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What Can I Do?Making A Global Difference Right Where You Are
By David Livermore
ZondervanCopyright © 2011 David Livermore
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD
YOUR GLOBAL VILLAGE
Imagine you've just moved to a town of one thousand people. It's an unusual place because it's been designed as a microcosm of the world. The ethnic and economic diversity across the globe can be seen and experienced right here in your new community. Disease, literacy rates, and access to things like electricity and water are all present in this village. It's as if the worldwide population of 6.7 billion people has suddenly shrunk to this single town of a thousand people. Now that you've moved here, you have a unique opportunity to see what life is like for people all over the world.
At first it might feel like you've moved to Chinatown, because 600 of the 1,000 community members are from Asia, most of them of Chinese descent. Another 140 are from Africa, 120 from Europe, 80 from Latin America, 50 from the United States and Canada, and 10 from the South Pacific, including places like Australia and New Zealand (see figure on p. 20).
There are 510 males and 490 females. Sadly, girls are more likely to be aborted than boys in places like India and China because of the "noble" honor of having a son in these cultures, particularly if you're allowed only one child.
330 kids under the age of eighteen live in this global village, half of whom have received immunizations against preventable diseases like measles and polio. 20 new babies are born every year here, so the town is growing. One of these babies will die before his or her first birthday. 9 people die every year, 3 from hunger and 1 from cancer. 60 senior citizens (age sixty-five and older) live in the village. 500 people are malnourished. If you have adequate food and nutrients, chances are your neighbors on either side do not. That's the way it is — fifty-fifty. One person has proper nourishment; one doesn't. 800 of the people in this town live in substandard housing. 670 people can't read. If you're reading these words, you're obviously among the privileged minority. 330 are without access to a safe water supply. 240 don't have any electricity. Of the 760 town members who do have electricity, most are able to use it for only a couple hours at night. Only 70 people have access to the internet. Social networking, email, and the World Wide Web aren't the answer to everything. Only 7 percent of the world has access to them. That number grows daily, but we still have a long way to go. 10 people, 1 percent of the world, have a college education. 10 individuals have HIV/AIDS, and most of them are women and children. 400 people have never heard of Jesus. Forty percent of the people in your new town don't have a clue who Jesus is. The town has 5 soldiers, 7 teachers, and 1 doctor. The doctor keeps pretty busy but primarily treats those who can afford to pay. The 7 teachers have their hands full, although 25 percent of the kids go to work every day instead of school.
One hundred people, 10 percent of the population, control enough explosive power in nuclear weapons that they could blow up the entire civilization many times over. The other 900 people watch with deep anxiety, wondering if the 100 can get along well enough to avoid using the weapons. These 900 wonder if the ones who control the weapons might inadvertently set them off. Or if they ever decide to dismantle the weapons, where in town will they dispose of the dangerous radioactive materials used to make them? The newspaper in town never seems to include this perspective, however.
The only part of this scenario that doesn't exist in real life is the actual 1,000-member village. But if you were to expand the population of this imaginary village to 6.7 billion people, all of the above realities and proportions would apply. This is the village where we live. These are the issues facing us. These are the inequities of life in the twenty-first-century world. We no longer have the luxury of viewing the wants and needs of our family and community apart from those living in the rest of the world. The shoes we wear, the food we eat, and the companies we work for are all intertwined with our fellow village members scattered across the globe.
Far too many books and documentaries stop here. We read the alarming disparities with little guidance about how to respond. I've promised you a more solution-oriented, hopeful picture, and I assure you — the rest of this book is oriented that way. But before we respond, it's helpful to understand seven of the most important realities facing our neighborhood. Let's start with the first one — money.
Back in our 1,000-member village, there are 5 extremely wealthy people who control most of the money. And 200 town members, one-fifth of the village, own 74 percent of all the financial assets.
Imagine how different your life is if you are privileged to be among the top 20 percent. Those in the top 20 percent of the village live on about seventy dollars a day, while those in the bottom 20 percent live on about one dollar a day. If you're among the bottom 20 percent, or even among the majority in the middle, you'll need to think creatively about how to feed your loved ones today. You are largely dependent on the generosity of your wealthier neighbors.
Keep in mind that these are more than numbers and statistics. The implications of these numbers can be very personal when you begin meeting people from other parts of the world. The first time I taught a weeklong course in Liberia, a small coastal country in West Africa, I asked my host when we should break for lunch. He hesitated before responding, and then he said, "Well, most of us eat only one meal a day. While we're in class today, our spouses and children will work to earn some money by selling things like rice, water, and vegetables. Hopefully, they'll get enough money for us to have a small meal together tonight when we get home." Then he looked at me and said, "But feel free to eat your lunch whenever you wish. I'd be happy to take you somewhere." Needless to say, I lost my appetite and decided I could easily go without lunch for a week. I spend my life talking with people about these issues and helping them see how their lives compare with the lives of others, but I'm still caught off guard by the chasm between my economic realities and those of so many other people.
The economic issues of our day are further complicated by globalization, the expansion and integration of international manufacturing and business. Stop reading for a moment and look at the label on your clothes or shoes. Where were they made? The shirt I'm wearing says, "Made in Bangladesh." While I sit in the comfort of my home, it's hard for me to envision the worn faces of the people whose hands fed this fabric through the industrial sewing machines in Dhaka. I'm rarely conscious of the tired crew on the cargo ship that transported my shirt across the ocean, nor do I think about the fatigued customs official who got involved in the shipment. What truck drivers spent time away from home to deliver this shirt to the big-box store where a second-shift worker neatly folded it on a shelf for me to buy? But these people are my neighbors in our global village. I'm repulsed at the thought that my shirt might have been made by a child who works in a factory in Bangladesh rather than attending school.
Before we go too far down the path of offering pat answers or simplistic solutions, let's agree that there are no easy answers to most of these issues. I've promised a more solution-focused response, and we'll get there. But for the time being, we're simply trying to get a glimpse of the needs in our village. If you want another, more personalized perspective on all this, take a moment to check out your economic place at www.globalrichlist.com. You may be surprised to learn that someone who earns fifty thousand dollars a year is among the top 1 percent of the richest people in the global village! Maybe you're a recent high school or college grad making only twenty thousand dollars a year? You're still in the top 11 percent. The economic disparity between the rich and the poor, and even between the middle class and the poor, is often bigger than we think. It's an issue that demands the attention of consumers, business leaders, economists, and leaders in the church. Our response to these dilemmas will often be misguided if we fail to get our bearings and grasp some of these larger global concerns. The massive economic imbalance we see in our world today is one of the most challenging and ghastly realities facing us in the twenty-first century.
DISEASE AND OUR GLOBAL HEALTH
Many of the same people struggling to survive on a dollar a day are also the ones most susceptible to fatal diseases. While life expectancy has been going up for most people in our global village, HIV/ AIDS and malaria continue to reverse that trend, particularly for our neighbors from Southern Africa, parts of Southeast Asia, Latin America, and certain pockets within Russia.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death. Most victims of HIV/AIDS globally are women and children, not promiscuous men. It is estimated that in certain tribal groups in Southwest China, half the population is infected with HIV/AIDS, and this percentage may be even higher in reality. In India, many Punjabi truck drivers sleep with different women all the way up and down the country during their monthlong journeys, infecting each woman they meet along the way, as well as their unsuspecting wives once they're back home with the family.
Or how about malaria? For me, a mosquito bite is usually a mere annoyance. But for many people in our village, a mosquito bite easily leads to malaria. At "best," getting malaria means experiencing an awful case of the flu, including a high fever and chills. Left untreated, it frequently leads to death. Nearly one million people in the world die from malaria every year, mostly young children. There are cures for malaria. These children could be spared by simply getting them the right medicine.
But there's an epidemic killing even more people worldwide than either HIV/AIDS or malaria. In fact, this disease kills more adults in our global village than all other infectious diseases combined. Nearly half the world's refugees are infected with it. It's an ancient disease that was nearly wiped out a generation ago, but it's back today with a raging force — tuberculosis. Look around your town of 1,000 people. Three hundred and thirty people, nearly one-third of the world's population, have TB.
These diseases are not limited to the developing world. They're also found in places like the United States, France, and Singapore. But the highest fatality rates are in the developing world. What can we do so that malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS, heart disease, and cancer become history in our village? There are ways to lessen the impact of these diseases on our neighbors. We'll get there.
ENVIRONMENT AND OUR NEIGHBORS
It's an embarrassment that Christians have often spent so much energy mocking "tree huggers" and generally downplaying their responsibility to be faithful stewards of the environment. Now, I'm well aware that a great deal of controversy remains over the issue of global warming and the degree to which our behavior can change this effect. But the Bible is clear about our responsibility to care for this planet. From the very beginning of time, part of what it meant to be made in God's image was to be a caretaker of the animals and our planet.
Six billion tons of trash end up in the sea every year. Take a walk along any beach in the world, and you'll find washed-up bottles, lighters, plastic bags, toothbrushes, and more. Much of the diverse animal and plant life on our planet lives in the sea, and many of the people who live in our global village rely on fish for a large part of their daily food source. When we pollute the water in our rivers and oceans, we pollute the fish. And when we pollute the fish, we put our neighbors at risk.
There are similar connections between the issues of climate change, energy use, and water consumption. Many of us have never really considered the degree to which our oil-dependent lifestyle affects the lives of people in Mozambique and Myanmar, by influencing the changing sea levels and increasing the susceptibility these people have to tropical diseases. We're in desperate need of Christian scientists, politicians, and consumers who can wrestle with environmental issues and offer us sustainable ways to address them. The best way for you to help your neighbors in the global village might be from a laboratory in rural Illinois or by organizing a recycling program.
TRAFFICKING AND GLOBAL LUST
From street-level dealers to multinational empires that rival governments in size, the drug-trafficking business is the largest organized crime ring in our global community. Greed, power, and the need for a quick fix are what drive this worldwide industry. Places like the "Golden Triangle," a relatively lawless region at the intersection of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand, are infamous for producing huge amounts of illicit opium. Drug use is rampant in the bourgeois, affluent suburbs of Chicago, Tucson, and Indianapolis. But make no mistake. There's a clear correlation between socioeconomic status and drug use. Economically depressed people are the ones most susceptible to drug use.
Second only to drug trafficking is human trafficking, a thirty-two-billion-dollar slave industry built on forcing people to do things against their will. At any given time, somewhere between thirteen million and twenty-seven million people in the world are being forced to perform acts against their will. Most of those living in slavery are kids. Some of the kids in your village are being held in slavery instead of going to school every day. They're often abducted from their homes and forced to sell their bodies, fight in wars, and work night and day making bricks, tending land, and cleaning people's homes. You don't have to look very far around our global village to see the "winners" and losers of human trafficking.
On a recent trip to Liberia, I met Jimmy, a sixteen-year-old who loves school more than any teenager I know. But to understand his love for education, you first have to understand Jimmy's childhood. While some of his peers around the world went to Little League, Jimmy was aiming a machine gun at anyone who walked by. By the time he was eleven, he had lost count of how many people he had killed for the rebel army that had abducted and trained him. Then one day, a U.N. worker coaxed Jimmy's weapons from him in exchange for schoolbooks and an education. Estimates vary widely, but it's believed there are more than three hundred thousand child soldiers in the world. Boys like Jimmy, as young as six years old, are forced into local armies where they're trained as soldiers for guerrilla warfare. In addition, their forced military ser vice usually involves providing sexual ser vices to the men in the army.
Let's take a closer look at something as wonderful and seemingly innocent as chocolate. Thirty-five percent of the chocolate available for purchase in our village is made from cocoa beans harvested by slaves. In Côte d'Ivoire, the largest producer of cocoa beans in the world, young boys are subjected to extreme abuse and inhumane conditions while being forced to harvest the beans from which chocolate is made.
The most prevalent form of trafficking is the coercion of women and children into the sex business. Some are lured into the trade through the promise of a good job in another country or through a false marriage proposal that turns into a bondage situation. Others are sold to a sex lord by their parents, husbands, or boyfriends, and many are kidnapped. Sex traffickers frequently subject their victims to a fictitious debt that never seems to be reduced no matter how many sexual services are performed. Victims endure starvation, confinement, physical abuse, gang rape, and threats of violence to their families and against them personally. Many of them are forced to take drugs. You can find these trafficked girls at a brothel in your village, but you might also find them at a nearby nail salon or the local truck stop.
Excerpted from What Can I Do? by David Livermore Copyright © 2011 by David Livermore. Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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