17 September 2010

The Stats Don't Lie

We’re coming back around to the time of year when we start making noise about global poverty again. I don’t know why the Australian spring is the designated time, apart from the fact that we’ve just finished World Vision 40 hour famine season.

The global Make Poverty History movement has emailed me to let me know that the Stand Up Against Poverty event is coming up this week. Given my monumentally successful contribution last time, I decided to look into what I could do to add my voice to this year’s outcry.

Unfortunately there are no major events planned for Darwin, where a ‘flash mob’ is just a group of men wearing climatically inappropriate suits on Mitchell Street. And to me, the 40 hour famine has always seemed like an extremely token sort of effort for anyone aged over 14, unless you’ve got some kind of weighty corporate sponsorship. No offense if you’re doing it; good on you for doing something.

Triple Kudos to my friend Hannah, who is undertaking something like a 40 day famine, and collecting sponsors for her effort to live on nothing but typical refugee rations for nearly six weeks. That’s how you do it if you really want to make a point. Check out her blog and drop her comment about how awesome she is.

“And what point is she making?” I hear you ask. I’m glad you asked. I was going to break with convention and embed an awesome video that they showed at my church the other week about what the statistics on global food supplies look like in real terms, but I couldn't find an online version of it. So instead, in more traditional Cum Tacent Clament style here are some boring written statistics (it also saves me the embarrassment of having my html skills fail in a public forum).

Chronic hunger, or the lack of a sufficient amount of nutritious food, currently affects 1 in 6 people worldwide.
13 million children are born every year with growth and development issues due to the mother's malnutrition.
Many of the world's poorest people spend 80% or more of their annual income just for food, and even this is often not enough to provide them with adequate amounts of food.
More than 24,000 people die every day due to hunger related causes.
The percentage of overseas development assistance allocated to agricultural development has dropped dramatically in recent years - from almost 20% in 1980 to less than 3% today.
In the developing world, 50% to 60% of all childhood deaths are hunger related.
More than 5 million children die every year simply because they do not have access to adequate amounts of food and water.

Due to an ever increasing global population, the demand for food keeps going up. But due to disastrous droughts in many countries (including Australia) the supply of food is going down, and the amount of food that governments are prepared to export is decreasing. This makes sense from governments who are interested in looking out for their own people, but it leaves developing countries in a whole pile of trouble.

One of the great initiatives we as a planet are taking to adapt to climate change and focus on renewable energy is the development of bio fuels. This technology uses organic matter to power engines directly, rather than waiting millions of years for them to decay into fossil fuels. But the dark side of this that we rarely hear about is that we are now burning food to run our cars instead of feeding the hungry with it.

At one point a while ago, the global food reserves were down to six weeks’ worth. That’s not just for some Ethiopian kid on the TV. That’s for the whole world, you and I included. Six weeks.

It's hard to know what to do about stuff like that. I know if I tried anything as drastic as Hannah’s effort, there’s a reasonable chance I would die, so I’m taking the coward’s road and writing about it instead. The pen is mightier than the sword, as they say, so in the digital age perhaps the keyboard is mightier than the intercontinental ballistic missile.

I’ve been planning for a while to write to the federal government about my concerns. And now that Australia has a federal government again, perhaps the time has come to make good on those intentions. Unfortunately I wasn’t really sure which minister to write to, as I don’t know whose portfolio global food shortages come under. Trade? Foreign Affairs? Sustainable Population? Looking for answers, I headed for the shopping centre, where to my dismay I could not find a single charity spruiker to help me. What is this world coming to, I ask you, when a man can walk down a shopping mall without being accosted by volunteers even when he wants to?

You’re right. As rhetorical questions go, that one was a bit of a train wreck.

Obviously the idea of writing about the issue here had occurred to me, but I wasn’t convinced that I had the readership to make spending the time on a poverty post worthwhile. But then I came across some interesting statistics of my own.

Google have added a hit counter to the blog creation interface, which records how many page views my blog gets over time, and even more fascinatingly, what part of the world those hits are coming from. To my astonishment, in the past week my blog has been viewed 25 times from the United Kingdom (apparently the drunk Englishwoman I made up in the previous post is real and she’s stalking me), eight times from both China and the US, six times from Australia (most of them are probably me), six times from Germany, twice from Belarus (I don’t even know where that is) twice from Russia (what the?) once from Brazil (wicked), once from Canada (thanks sis) and once from Taiwan. Either someone is playing silly buggers with a proxy server, or Cum Tacent Clament is silently crying out much more loudly than I thought.

For one thing, this makes self-indulgently whiny posts like last week’s effort seem even more stupid than they did before. For another, although, with the exception of my North American cheer squad, I have no idea who could possibly be reading this, Google is telling me that every week people from all over the globe are reading my blog. And Google never lies. So here’s a message from me to the Blogosphere:

Get off your arses and… get back on them again in front of your computer. Write to your politicians. Write a blog article. Write a song. Write a limerick for all I care, just make some noise. People need to know about this stuff, because the only way to fix it is to make the issue too all-pervasive to look the other way, and too big to sweep under the rug. The Global Food Shortage and the poverty that accompanies it are the moral challenge that will define our generation (suck it, Kevin Rudd). For God’s sake do something!

Okay. Please, please, please don’t write a limerick.

Garry with 2 Rs
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