Giants On A Shrinking Planet


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Giants On A Shrinking Planet

  1. 1. Kelly Giants on a Small Planet Giants on a Shrinking Planet Abstract: This research paper discusses why almost half of our population has insufficient global resources, primarily food, water, shelter and income, along with possible solutions allocated to those in privation. Tori Kelly 23 February 2011 Westwood College College Writing II 1
  2. 2. Kelly Giants on a Small Planet “The curse of poverty has no justification in our age…The time has come for us to civilizeourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty (King, 1967)”. Approximatelyone fifth of the world lives in poverty (the inability to meet life necessities), earning less than oneUS dollar a day (Misturelli & Heffernan, 2008). For simplicity, due to the limited scope of thispaper, the focus is on the causes of rather than the symptoms of poverty. Geographicalpopulation, uneven distribution of resources, and Western overconsumption are direct causes,and by analyzing each, mitigation of global poverty is possible. As Western mass consumption displaces ecological costs onto the global majority, agro-corporations are gaining record profits while the global poor endure exacerbating immiseration.Though eradication of global poverty is one of the main priorities of the United Nations, asglobal citizens, every individual’s commitment counts toward this mission (Palma-Solis, et al2008). Shifting local population back to their fertile land by making it affordable promotes moreprosperity, and requires less family members to produce healthy crops. Redistribution ofexisting resources rather than increasing aggregate production could diminish global destitution(Taylor, 2009). Imposing a limit on Western consumption, leaving more available to the needyat an affordable price, is a simple but far reaching solution. It would depend on the willingnessof the wealthy to resist monetary gain at the expense of the impoverished. 2
  3. 3. Kelly Giants on a Small Planet Out of our current global population of 6.8 billion people, 925 million of us are starving ormalnourished, due to poverty (World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics, 2010). Almosthalf of humanity is living on less than $2.50 a day (Shah, 2010, p. 1). The poorest 40 percent ofthe world’s population makes 5 percent of the global income, while the richest 20 percent makethree quarters (Shah, 2010, p. 2). Human population is significant in that it’s a matter of geography rather than demography.The less populated West over consumes and wastes valuable resources, leaving less for the largerpopulated areas of the world. (Whitty, 2010, p. 4). Where the population is smaller, resourcesare plenty, and where population is denser resources are sparse. Poverty accelerates population because poor families need more children to survive,bringing 1 billion born into poverty out of 2.2 billion (Shah, 2010, p. 4). Farmers rely on familylabor for food production in developing countries (Whitty, 2010). The ambiguity is that theycan’t afford enough resources, causing many children to eventually die from starvation or illnessor both. It is not a matter of overpopulation; it is a matter of underdevelopment of viable meansof income, and fertile land for the indigenous population. The expansion of export agriculture is the root cause for migration in the Third World(Rosset, Gershman, Cunningham, & Borchardt, 1995). Farming is the primary source of incomein Third World countries, however the majority of the native population is driven to arid andinfertile land by the smaller population of wealthy, who can afford the plentiful and fertilesoil for export farming to the over consuming Western world. This pattern of a larger 3
  4. 4. Kelly Giants on a Small Planetpopulation living on infertile land while the smaller population occupies the nearby fertile landhas become a worldwide concern . Reducing poverty is a global challenge; there are solutions. The Millennium Summit of2000 set target goals to halve the number of people in poverty by 2015. Third Worldgovernments need to protect local food production by controlling the cost of fertile land, makingit more affordable for the local farmer, thus moving them out of poverty. Tariff barriers wouldcost the government nothing, yet they would help towards achieving this goal (Rosset,Gershman, Cunningham, & Borchardt, 1995). Government intervention that has controlled the affordability of food has helped economiesin China. In Sri Lanka, they crop half the amount of land that India does yet , Indians sufferwidespread and severe starvation while Chinese do not because effective government policieskept food affordable. Cuba, which lead the Third World in life expectancy, low infant mortalityrates, and good nutrition until the recent collapse of relations with the ex-socialist block, is nowrampant with hunger. The common factor is that the better-off countries instituted land reformand other policies aimed at improving rural livelihoods. Contributing to this success is landreform, education for women and healthcare for all. Grassroots organizations have helped tokeep progressive governments with these policies in power (Rosset, Gershman, Cunningham, &Borchardt, 1995). If these countries can succeed in solving the hunger crisis, then governmentscan certainly apply these policies on a global scale. 4
  5. 5. Kelly Giants on a Small Planet With such a vast majority of mankind deprived of necessary resources, most wouldconclude that we simply don’t have enough. This is a myth. Global starvation is not due to lackof food. We produce more than enough to feed the planet. However, the only people who get toeat are the ones who can afford to. The average monthly cost to nutritiously feed a family offour is approximately $850, plus or minus $100 depending on the age of the children (USDA,2010) . Though the U.S. sends food, our imports contribute to driving local producers out ofbusiness, creating hunger and unemployment (Rosset, Gershman, Cunningham, & Borchardt,1995, p. 4). Much food is stored or destroyed when there is surplus as it is only the demands ofthose with purchasing power that counts, keeping prices high enough for producers to maximizeprofit (How We Could Feed The World, 2006). 400 million children (1 in 5) have no access to safe water, which takes the lives of 1.4million annually (Shah, 2010, p. 4). These children are afflicted the most with deprivation. A lotof the water in developing countries is allocated to crops, afflicting water consumption. Manycities in the developing world lack ready access to water as it is unaffordable due to the greatcost of ensuring it is safe and clean (Savage, 2008, p. 2). Of the 1.9 billion children in the developing world, 640 million have inadequate shelter(Shah, 2010, p. 4). That is one in three homeless children. That is unacceptable. No one,especially a child, should be homeless. The reason the scale of global resources is so imbalanced is that the affluent are distributingthem for the sole purpose of profit, rather than concern for human privation. Despite food aidorganizations, it is only a temporary solution and can even drive people off the land as it driveslocal food prices below the cost of production for local farmers. The unequal distribution of 5
  6. 6. Kelly Giants on a Small Planetfertile land, mostly to wealthy farmers, explains why despite impressive food production, almosthalf a million rural families remain hungry. The successful solution is agrarian reform whichgives the poor access to land with regular rainfall or irrigation. Redistribution of land can alsoyield increased food production at lower costs due to peasant cropping systems that producemore with fewer inputs than conventional methods. (Rosset, Gershman, Cunningham, &Borchardt, 1995). Land alone however will not make a farmer successful. With the global market alsoaffecting the Third World, peasants must also have access to credit, education, social services,and new marketing channels, in order to compete fairly. The solutions to poverty, hunger,migration, and environmental destruction are all interrelated. Managed integration into the worldeconomy and policies providing decent employment are also successful strategies (Rosset,Gershman, Cunningham, & Borchardt, 1995). Another recent development that would help Third World farmers is hydroponic farming.This method involves growing plants with gravel, sand, or fibrous material instead of soil, usinga nutrient-rich solution which flows in timed intervals. This technique can feed a hundred timesthe world’s current population with buildings a hundred stories high, on 1 percent of existingfarmland (How We Could Feed The World, 2006). The current economic growth is anineffective solution in the reduction of poverty. Even a modest redistribution of global resourcescan make major progress in reducing poverty. 6
  7. 7. Kelly Giants on a Small Planet One of the leading causes of poverty is not due to the lack of resources but rather theoverconsumption of those resources by the wealthy. The poorest 10 percent of our populationonly consumes 0.5 percent, while the wealthiest 10 percent consume 59 percent of our resources.(Shah, 2010, p. 6). If we don’t address this issue with vigor, it will consume all of us. Theplanet becomes smaller as resources are consumed by the wealthy faster than they can bereplenished. They are like giants on a shrinking planet, hoarding and wasting resources with noconcern for the ’little people’. We simply don’t want to discuss the real issue and solve the real problem: America is theworld’s largest consumer and produces the most environmental waste. For example, the world’srichest half billion people (7% of the global population) make up 50% of carbon dioxideemissions (pollution), while the poorest 50% make only 7% (Pearce, 2009). The US makes 5%of the global population but we consume 30% of its resources (Robin). What a selfish nation welive in. A famous environmental scientist, Garret Hardin (1974), proposed his “lifeboat Ethics”which stated that each rich nation is like a lifeboat full of rich people. In the ocean swim the poorof the world wanting to get in but there was no space left and if they were brought on they wouldall drown. The people in the lifeboat had a duty to their species to be selfish, to keep the poorout. What was not mentioned was that each person in the lifeboat occupied ten spaces, whereasthe people in the ocean only wanted one space each (Pearce, 2009). It is a paradox that the poorand needy only want a little piece of the pie that the rich could afford to give them so they can atleast be comfortable (and still live in luxury), but they don’t. 7
  8. 8. Kelly Giants on a Small Planet One of the main priorities of the United Nations is to eradicate poverty. It represents astructural barrier to development. In the year 2000 the target was to halve the number of peoplein poverty by the year 2015 (Palma-Solis, Gil-Gonzalez, Alvarez-Dardet, & Ruiz-Cantero,2008). This plan has already failed as poverty is increasing due to the priority of trade andprofits. Governments need to enforce policies that restrict consumption of the wealthy andaffordable costs for the poor. It is absolutely appalling that so many human beings live in suchdeplorable conditions so that others can live in luxury. We think money is a measurement of our worth, and that it will make us happy.Statistically, overconsumption is accelerates the deterioration of society and actually decreasesour quality of life. 90% of divorce is due to money problems. 75% of Americans are tornbetween the amount of time spent at work and wanting to spend more time with family. We needto shift to low consumption and ask ourselves what really fulfills our quality of life; to shift from“How much can I get?” to “How much is enough?” We need to determine “What do we need”and “What are compulsive wants?” It is a myth that more consumption makes a better economy. In order to have a healthiereconomy we need to consume less and save more. Millions of Americans are reaping thebenefits of being debt-free and having more savings and financial security. They are realizingthat “standard of living” (what we have) is not the same as “quality of life” (how much we enjoyliving). Not having to work as many hours means more time with the family and leisureactivities. Having fewer possessions means more freedom from the burden and complexity theybring into our lives (Robin). If we ask ourselves before each purchase; “Is it worth the hours Ihad to work to buy it?” “Will it make me happy in the long run?” and “Will it help me reach mylife goal?” Not only will we be happier, the rest of the population can be also. 8
  9. 9. Kelly Giants on a Small Planet Conclusion The world population is not equally dividing its resources, causing poverty and starvation,mostly in Third World countries. Over population is often to blame, but it is over consumptionby increased wealth that is the underlying cause of the shrinking supply. Consumption of theseresources is not intended to meet everyone’s needs, but rather to satisfy profit objectives. Thewealthiest population over consumes valuable resources, causing prices to rise to unattainablelevels for the poorest population, hence increasing poverty. We have more than enough globalresources, but we need to balance human consumption with human needs (Whitty, 2010, p. 18). Another leading cause of poverty in the Third World is local farmers being driven fromtheir fertile land by the wealthy who purchase and then raise the price of their crops, makingfood unaffordable for the indigenous population. Third World governments need to control theprice of fertile farming land in order to make it affordable to its local citizens. Redistributing thisland back to the original farmers allows them to return to their livelihood (Rosset, Gershman,Cunningham, & Borchardt, 1995). Poverty is a social injustice, prioritizing profit and wealth at the cost of human deprivation;stealing from the poor to give to the rich. The responsibility falls on each and every one of us toeradicate this unnecessary and deplorable condition. 9
  10. 10. Kelly Giants on a Small PlanetReferencesHow We Could Feed The World. (2006, August 13). Retrieved January 18, 2011, from World Socialist Movement:, F., & Heffernan, C. (2008, dec). What is poverty? Adiachronic exploration of the discourse on poverty from the 1970s to the 2000s. The European Journal of Development research , 666-684.Palma-Solis, M., Gil-Gonzalez, D., Alvarez-Dardet, C., & Ruiz-Cantero, M. (2008, August 25). Political and social context of not attaining the Millennium Development Goal to reduce poverty. Bulletin of the World Health Organization . Merida, Yucatan, Mexico: CIBERESP University.Pearce, F. (2009). Consumption Dwarfs Population as main Environmental Threat. Yale Environment 360.Robin, V. (n.d.). Toward a Solution to Overconsumption. Retrieved 2011, from Population Press:, P., Gershman, J., Cunningham, S., & Borchardt, M. (1995, Mar 20). Myths and Root Causes: Hunger, Population, and Development. Retrieved Jan 12, 2011, from, V. (2008). Environmental Challenges: Water Matters. Viewpoint , 1-3.Shah, A. (2010, Sept 20). Poverty Facts and Stats. Retrieved Jan 21, 2011, from Global Issues, M. (2009). Displacing Insecurity in a Divided World: global security, international development and the endless accumulation of capital. Third World Quarterly , 147-162.USDA. (2010). Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels. Alexandria: United States Department of Agriculture. Whitty, J. (2010, Jun). The Last Taboo. Retrieved Jan 2o, 2011, from Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics. (2010, Oct). Retrieved Oct 2010, from World Hunger Education Service: 10
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