Re: Long term sustainability
From: Racheli Gai (
Date: Sun, 8 Jul 2007 09:38:06 -0700 (PDT)
Hi Kevin,
You wrote (in part) :

Second, the condition of humanity has been getting steadily better over
the last century, by almost any measure you care to look  at.  Wealth,
education, calorie consumption, and life expectancy for the whole planet have all been going up, both as a percentage and in absolute numbers. The number of people living in poverty, or without healthcare, or without enough food has been going down, both as a percentage and in absolute numbers. Cancer deaths
(after adjusting for longer life) are going  down.

As I understand it, this is false in a number of ways.

Let me address a few points:
Some people are getting much wealthier, while many get poorer and poorer. So, yes,
for a tiny fraction of the population things are getting "better".
There are about 1 billion people (this isn't the exact number) who are chronically hungry/ malnourished. More than at any other time in history in absolute numbers. My impression is that the number of people living in poverty is growing, not diminishing - including in the US, as jobs are shipped elsewhere (and the people who do those jobs overseas or across
the border aren't paid a living wage, to put it mildly).
Many many countries, under the pressure to "liberalize" exerted upon them by the IMF and the World Bank (read: by the US) have gone back on providing affordable health care, on subsidizing essential
food items etc.
I'll give you as an example a country which on the surface is a great recipient of US largesse: Israel. When I was growing up there, everyone had health insurance for pittance, there was a serious safety net in place to keep people from going hungry, and the gap between the poorest and the richest was not so big. It was hardly a wonderful place - discrimination against Palestinian citizens, against Mizrahi Jews (Jews who came from the Middle East and North Africa), etc. was serious, but on the whole the culture and social mores strongly supported an economic safety net. With liberalization, things have gone downhill. There are people who don't have enough to eat, about fifth of the children live in poverty, many elderly are in dire straights, and so on. And this is a country which gets about 3 billion dollars a year from the US govt. (mostly earmarked for military purposes), not to mention the help US Jews and others provide in addition!
Things are much worse in other places.

I disagree with your assessment of healthcare and health. My impression is that there is much more cancer - including among children, and younger people because of growing pollution. This is before we come to the AIDS epidemic; chronic ailments which are rampant, etc.

Education? I suppose you mean "formal education", Western style. I have serious questions regarding how educational it really is, and concerns regarding traditional appropriate knowledge which is disappearing in many places, as subsistence living gets destroyed to make room for corporate agriculture and industry. (Again - Vandana Shiva's writings are especially useful
in this respect).

All of those are, of course, huge subjects which I barely touched on.


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