The diseases overrepresented in impoverished communities – obesity, diabetes, emphysema, osteoporosis, HBP, asthma, coronary blockage, mental illness, etc. – are deeply entwined with shrinking habitats and overheated climate. We might even think of poverty and climate as a single, indivisible issue.
Poor and working-class people who are Black, Latino, white, Asian, LGBTQ, or indigenous continue to battle discrimination, inflation, soaring rents, pitiless evictions, poor health, inadequate healthcare, and distinctly insecure futures.
Lifting hundreds of millions of people out of “extreme poverty” – where they live on less than US$1.90 per day – would drive a global increase in emissions of less than 1%, according to new research.
In this spirit, let us set forth with truth, love and justice as our guides, mourning the cost of needless harm while nurturing the promise of radical transformation.
Let us move, in a word, from despair to beloved community.
We find that, on a global scale, supporting DLS for all would require roughly a quarter of projected world energy demand by mid-century, though the share would be larger in regions with the highest poverty levels.
But if these findings are anything to go by, we need to reevaluate the dominant narrative about long-term poverty trends. The notion that extreme poverty is the baseline state of humanity falls apart, and it becomes clear that the story is more complicated.
For development to truly deliver on its promise—the betterment of life for all—it must engage a multidimensional understanding of poverty.
We can end poverty, right now, without any additional aggregate economic growth at all. The key here is to recognize that we don’t live in a poor world. On the contrary, we live in an incredibly rich world. Global poverty is a product not of any actual scarcity, but rather of the systematic creation of artificial scarcity.
The devastating impacts of climate change on those already living in poverty are increasingly difficult or impossible to avoid. Given the failure of many states to meet their own obligations, it is crucial that the responsibility of businesses to respect human rights be taken seriously by those advocating for climate action.
The debate about global poverty is important. But our collective understanding of this matter will only be served by intellectually honest and sincere engagement with the arguments at hand.
All of this makes it clear who the real beneficiaries of globalization have been. And suddenly it seems a bit absurd to be touting as “progress” the pennies that have trickled down to the poorest when the overwhelming majority of new income since 1980 has been captured at the top.
Last week Vox published an article on the global poverty debate. The piece – by journalist Dylan Matthews – raises a few issues that I think are worth addressing. I set out nine brief points here, responding to specific quotes from the article.