By M. Carlota Baca, Ph.D.
Did you know that about one billion people on the planet do not have access to clean water and 2.5 billion are without adequate sanitation?
On Wednesday, I moderated a panel on global philanthropy and third-world needs, attended in
Conflict is another scourge that brutalizes too many millions. We learned about the post-genocide efforts in Rwanda to introduce cottage industries in basketry and other crafts, a wonderful Santa Fe nonprofit called Creativity for Peace that brings Israeli and Palestinian teenage girls here every summer for reconciliation discussion and plans for future communication, and another funder that has made great strides in eliminating the grotesque cultural practice of female genital mutilation in some regions.
These are all “good news” stories that are seldom told. As one journalist in the group said, “If it bleeds, it leads.” War will always lead the front page and the evening news. Reconciliation and peace efforts are seldom recognized.
The day after our session, I set my alarm for , so that I could watch President Obama’s speech live. It was a remarkable address because it focused on positive things we can do as a nation, both in our foreign policy and in our attitudes. Perhaps the whole world needs an “attitude adjustment.” Predictably, there were the usual partisan and negative naysayers who criticized the talk because they simply cannot nor will not see another way to live – they remain in a kind of “option paralysis” that has bankrupted our country’s moral stance and political will.
Quite a few years ago, I hosted several Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian women in my house who were brought here for a gathering in
During their stay, they were enchanted by my new kitten, Tillie, and were almost fighting over who could hold her. I found it odd, almost disturbing, and asked if they had no pets? “Oh, Carlota,” they said, “There are no pets. We had to eat them.” What extreme of desperation would bring us to eat our pets? It gave me new insight into the degradation and despair of war, quite apart from the shattering, but remote scenes of bombings and violence that are routine on our widescreen, high definition televisions – the new necessity in the American home. I had undergone an attitude adjustment.
It’s hard to feel empathy for people going through things that are unimaginable for us, but we’ve got to try. It’s the first step. We’re so damn rich. And most people are so damn poor. How simple. Resources are finite. Consumption way beyond our needs apparently is not.
In the last few years, I’ve tried to curtail my frequent travel to beautiful capitals of the Western world and have embarked on trips to places like
There’s an interesting look at global demographics and resources, called “If the World Were a Village of 100 People.” Take a look at it.
If we could reduce the world’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, the demographics would look something like this:
The village would have 60 Asians, 14 Africans, 12 Europeans, 8 Latin Americans, 5 from the
51 would be male, 49 would be female
82 would be non-white; 18 white
67 would be non-Christian; 33 would be Christian
80 would live in substandard housing
67 would be unable to read
50 would be malnourished and 1 dying of starvation
33 would be without access to a safe water supply
39 would lack access to improved sanitation
24 would not have any electricity (And of the 76 that do
have electricity, most would only use it for light at night.)
7 people would have access to the Internet
1 would have a college education
1 would have HIV
2 would be near birth; 1 near death
5 would control 32% of the entire world’s wealth; all 5 would be US citizens
33 would be receiving --and attempting to live on-- only 3% of the income of “the village”