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Step One: Eradicate Poverty

04/10/2011

Over 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day, and three billion people live on less than $2.50 a day.

When poverty is widespread, child mortality rates are high and families have a lot of children to compensate. In countries without social security, the only way to ensure you live to see old age is to have a lot of children who can take care of you. As well, when they’re old enough children can help the family financially, and are viewed as a valuable economic resource in many parts of the world.

In 1998 the United Nations calculated that $40 billion, invested wisely, could provide clean water, sanitation and other basic needs for the planet’s most impoverished people. That figure may be higher now, but even $100 billion is miniscule when compared to the multi-trillion dollar bank bailout the United States has been conducting these past few years.

And it would be a much wiser investment. Not only would the effort to eliminate poverty create jobs, it would help level out the skyrocketing global population. Economic security lowers birth rates.

Neglecting to address rampant population growth will result in disaster. More people means more waste, more pollution, more fossil fuels burned, greater demand on the food supply, increased tension over land and resources, et cetera.

In A Short History of Progress (which I reviewed here), Ronald Wright notes that historically, on the eve of collapse, the gap between the rich and poor generally widens, so that they prosper even as resources are running out. Wright points out that by the end of the 20th century, the combined wealth of the three richest Americans exceeded that of the world’s 48 poorest countries.

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