Around the world, thousands of bloggers wrote on one subject yesterday: Poverty. It’s a subject that I think about quite a lot, as one of my side jobs is consulting with City, County, and State governments on community development programs to prevent poverty and homelessness.
Poverty in US government terms is defined as a household who earns less than $10,400 for an individual, or $21,200 for a family of 4. However, most consultants who do the work I do believe that this vastly under represents poverty in the United States. The reason is that such a low income is not really a livable income.
In actuality, a family not really live on this amount without going into serious debt. To be able to pay for housing, food, clothing, child care, health care, basic supplies, and other living expenses, an individual in Seattle would have to earn approximately $31,300. A family of 4 would have to earn around $50,000. It is different for every area, based on the cost of living. Here is a quick video explaining these ideas. (If you’re truly interested in more, here is where we find the majority of that data, with more information here and here.)
Unfortunately I don’t study world poverty, so I don’t much about its scope worldwide. If any of you know more, please share with us in the comments.
Crises of Our Time
Yet I don’t believe we can effectively talk about poverty without talking about its causes. Monday I wrote about the “crises of our time.” Maybe that sounds a bit fatalistic or overly drastic for some of you. We all are trying to live more simply, to live more fullfilling lives full of hapiness and love. At the same time, the reality is that there are crises that exist outside of our own immediate worlds. And I believe that as we live simply, sustainably, and happily, we will be more fullfilled if we become part of the solution to these crises.
We are coming upon unprecedented times, where many different world issues are heading toward a crux. The result is that we will likely see quite a bit more poverty in the world. And while the poorer, less developed countries will likely be hit hardest, poverty may also hit your neighbors and friends.
I want to make sure that we don’t just discuss problems here. It’s important to me to focus on solutions. So bear with me a moment as I take you through my thinking….
A Time of Corrections
A few days ago in the comments here, Kate posted a link to an amazing interview between Bill Moyers and George Soros. The interview explains the current world economic crisis and how it might be solved, where we might be going from here. At the end of the interview, Soros mentioned that we were about to enter a time of corrections. And this struck a cord with me.
A few months ago I posted a graph of the inflated housing market, and wrote about why we were renting rather than buying during this time. It is because, Matt and I believed, we were entering a period of housing market correction. The values had gone up too far, too fast. And they would go back down, we believed.
Unfortunately, we were right. Many economists are saying that they will go down for another couple of years. (I’m sure that scares many of you, and I will try to write more about it in the coming weeks.)
I had no idea how intricately this housing correction would be tied to the banks, the lending institutions that had fed this upward trend in the housing market. It turns out the banks have overextended, outmaneuvered, and really just plain practiced bad economic policies for far too long. Now they are correcting, and we are feeding their corrections with our own tax dollars (in the hopes that that correction will not be as painful as its alternative).
And not only are the housing market and the mortgage industry going through a period of corrections, but other areas are beginning to correct as well.
Climate change is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore, as is creating catastrophic floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, famine, and poverty around the world. As a result, the tipping point of public awareness about climate change is coming nearer, people are listening, people are understanding. And soon, I believe, we will begin correcting our years of mistakes.
We have already started. You and I have started correcting our personal lifestyles. And we have even started to bring those corrections into our communities. As we push on, others will begin joining us. The power of many will grow ever stronger.
Culture & Community
With a global recession, our lives get tougher. Our retirement becomes more precarious, our worries about our future become more present. But we also turn to one another for comfort, for ideas, for help, and for compassion. We come out of our isolated worlds, where we have held up alone, celebrated for our individualism, for too long.
Suddenly, we have to change – and correct – our culture, because to get through these difficult times we have to come together. We have to work on our local communities, help our neighbors’ businesses stay afloat for our own survival and for the survival of our cities and towns and communities.
And you know, for those of you who are shy and have had a hard time finding an excuse to talk with your neighbors, this is a perfect excuse to introduce yourself. ’How are you doing?’ ’Man, the economy is getting rough – do you think everyone in our community will be ok?’ Or, ‘I harvested a bunch of tomatoes before the frosts – will you take some?’ There are many ice breakers when we’re all focused on a crisis.
This is also a perfect excuse to volunteer at your local food bank, or your local shelter, or start sitting in on your local community council meetings. You may not be hurting, but others will be and when people hurt, it is time for us to have real and thorough compassion. To come out of our shells for the greater good, and to help heal.
There are many other things we need to work on, problems that stem from the way we have lived our lives for the last few decades. Food, Water, War, Environment, Energy, Poverty – many things that are intertwined with one another, all things that need to be corrected. And all things that can be corrected if we begin working toward a shift in how we think of our neighborhoods, towns, and cities.
What Are The Solutions?
One of the top solutions, and the simplest correction to most of our major problems – climate change, cheap energy depletion, war, environmental destruction, inflated housing costs, overzealous banking problems, issues in food and water supply, individual poverty and corporate greed – is to work within our communities and rebuild our local economies and infrastructure. And the compassion that develops from doing that.
If you can, give money to organizations that desperately need it right now. During economic recessions, more people are in need of aid. Paradoxically, during an economic crisis, there is also less giving. So if you can afford to give, please do.
If you can afford it, also consider giving as a family to an organization in desperate need of funds during the holidays. This could even be a replacement for some of the material gifts you would normally give one another.
And give your time most of all. There are many ways to become involved within your community. We’ve discussed some of the ways, and I will continue to write about them.
If you have no time to give, at least give a smile. Show your compassion. Put good thoughts and good nature into your community. And encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to do the same.
Please go out into your communities. Help them grow and adapt and become sustainable. And infuse your neighborhoods with compassion any way that you can.
And if you are living in poverty or living on the edge of poverty, there are many resources available to you. I will write about those in the future. I’ve written here about tightening our belts, and cutting costs – there will be more here about frugality in the coming months.
I do not know how long this time of corrections will last. Some say 2 years, others say longer. But it will be so much more rewarding, so much better oriented toward us – people – if we work on it together. If we practice our compassion, lean on one another, and work together to build and make our communities stronger. We can play an important role in in helping others during these times. In this way, we will help combat poverty and its many causes.
Thanks For Bearing With This Long Essay!
I know this was long, but I hope you were able to spend the time reading my thoughts. Please let me know what you think about them, other ways that we may solve poverty. I’d appreciate it!