November 10, 2002

North America causes poverty and debt spiral in Third World

After much deliberation, I have come to the brilliant conclusion that ?we?
are all horribly selfish. Not intentionally of course. It just sort of happened
you know, snuck into our lives when we weren?t looking. By ?we,?
I mean us Canadians as well as the oblivious folks down South and much of the
population in the Northern Hemisphere.

Yep, we?re gorgers, gluttons, plump little people living luxurious lives
at the expense of those skinny folks in the Third World. ?Luxurious!??
you cry in objection. ?But of course,? I cry back comparing our
living space to the nice patch of dirt that many of our starving buddies occupy.

Indeed, we suck the lives out of 80 percent of the world?s population
and smile gleefully as we sip our latte?s with the remaining 20 percent,
either calmly ignoring or just plain oblivious to the fact that we are exploiting
the lives of millions of people so we can live the top notch lives we so deserve.

Angry yet? Yeah, I understand. We work hard, we go to school, we get jobs,
we live our lives, and now we?re being told that simply living the way
we do is, well, criminal. That really sucks, huh? It?s not like we wake
up each morning with this plan, this ultimate goal, ?Hey, I?m going
to vacuum up the lives our Third World pals so I can live the coolest life ever!?
Oh no, we really are nice people ? but selfishness works in sneaky ways.

It?s the very governments that we stand for, that we support each and
every day of our lives that have contributed vastly to the unending problem
of world hunger. Of course, we as Canadians pride ourselves as people who support
foreign aid programs to help other countries, but what didn?t they tell

Picture this: it?s lunchtime and you?re really hungry, you?re
craving those oil-soaked spring rolls in Spiegel Hall, but you?re broke.
You turn to your friend who happens to be loaded and say, ?Hey, can I
borrow two bucks?? Your friend smiles and whips out his/her calculator.
After a few minutes, he/she forks over a toonie and says, ?Keep in mind,
interest rates do rise.?

You stop, and think: should I take it? Will I be able to pay this rich kid
back? Then, your stomach growls, and you keel over on the floor in utter hunger.
Needless to say, you take the money and buy yourself two hot spring rolls ?
yum. Two weeks later, you get your paycheck and after paying for necessities,
you?re happy to see that you can pay your ?friend? back. You
flip the rich kid your toonie and flash him/her a smile. But, uh oh, they?re
not smiling back. Again, there?s the calculator.

?Interest rates have risen dramatically. You owe me $10.00 now.?

Your dreams start to fade. You don?t have ten dollars, you have two dollars.
But you agreed to this deal. You tell the rich kid you?ll give him his
money as soon as you can. Two weeks later, you?ve saved up your cash,
decided not to splurge on toilet paper and soap and you attempt to pay the rich
kid back. Again, the calculator comes out.

?Interest rates have risen dramatically, you now owe me $40.00,?
the rich kid says with a smile. This time, you?re not smiling because,
damn, you?re screwed.

This never-ending cycle of debt is the reality for most, if not all of Third
World countries. In the 1970?s, Western banks loaned out huge sums of
money to Third World nations with the intention of one day making profit. And
they succeeded.

During the time these countries tried to earn enough money to pay the banks
back, interest rates rose dramatically. At the same time the prices of primary
products sold by Third World nations dropped by 30 percent causing the income
of the Third World to plummet. The result: developing nations having to pay
more to the banks with less money – obviously not possible. Uganda, for example,
spends an average of $4.40 per person on healthcare while paying Western banks
$25.30 per person on debt repayments.

So why don?t the banks cancel the interest, or even better, cancel the
debt and let the countries slowly rebuild without having to give their incomes
to already rich countries? Simple question? Well, here?s a tough one that
you may be hesitant to answer: ?Do you like the way you live?? This
may not seem like a hard question; the answer is likely a yes.

Swallow this: If you like the way you live, and want to continue living with
this very high standard of existence, then thank the World Bank for supplying
you with an income. It?s that money which feeds our desires. We can even
mail a nice thank-you note to the folks drinking muddy water in Africa.

It?s clear from this that we can?t just point fingers and blame
it on the government; sorry, but no. You see, we have this tendency to want
more than we really need. Get this, there are actually enough resources to feed
the entire population on this planet. There?s actually enough on this
planet to provide every single person living today with the necessities of life;
food, clothing, water, shelter. Phew, so we can breathe a sigh of relief, right?

Unfortunately not, because there are these people that keep hoarding all the
resources! They?re a fairly small group, about 20 percent of the world?s
population. But they?re so greedy, sucking up around 80 percent of the
world?s resources. They just keep taking and taking and taking and taking
and they don?t leave much for the rest of the world. Guess who these people
are. Come on, guess. Pick a group, any group. Here, I?ll help. Take your
finger, point it outwards, and then slowly bring it in until you?re pointing
at yourself. Bingo! It?s us.

Know what a ?cash-crop? is? Cash crops are crops which farmers
grow with the intention of sale, not to feed themselves or their own families.
Instead of being self-sufficient, farmers in the Third World are using the best
farmland to grow crops for export. So why don?t they quit selling and
just feed themselves you ask? Would you want to eat coffee beans for all three

Besides, in most developing nations farmland is owned by wealthy landowners
or multinational corporations who use the land in the most profitable way: cash
cropping. In 83 developing countries, three percent of all landowners own and
control 79 percent of all the farmland. The poor farmers who would seriously
benefit from self-sufficient farming don?t have control over what they
grow and there isn?t enough good quality land left to farm for food that
would feed the population. The Caribbean, for example uses 44 percent of its
farmland for export crops of coffee, bananas, cocoa, sugar and beef (which we
buy) while many Caribbean children are malnourished.

Poor farmers wouldn?t be so poor if they simply had their own land to
farm and feed themselves, but they don?t. Who do they sell these crops
to? Why us, of course. We demand our coffee and we can?t possibly live
without strawberries in January.

Last burning question: why don?t they use the money they earn from selling
cash crops to buy food for themselves? Remember the debt thing? It never seems
to go away. Developing nations depend on the income from cash crops to pay off
their debt to us. Simply put, their stomachs are empty while they spend their
lives growing food to fill ours. That?s why they?re hungry.

Looking at the statistics, you?d think our gluttony was obvious, considering
the average North American kid devours forty times more of the world?s
resources (food, energy, water, manufactured goods) than a kid in a developing
nation. Or the fact that it takes around 2,500 calories a day to make the human
body function in a healthy way and in Canada, we have 130 percent of those calories
available per person, the U.S. has 140 percent per person, while Mozambique
has only 68 percent of the requirement available per person and Bangladesh has
78 percent per person.

It?s crystal clear. Now that we know about our piggish ways, are we all
set to change our lifestyles? Are we all ready for some action? The future of
our lovely planet relies on our answer to this final question: Are we willing
to live more simply so that those in developing nations can simply live?

Main source for stats and info: World Vision Canada (Development Education

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