Wealth & Poverty

A system that takes from the poor and gives to the rich is the system we have created in the growth economy. Our focus forever on profit over life, and increasing those profits, encourages less and less life. Those with the money can afford to take the natural capital that was once commons from the poor and sell it back to them. While this encourages the ever worshiped growth, it does not encourage prosperity – most especially with those in poverty.

From The Ecologist this article “New Emporers, Old Clothes” by Vandana Shiva is something I want to share with you. A contact in the CASSE Volunteer group passed this along to me, and I feel it is worthy of a dedicated post. [emphasis added]

“However much we choose to forget or deny it, all people in all societies still depend on nature. Without clean water, fertile soils and vegetable genetic diversity, human survival is not possible. Today, economic development is destroying these onetime commons, resulting in the creation of a new contradiction: development deprives the very people it professes to help of their traditional land and means of sustenance, forcing them to survive in an increasingly eroded natural world.

A system like this, one that creates denial and disease while  accumulating trillions of dollars of super profits for agribusiness, is a system for creating poverty for people. Poverty is not, as Sachs suggests, an initial state from which to escape. It is a final state reached when one-sided development has destroyed the ecological and social systems for maintaining the life, health and sustenance of people and the planet.

The reality is that people do not die for lack of income. They die for lack of access to resources. Here, too, Sachs is wrong when he says: ‘In a world of plenty, 1 billion people are so poor their lives are in danger.’ The indigenous people in the Amazon, the mountain communities in the Himalayas, peasants anywhere whose land has not been appropriated and whose water and biodiversity have not been destroyed by debt-creating industrial agriculture are ecologically rich, even though they do not earn a dollar a day.

On the other hand, people are poor if they have to buy their basic needs at high prices. Because of dumping and trade liberalisation, farm prices in India are tumbling, meaning that the country’s peasants are losing $26 billion each year; this at a time when ‘development’ is all the while creating markets for costly seeds and agrichemicals. Unable to exist in the world that has been created for them, these now poverty-stricken peasants are committing suicide in their thousands.

Patents on medicines increase the cost of Aids drugs from $200 to $20,000, and cancer drugs from $2,400 to $36,000, for a year’s treatment. Water is privatised and global corporations profit to the tune of $1 trillion by selling once free water to the poor. So, too, the $50 billion of ‘aid’ trickling North to South is but a tenth of the $500 billion being sucked South to North thanks to interest payments and other unjust mechanisms in the global economy imposed by the World Bank and the IMF.

If we are serious about ending poverty, we have to be serious about ending the systems for wealth creation which create poverty by robbing the poor of their resources, livelihoods and incomes. Before we can make poverty history, we need to get the history of poverty right. It’s not about how much more we can give, so much as how much less we can take.

Standing ovation for Vandana Shiva, well done! Read the full article here.