“The End of Poverty?” (Part 1)

I’m going to start by throwing some shocking numbers out there for you:

  • 24,000 people die every day from hunger.
  • 16,00 children die every day from hunger/hunger-related diseases.
  • 1/3 of the world’s population does not have access to clean water.
  • 854 million people currently suffer from malnutrition.
  • 1% of the population owns 32% of the wealth.

In a world that just seems to be getting richer and more advanced, it blows my mind that this gigantic problem of poverty still exists.

Children in the mountain town of Salinas, Peru

Children in Salinas, Peru

I was recently at the public library searching for an entertaining movie or two to watch with my roommate (unfortunately, our TV only functions for DVD and VHS viewings…reception for basic programming or cable is a no go) and somehow came across this eye-opening documentary called “The End of Poverty?”. Naturally, it caught my attention and I brought it home with me.

Everyone hears about the poverty that subsists throughout the various regions of the world. There are constant reminders nearly everywhere that I look: the homeless people on the streets, canvassers trying to talk a passerby into signing up to sponsor a child, the array of fundraisers organized to fund a specific nonprofit or to send a group of people abroad to work in a small village on a water project. If we open our eyes, evidence of poverty is there. However, it seems almost too easy to look past these signs and focus on our own lives and problems.

What doesn’t seem to be as obvious to people, is the reasons why poverty exists and why it is perpetuated globally. The experts featured in this documentary really dive into the creation of poverty in our world and how it has been human-made social structures that established this crisis and continue the oppression of poor communities.

One expert specifically identified the year 1492, the year Columbus “sailed the ocean blue” and landed in the Americas, as the beginning of poverty. This year was really the beginning of globalization in which Europeans expanded their explorations and set out to establish their domination on nearly every continent. While exploration in and of itself is nothing to criticize, the accompaniment of the colonization of local cultures and the expropriation of resources makes it a wholly negative endeavor. By marching into these foreign lands and declaring their ownership through the use of their own legal systems and traditions, Europeans justified taking lands from the native inhabitants and forcing them into enslavement, having to work for food and shelter.

The film walks us through the continuation of these systems, and while most of these areas have gained their independence politically from the dominating countries, the major economic powers of the world are still able to suppress these poorer countries through their financial dependence and incredible debt to the wealthy ones. These debts and locked economies (wealthy countries basically assigned each region/country one crop or resource that will be their major global export) maintain the dominance of rich nations and keep the developing nations under their thumbs. It is a gross system that helps the cycle of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

For me, this was a revelation. I have thought of poverty and its perpetuation in terms of each country and what their governments are/aren’t doing, but looking at the whole picture in terms of it from beginning to now and from a global economic standpoint in a far more complete and unsettling view. Even within our own country, less than 5% of the population uses over 25% of our available resources. How unbalanced is that! I think that it is time that humanity wakes up to the needs of our global family. We created it and we can fix it.

Statistics and information gathered from the Cinema Libre Studio produced documentary “The End of Poverty?”. More information on this documentary can be found at www.TheEndofPoverty.com

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