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How the Rich Can Stop Hurting the Poor

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I realize there has been a lack of original material on this blog for the past week. I’ve been putting a lot of creative energy into writing a novel (my first ever!) for National Novel Writing Month (a really cool thing that you should definitely try if you’re a writer) and in the process I’ve neglected this blog. It’s my intention to write more original and provocative posts in the near future. But alas, today we continue the trend of picking up from other sources.

This is a re-post from a great blog called “How to Save the World,” authored by Dave Pollard. I’d like to help cultivate a socially engaged dharma that is systemic–recognizing that we live in an interconnected world of nested environmental and social systems–and yet personal at the same time. The suggestions offered below are one way of getting at both those dimensions, in that they offer us as individuals clear actions we can take that may help to alleviate suffering and reduce harm.

from Dave:

How the Rich Can Stop Hurting the Poor: Sharon Astyk adds her own recommendations to the Transition Initiative’s recommendations, in an interview with Vandana Shiva,  to help reduce the exploitation of struggling nations:

  • Do not buy or eat any industrial meat – period.  Grain-fed meat raises the price of commodities in the poor world.  Either give up meat or eat only grass-fed meat.
  • Do not support biofuel production from foodstuffs or on land that is suitable for growing human crops.
  • Purchase high value, dry shipped luxury goods like spices, coffee, tea, etc… *only* when certified fair trade and grown in responsible ways (ie, shade grown coffee, etc…)
  • Don’t buy imported produce.  Shift your diet to eat what’s available in your locality.  Remember, flying produce around the world is using planes to transport water, effectively.  That’s nuts on a whole host of levels.
  • Begin shifting your “shadow acres” of imported foods, resources and goods to your own locality – buy local when possible, even if it means buying less.  If you can’t produce something in your area, look for substitutes and work to establish local manufacture and production.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this list…

About Maia

I've been practicing and studying the Buddha way since 1994, and exploring the question "What is engaged Buddhism?" since the late 90s. As former executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and editor of its journal, Turning Wheel, I had the honor of meeting and working with many practitioners of engaged dharma, including Roshi Joan Halifax, Joanna Macy, Alan Senauke, and Robert Aitken Roshi. I write about socially engaged Buddhism on my blog, "The Jizo Chronicles," as well as on the theme of personal and collective freedom on my website, "The Liberated Life Project." Through my Five Directions Consulting, I offer support to individuals and organizations who aspire to integrate awareness into their work.

2 responses »

  1. Hi,

    I think these are a good ideas, but they still don’t dig deep enough. They’re still focused on consumption or refraining from consumption, but what about the whole capitalist structure itself? How do these choices undermine, shift, transform this exploitive, destructive system we’re all increasingly living under? Another issue that comes to mind is the definition of ‘rich” – most all of us, even the working poor in the US, are rich in comparison to the bottom two billion in the world. So, then, if you take that angle, then how do you support people struggling to pay their bills make decisions that will help their brothers and sisters in materially poorer nations? I work with recent immigrants who, when it comes down to it, end up shopping at Wal Mart and Target a lot because they really can’t afford to purchase eco-friendly products. It’s true that they also are gardening, buying produce at farmer’s markets, etc., but that’s only a small dent in their purchases. I really think one of the big issues we all have is living in a frame of capitalism, where both the problems created and solutions for those problems come from the same frame. It doesn’t mean those solutions are failures, but they tend to not have any real impact on the systems themselves – maybe things are a little better, but the oppressive structures are still alive and well.

  2. Hi Nathan,

    Thanks — I really appreciate your comment. It seems like there are band-aid responses, and then there are structural responses. My sense is that the suggested actions are band-aid responses directed toward systemic imbalances and inequities, but will not by themselves change the system. As you say, we need to look at the ‘frame’ and consider how to shift that. A big task, indeed…

    By the way, you have a great blog… thanks for visiting this one and contributing your thoughts.


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