Thursday, November 8, 2007

Review of Some Sources

Nicole, a classmate, sent me an email about Poverty Week at SJSU. There was some info about the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project, born at SJSU by sociology majors and Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton, and a link to I'll write all about the GCCW later, when another classmate, Julia, finishes her big project and has time to tell me about her thoughts and experiences.

I hate to be a Scrooge, but I thought it was sensationalistic. They have a map and a list of people who have died recently from the effects of poverty, and then a note that says, "The world hunger map display above is representational only and does not show the names and faces of real people. The photographs are computer composites of multiple individuals." Further, the information they provided was not very in depth. They call for fulfilling the promises of the MDGs, and give you a link to click on to write a letter. I can be pretty sensitive. There's a lot of sadness out there already, and a lot of sad looking pictures. I don't need to be prodded to action by fake dead children. It is further dispicable to refer to these "people who died today" in the text of the website.

I'm all for the MDGs, but that site uses technical flashiness and appeals to emotion without considering the whole problem. That disturbs me. The point we share is important for the reasons why the US should do more, and why the US isn't doing what they promised. Global issues need to be examined carefully and thoughtfully. Our emotions should bring us to the table, but our minds and reason should inspire our solutions. Otherwise, we'll make a bigger mess than what we already have.

Then, I followed a link to their "sister site" Free Rice , which is kind of fun. You play a vocabulary game, advertisers' links appear, and you earn ten grains of rice for the UN's World Food Programme. I totally cheated and looked up words I didn't know at before I answered so I would win as much rice as possible. I also really like the idea of a job created for the individual who has to count out ten grains of rice at a time.

I was suspicious of this scheme at first. Anyone who wants to teach me vocabulary or encourage me to floss clearly has an alternative motive. So, I checked out . It made me very happy. Here are two links I thought were intersting: the first explains their methodolgy, which demonstrates thinking! Remember, you can't just hand people food; it puts farmers and other food producers out of business, creating a poverty trap and the ongoing nature of such projects irritates those able to give. You'll see that they commit to buying food locally and the right time when possible, and they work through the logistics to get it to the right people and families, so that those who need it get it.

The second lists their operational priorities, which are action-oriented in specific ways in specific places. I learned earlier that one of the issues with poverty is that people often try to solve it with a panacea. Peter Stephens and Jefferey Sachs have shown us that no one thing will work in every place. An organization really committed to making something like this happen will think about it from the cultural and geographic perspectives of the people and places involved.

I'm very happy to where that email took me. Its fantastic to see an organization thinking things through and encouraging others to do so, and I wish the website where I began my search would take notice.

*edited title December 30, 2007.

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