6 years ago, the UN proposed the UN Millennium Development Goals as attainable, practical goals that we, as a global community, should attempt to reach. These include, among other things, eliminating extreme poverty.
In the booklet Eradicating Global Poverty, from the National Council of Churches, extreme poverty is simply defined as the kind of poverty that kills. This can take many forms, from dying of hunger, to dying of easily preventable and easily curable diseases, that those of us in wealthy nations would never even think of as being fatal.
Imagine for a moment, if you even can, having to decide which one of your kids is going to have something to eat tonight. No, I can’t imagine it either. I have difficulty saying no when she wants a snack she really doesn’t need. I can only begin to glimpse the anguish of being unable to say yes, no matter how much I wanted to.
It’s a simple matter, of course, to say “the problem is too big, I can’t solve it”, and so resolve to do nothing. I imagine most of us are there. But I have seen numerous times over the last few weeks, where we, as the American people, are shamefully wasteful of the things which we have in embarrassing quantity.
To give one simple example, yesterday I was at Michaels for their weekly craft time. When craft time is over, any left-over materials are thrown away. This is policy. They cannot be sold. They cannot be given to charities, schools, churches, or any individual. They must be thrown away. Presumably there are “good reasons” for this, just like there are good reasons that leftovers from meals at restaurants must be thrown out. But surely there is some way that we can reduce what we waste, and thus share what we have more equitably with the rest of the peoples of the earth.
It is indeed a huge problem, but it is one that economists seem to think that we can actually solve within our generation.
The goal is not a fantasy, says economist Jeffrey Sachs. “Ours is the first generation in the history of the world with the ability to eradicate extreme poverty. We have the means, the resources and the know-how. All we lack is the will.”
Some of us take Lent as a time to consider our overindulgences, and to refrain from them. This is not simply about denying ourselves something, nor is it at all about stopping bad habits. One of the many things that it is about is learning, as Theresa of Calcutta said, to live simply, that others may simply live.
I have a number of other thoughts on this topic, but I’ll keep them for another time. Primarily, I encourage you to read the Millenium Development Goals, and consider in what way you can reduce conspicuous waste in your sphere of influence.