Ok, I succumbed and spent $29.95 to buy “Planet of Slums” by Mike Davis. I think this is going to become one of my most valuable texts in understanding and prioritising the needs of poverty relief. It’s packed with so many cross-references to other sources to back up his studies, and even just reading up on those referenced sources boggles my mind with so much available information!
In the first paragraph of Chapter 2 Davis quotes the World Bank’s warnings during the 1990’s that urban poverty would become the “most significant, and politically explosive, problem of the next century.” I’m inclined to agree. The problem is almost incomprehensibly huge. It’s just that most of the urban poverty and slum dwelling is centred in developing countries, and therefore most of the richer nations are comfortably oblivious to the true scale of the issue.
And the more I consider this reality, the more I’m disturbed at how much effort and finance we can throw into combatting global warming whilst simultaneously allowing a huge percentage of the world’s population to suffer in unimaginable poverty. If you were walking down the street and encountered a malnourished, ill person dying on the pavement would we not immediately call an ambulance and ensure that they received medical attention? And yet, because they’re a few thousand miles away, we don’t do anything! But we’re happy to spend thousands of dollars on installing rain water tanks, subsidising Green Energy, building Energy Efficient houses, replacing our whitegoods with more efficient models, upgrading our sprinkler systems for better water use, and buying hybrid vehicles to cut down our “carbon footprint”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for us being environmentally friendly — but why is it that we can’t reach out compassionately today to people who, right at this very instant, are suffering worse than we’ve ever experienced?
I guess it feels like a sad irony, indeed selfishness, that we should put so much emphasis on the environmental issues that may afflict us in 50 years time, when the majority of the world’s population is at this very moment in tough, if not dire, circumstances and we do nothing to assist them.
If we can’t show love and compassion for our fellow humankind, what hope is there for this planet anyway??