Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 17, 2017

Earth Concerns News

Plan B 4.0: Chapter 7: Mobilizing to Save Civilization by Sister Debbie Timmis, CSJ

Welcome to our seventh installment from the book Plan B 4.0 by Lester R. Brown. This chapter is entitled “Eradicating Poverty and Stabilizing Population,” two great challenges for our time and also part of the Millennium Goals of the United Nations. An overview of the chapter includes: Educating Everyone, Toward a Healthy Future, Stabilizing Population, Rescuing Failing States, A Poverty-Eradication Agenda and Budget. 

Educating Everyone
This chapter opens with the idea that “educating everyone” is "one way of narrowing the gap between the rich and poor segments of society. This means making sure that the 75 million children not enrolled in school are able to attend." Children without any formal education start life with a severe handicap, one that almost ensured that they will remain in abject poverty and that the gap between the poor and rich will continue to widen ... As Noble Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen points out. “Illiteracy and innumeracy are a greater threat to humanity than terrorism.”(Brown, 171) After reading this section of the chapter I was sure it would resonate in our hearts as sisters and associates who know the contribution that has been made and continues to be made in the area of education, especially among the poor. One program that I have taken for granted that has been especially successful in getting children to school is the school-lunch program. “Jeffrey Sachs at Columbia University's Earth Institute notes, ‘Sick children often face a lifetime of diminished productivity because of interruptions in schooling together with cognitive and physical impairment.’ However, when school-lunch programs are launched in low- income countries, school enrollment jumps. The children’s academic performance goes up, and children spend more years in school.” (Sachs)

Toward a Healthy Future
Part of a plan to eradicate poverty and stabilize population necessarily involves ensuring a healthy population. Some of the challenges that we face in this area hunger and ensuring access to a “safe and reliable supply of water for the estimated 1.1 billion people who lack water. The realistic option in many cities may be to bypass efforts to build costly water-based sewage removal and treatment systems and to opt instead for water-free waste disposal systems that do not disperse disease pathogens.” (Brown, 174) 

Health concerns for our human population differ among countries: “While heart disease, cancer, obesity, and smoking dominate health concerns in industrial countries, in developing countries infectious diseases are the overriding health threat. The principal diseases of concern are diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, tuberculosis, malaria, measles and AIDS. Child mortality is high because childhood diseases such as measles, easily prevented by vaccination, take such a heavy toll.” (Brown, 174)
Stabilizing Population
This section of chapter seven is viewed through the eyes of the scientist and is best summarized by this sentence, “Any population that increases indefinitely will eventually outgrow its natural life-support systems. Any that decreases continually over the long term will eventually disappear.” (Brown 170) The author continues, “U.N. projections show world population growth under three different assumptions about fertility levels. The medium projection, the one most commonly used, has world population reaching 9.2 billion by 2050. The high one reaches 10.5 billion. The low projection, which assumes that the world will quickly move below replacement-level fertility, reaching 1.5 children per couple by 2050, has population peaking at just over 8 billion in 2042 and then declining.” Brown truly believes that,” “If the goal is to eradicate poverty, hunger, and illiteracy, then we have little choice but to strive for the lower projection.” (World Population Prospects)
Rescuing Failing States
“One of the leading challenges facing the international community is how to rescue failing states. Continuing with business as usual in international assistance programs is not working. The stakes could not be higher. If the number of failing states continues to increase, at some point this trend will translate into a failing global civilization. Somehow we must turn the tide of state decline.” (Brown, 184)
A Poverty Eradication Agenda and Budget
This final section outlines the financial steps that need to be taken in the world community to help eradicate poverty and stabilize populations. These steps and challenges include debt relief for poorer countries. “The bad news is that many of these same countries burdened by foreign debt were being hit hard when the global economic crisis brought falling prices for their mineral exports, falling remittances from abroad and rising prices for their grain imports.” (Brown, 184)
The World Bank estimates that the increase in fuel and food prices have pushed 130 million people below the poverty line.
Some Reflections
As I read this chapter, I reflected on our role to be part of a plan for the future and our efforts as a community this past Community Weekend. This chapter on “Eradicating Poverty and Stabilizing Population” brought to mind our need for interdependence and "living simply, so that others may simply live." I was heartened by the efforts our sisters and those who work with us in ministry have taken and continue to take to educate the poor, to reach out to the sick with health care and to cultivate a global heart that embraces all of humanity as well as all Earth’s creatures.
Brown, Lester. Plan B 4.0. New York: N.W. Norton & Co Ltd., 2009.
Sachs, Jeffrey. "A New Map of the World," The Economist, 22 June 2000.
McGovern, George. "Yes, We CAN Feed the World's Hungry," Parade, 16 December 2001.
World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision, Extended Dataset, CD-ROM, New York: 9 April 2009.