Monday, November 06, 2006

The End of Poverty - Chapter 1

Some friends and I are going to be posting some notes and reflections from The End of Poverty. [If you are reading this via an RSS reader, this post will probably be updated quite a bit.] This is the book that the One campaign is based on and if you like reading this blog, you should read this book.

My rough notes:
- Malawi – The Perfect Storm for the Poverty Trap
Bangladesh – On the Ladder of Development
India – Center of an Export Services Revolution
China – The Rise of Affluence

- Percentage of people that live in rural areas - the relationship between economic development and population that lives in rural areas
Malawi – 84
Bangladesh – 76
India 72
China 61
US – 20

- What do these four widely divergent images of the globe show us? We see an almost unimaginable divide between the richest and poorest parts of the world, with all the gradations in between. We glimpse the pivotal roles that science and technology play in the development process.

- If economic development is a ladder with higher rungs representing steps up the path to economic well-being, there are roughly one billion people around the world, one sixth of humanity, who live as the Malawians do: too ill, hungry, or destitute even to get a food on the first run of the development ladder. These people are the 'poorest of the poor' or the 'extreme poor' of the planet. They all live in developing countries (poverty does exist in rich countries, but it is not extreme poverty). Of course, not all of these one billion people are dying today, but they are all fighting for survival each day. If they are the victims of serious drought or flood, or an episode of a serious illness, or a collapse of the world market price of their cash crop, the result is likely to be extreme suffering and perhaps even death.

- All told, the extreme poor (1 billion people) and the poor (another 1.5 billion) make up around 40 percent of humanity.

- The overwhelming share of the world's extreme poor live in three regions: East Asia, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

- The greatest tragedy of our time is that one sixth of humanity is not even on the development ladder. A large number of the extreme poor are caught in a poverty trap, unable on their own to escape from extreme material deprivation. They are trapped by disease, physical isolation, climate stress, environmental degradation and by extreme poverty itself. Even though life-saving solutions exist to increase their chances for survival – whether in the form of new farming techniques, or essential medicines, or bed nets that can limit the transmission of malaria – these families and their governments simply lack the financial means to make these crucial investments. The world's poor know about the development ladder: they are tantalized by images of affluence from halfway around the world. But they are not able to get a first foothold on the ladder, and so cannot even begin the climb out of poverty.

My thoughts:
1. This relationship of what percentage of people live in urban vs. rural areas and the 'progression of development' reminds me that we are living in unprecedented times related to urban and global migration. There are good, logical reasons why people are moving to the cities - and some of the reasons are literally about life and death.

The BBC series on global migration.
Urban migration
So although this poverty issue is huge outside of the US, we don't necessarily need to go abroad to make an impact on someone who has lived with the realities of poverty first hand. We can probably engage in any major city in the US, for instance working with refugees, international students or connecting with English classes.

2. The extreme poor related to the 10/40 window.
Most of the extreme poor live in the 10/40 window, yet only about 8% of all Christian missionaries work there. Without getting too far ahead, the types of solutions offered in the book in the later chapters offer some phenomenal opportunities for the Church to take the lead in the fight against extreme poverty.

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