lets make affluence history

You can’t hide hunger. Even in the wealthiest cities in the world you can see it. The Rundle Memorial United Church in Banff has a food pantry…

You can’t hide hunger. Even in the wealthiest cities in the world you can see it. The Rundle Memorial United Church in Banff has a food pantry to meet the needs of their poor.

I have helped serve bowls of soup at the Catholic Worker’s St. Joseph House on East First Street in lower Manhattan not all that many blocks from Wall Street.

Surely the good burghers of Davos, the Swiss resort town where global economic elites along with political leaders, like Tony Blair, gathered this past week for the World Economic Forum, have a soup kitchen or emergency food program to serve their needy.

I wonder how much thought, though, those gathered for the forum gave to basic problems like hunger, which afflict our planet.

Did they just repeat more of the same barren cant we have heard all too often from there: more economic growth will solve all our problems?

Or, free the markets from government constraint and all will be well?

Karl Polanyi, in his seminal work The Great Transformation, remarked more than half a century ago that, “To allow the market mechanism to be the sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment would result in the demolition of society.”

We can see the cracks widening in the façade of the 20th-century notion of progress.

Bigger isn’t necessarily better. More doesn’t always improve life.

Readers of this paper know that discussions have begun to ascertain the need for a full-fledged food bank here in Whitehorse.

No one around the tables at a community consultation in the basement of Whitehorse United Church last Tuesday evening doubted the existence of hunger here in the Yukon.

Meals served every day by either the Salvation Army, the weekend soup kitchen at CYO Hall or the Outreach van witness very concretely to that reality.

The boxes and bags of emergency food supplies leaving Maryhouse and Salvation Army every week support this.

A host of other local program providing regular or occasional meals as part of their service to needy clientele further fill out this picture.

How to best address the question of the hunger among us remains a question.

Hopefully, in the next couple of months the outline of a strategy will emerge.

In a side conversation at the table, one young participant reflected on the roots of the problem.

She recalled the Make Poverty History campaign, which demanded that our political leaders work towards this end by forgiving debts, ending child poverty and a host of other remedies.

The real problem, though, she mused was the every expanding affluence of a minority of the world’s population, which mired the rest in poverty.

For her a Make Affluence History campaign made more sense.

Every year, the Canadian International Development Agency promotes a week of reflection on our role in international development.

This coming Sunday marks the beginning of International Development Week.

The theme this year is: “Equally between women and men. To have a voice. To have a choice.”

We know that gender inequality intensifies poverty here and abroad. Measures taken towards insuring gender equality then CIDA offers on its website, would improve “a country’s ability to govern effectively, to grow sustainably, to reduce poverty, and to provide for peoples’ well-being.”

Minister of International Co-operation Josée Verner reinforced the importance of equality between women and men in a speech last October when she stressed: “In many developing countries, experience has shown that in order to reduce poverty, create wealth, and safeguard human rights, nothing is more effective than concrete actions that permit women to take advantage of their great potential.”

Maybe this then should be the first plank in a Make Affluence History campaign.