Dear Partners in Green,
This past year we have had an opportunity to see the disparities in our society. COVID-19 has claimed, and is continuing to claim, a disproportionate number of the poor and indeed of the working poor. This virus has increased the rate of poverty not just in the US, but throughout the world. The World Bank has estimated that it will push an additional 88 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty!
These statistics are chilling on many humanitarian levels. But most disturbing is the impact on the future health of our planet for the generations to come, indeed for all life on earth. Poverty is an enemy of the fight against global warming.
THE LINKS BETWEEN POVERTY REDUCTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY ARE FUNDAMENTALLY IMPORTANT FOR THE WELL-BEING OF CURRENT AND FUTURE GENERATIONS.
– UNITED NATIONS
The United Nations estimates that 70% of the world’s 1.2 billion people who live below the poverty line are largely dependent upon natural resources for their livelihoods. And contrary to the industry’s claims, “dirty” energy sources such as coal will not help to end poverty.
Communities struggling to survive on the fringes of society have fewer choices when it comes to sustainability. If one does not have proper plumbing and garbage disposal, it is hard to avoid pollution. If one is living below the poverty line, that person is less likely to be able to invest in clean energy such as solar and wind, and more likely to be using wood and coal-burning stoves for heat and cooking.
And there is the importance of education to be considered. Education regarding the climate crisis can help to provide generations of city-dwellers around the world with the knowledge and tools to create low-carbon lives. But if one is forced to leave school at an early age that person may not have the opportunity to learn about the need for caring for the environment even as climate change accelerates.
This is not the fault of the individual: the gross inequalities that exist between rich and poor in the world have created a situation where many people have to sacrifice environmental thinking just to stay alive.
There may be little that those in extreme poverty can do to change their situation, for poverty is a condition that can be both economic and psychological, leaving one feeling both dependent and powerless.
Therefore it is up to individuals, communities, organizations, and governments with political and economic power to be the leaders on care for the environment and on the issue of poverty.
What may we be able to do to address and reduce poverty in our own cities and towns? What steps can we take?
- First, I think it is important to explore our own communities to seek out areas of poverty, to really see where people are living and under what conditions.
- Then we must learn about the practices which were commonly employed to “trap” people in these areas, practices such as “blockbusting” and “redlining.”
- It is also important to study the local banks, some of which may have histories of refusing loans based solely on the applicant’s color or ethnicity.
- We should unearth statistics in our communities regarding absentee, often slum landlords, who buy up cheap houses or apartment buildings that are in bad condition, and rent them to poor people for more than they are worth. These landlords can live anyplace in the world. Little do they care that a high school student living in one of their properties is trying to write a history paper as rain pours through a hole in the roof. Upkeep of property is of little concern to an absent landlord.
- And most important perhaps, we must recognize the fact that anyone could find themselves in the reality of poverty, but for a stroke of luck, or an accident of birth.
- I highly recommend reading Isabelle Wilkerson’s books: Caste and The Warmth of Other Suns.
- And once we have learned what we can, we must share it. We must get the word out by writing, by talking, by supporting organizations already fighting for systemic change, and by contacting city/town leaders and representatives. And we must learn about legislation such as the Carbon Dividend Act, H.R. 763 which would charge fossil fuel companies for the amount they pollute and reinvest the revenues into the economy in the form of a dividend, thus benefiting the poor.
Do you have any other recommendations as to how in this New Year of 2021 we can work to reduce poverty in our communities? Please share!! For we must address this issue of poverty as we address the Climate Crisis, for they are inherently linked.
One “gift” of COVID 19 is that we can no longer say that we don’t know of the disparity negatively impacting so many people living on the margins. If only people had taken seriously the mandate to care for the poor, given in the Bible at least 300 times, maybe we would not be where we are today. But this is where we are, and it is up to us to begin to set it right. Finally.
In a time when many feel isolated, down, and depressed, this is a cause that can fill our days with a sense of purpose and promise. We can make a difference.
I leave you with this song by MzVee, a singer from Ghana, and a poem by a former Poet Laureate…
To the New Year
With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible
Wishing peace and health to you and your loved ones.
Happy New Year!
Thank you for being on this journey.
Till next time.