Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day Post-- Poverty and Sensationalism

In August of this year, the BBC reported that the World Bank had revised the poverty level. Poverty level is defined as the amount of money a person can live on. The number is now $1.25 per day. Since 1981, the number of people living in poverty has jumped from 1.5 billion to 1.9 billion. However, with population increases, the percentage of people living in poverty has still decreased. In 25 years, the number has dropped from 50% to 25%. Obviously, that is approximately 1% each year.
The problem with defining poverty in number like this is that poverty is relative. The poverty level is $1.25. But according to TV commercials, children in impoverished countries can live on $0.80 per day. That's because poverty is relative. In America, we are considered 'poor' if we don't have health coverage. However, in Africa, you are lucky if there is a doctor in your area. We consider ourselves poor if we don't have shoes. In other countries, you are hugely rich if you have shoes. America is one of the richest countries in the world. So how can we be so unconcerned about people's needs? When did the world become so materialistic we forgot about the human element?
In the past few months there has been overwhelming media coverage about the Olympics and China's amazing displays in the ceremonies. When people were oohing and awe-ing over the majesty of the opening ceremonies, did anyone stop to think about the realities of the event? China spent over $43 billion on the Olympics. If you were to figure out how much money that was, it's $117,808,219 per day for a year. Going by the World bank's numbers, that would care for 94,246,575 people for a year. That's 20% of world poverty. If China had decided to better the world instead of having the world's grandest display, they could have eliminated 20% of world poverty for a year.
I know that asking for nothing in respect to the Olympics would be ridiculous. But China spent $3.5 billion on designing an airport. That's about $9,589,041.10 per day for a year. That would feed 7,671,232 people for a year. For an airport. Is that really what matters? I spent 8 hours in an airport last month and I really couldn't tell you that much about it. Are tired, traveling people really going to notice all the improvement? Is it really worth it?
I guess what I'm trying to say is maybe we don't need designer jeans and the newest phones and all the things we desperately neeeeeeeed. Maybe we should just set a bit aside for helping out our neighbors when they are having a bad year. Maybe we should all try living at $1.25 per day for a while.
That's my challenge to you. Look at your budget. What is your cost of living per day? Whatever you think it is, cut out everything you can live without to get down to $1.25. What kind of things do you have to cut out? Maybe try living like that for a week.... How does it change your life?

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