europe to use his great talents, especially as an organist, to raise money for his hospital. Tad quotes Albert Schweitzer in My Metamorphosis:

‘I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know. The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.’


Bruce is with you in spirit during Greek Summer

Over the past 40 years some participants have found the Greek Summer program life-transforming or at least a different way of looking at the world. I know that Bruce is with you in spirit during your stay in Greece. If Bruce could talk he would have so much that he would like to share with you. But his work is done and it is the responsibility of lesser mortals to make sure that his wisdom is not lost to the world. I believe that he would be happy if you were to leave Greece at the end of your Greek Summer program having memorized three words: Mission. Service. Leadership. And your mission is to become global citizens with global responsibilities.

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