Last week I posted on having a mission.
OK, so actually I posted on what the mission would be like. And how long it can take.
And how I wanted my first step to be about understanding.
1. What does it actually mean to be poor?
I am struggling with the concept of purchasing power parity and poverty lines. And what the term “less than $2 per day” actually means.
So you wake up in the morning. You can only buy or grow food equivalent to the amount of food that you could buy for US$2 in the United States.
What does this mean for your day? What does this mean for your children? Your health? Your house?
I have been told that someone like me can never understand. Perhaps this is true. But poverty is also in my blood, in my family’s story-telling and heritage. Both sets of grandparents were exceptionally poor as children.
And besides, how can you even begin to fathom what is going on if you are not prepared to listen?
2. What has been done about poverty so far?
I’ve been reading for a little while.
A couple of favourites – The Blue Sweater (Thanks Jo and At!). More than Good Intentions. And I just finished Mountains Beyond Mountains, recommended to me by the brilliant Alex and Josh.
Amazing, amazing, amazing.
I want to learn and see more.
3. Why is it that people are still living in poverty?
Of course part of the answer to this question lies with the poor. Perhaps I will get some answers out of part (1).
But part of the answer also lies with those who are not.
I also just finished “The Life You Can Save” by Peter Singer. In essence he makes a very strong argument that it is unethical to not help the poor with just about everything you have.
Just on giving, some inspiration:
- I have a friend (who doesn’t like his name) who gives 10% of his income every year to charity. (Post-tax I was told to tell anyone who asked). When asked by his girlfriend if he would stop giving money once they had a mortgage, he said something along the lines of this: “I don’t think poor people would care that I had a mortgage”.
- Sasha Dichter’s generosity experiment – he said yes to anyone that asked him for money for a month.
- The 50% League – to qualify members must have given away at least half their wealth, or for the past three years, half their income.
I want to understand why these are special cases, why it is that we do not give more.
I have spent a long time studying a very well off first world person who cared but was ambivalent about giving.
(For those of you playing at home, that would be me).
Now I want to study what it means to give.
4. What I should do next
This is going to take a little time.
Would it be better to go back to well paid work and give away most of my salary?
Maybe it will be best to forget the mission and just not ever fly again? I could give the money away AND reduce the most significant part of my global carbon footprint.
And just on that, how is the environment and flexitarianism going to fit into all of this?
The plan, so far at least
On what it means to be poor, I’ll be travelling across the Asia Pacific for the next year with Good Return surveying microfinance clients for our renewable energy product. In the Philippines that means taking out a 6 month loan for a AUD$40 solar panel and LED light.
On what has been done so far, I’m going to read more (book suggestions very, very welcome).
And on why it is that people are still living in poverty, I am going to start to learn what it means to give. I’m still hashing this out, but I’m thinking over the next 12 months I am going to:
- Spend some time saying yes – Sasha Dichter style. (Here is one right now – “Yes”).
- Give away a substantial sum to charities which work with poor communities.
I am definitely going to need help on the last one – more on this and how I came up with the figure next week.
And on what to do next?
Hah! I’m still taking it day-by-day.
–> You can now also read Part 1 and Part 3