Symptom: Poverty

In the U.S., over 50% of Americans will experience poverty before the age of 65. Worldwide, over 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty. The real tragedy is that we have the resources to eliminate poverty. The U.S has 3.5 million homeless and 18.5 million empty homes! Every year the world produces 1.5 times the food necessary to feed the planet. The 100 richest people earned enough money in 2012 to end extreme world poverty four times over, according to a report by Oxfam. What are our results after decades of education about poverty, billions invested in programs, innumerous documentaries, media events and celebrity spokespeople documenting to the world that communities in poor and wealthy nations continue to suffer?

Continued poverty worldwide with no end in sight.

It is time to face some tragic truths about efforts to eliminate poverty:

♥ Its not that we are not spending enough money: the US government alone spent $591 billion in anti­poverty efforts in 2009. That is $14,849 for every poor man, woman and child in America. America could have instead sent every poor person a check that would have lifted him or her above the poverty line and still saved money.

♥ It is not for want of effort: there are hundreds of non­governmental organizations worldwide that have joined in the fight. The U.S. Government alone has 122 anti­poverty programs.

♥ It is not for innovation: faced with the threat of large-scale starvation, new varieties of rice, corn, and wheat were created to improve yields by many folds. Yet distribution of these types of basic necessities is mired by ideology, politics, and economics.

♥ Even when we do distribute to poorer countries, it is often done in ways that harm their own domestic food production and make them ever more dependent.

♥ Anti­poverty efforts are often strangled for funding by groups that philosophically oppose government support or their efforts are hampered by groups seeking to control and benefit from aid distribution.

♥ Faced with someone in dire need, it is human nature to want to lend a helping hand, but the brain is fearful, it wants to blame the victim for their poverty. If poverty can be blamed on laziness or lack of initiative then we feel safer from poverty because we are not like “them.” Trying to reduce poverty is trying to reduce a symptom; our current programs do not address the social, political or economic conflicts that created the poverty in the first place. Within our brain’s wiring are some clues to why we create systems that don’t work for all.

♥ The greatest problem with poverty is that we believe it is unavoidable.

We need to Leap Forward!

Transitioning in and out of poverty, Urban Institute 2009
Global Food, Waste Not Want Not, Institute of Mechanical Engineers 2013­01­19

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