JD Crossan said Jesus had a couple of words available for saying "Blessed are the poor." One refered to people in a 'not rich, but we work hard and get by' situation. But what Jesus evidently said was "Blessed are the destitute" -- blessing the wretched, panhandling low-lifes, the 'sinners' by the Temple's reckoning.

I remember a pretty horrible conversation here a few years back, in which I was vehemently not nice about 'an important book' by a right-wing 'think-tank' employee; and many people here were decidely not pleased with me. I don't want to restart that; but I certainly do remember it.

So I'm wondering, what are the currently accepted Quaker ideas about the causes of poverty...?


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I see some evidence global population is leveling off, consistent with infant mortality going down.  If there's a good chance your kids will survive, fewer needed.  Number of kids is a function of lifestyle and raising living standards means new lifestyles.

As a Food Not Bombs logistics guy (Ret.), I can attest to a huge percentage of perishable foods simply getting composted every day for lack of a distribution system.  With a few bike trailers, we could help ourselves to any amount of fresh surplus, direct from the organic foods warehouse, not from dumpsters in our chapter, plus feed throngs in the park.

My guess is that still high levels of death by starvation have less to do with food supply than with fatalist ideologies that dictate our expectations.  We think it has to be this way and feel sorry for ourselves.

Another source of poverty is how much human edible protein is run through livestock to satisfy meat cravings, whereas Diet for a Small Planet showed long ago that what's healthier is also what optimizes to more people:  less beef. 

In economics class they teach such lies as "the more income you have the more meat you eat" (a Beefeater was someone who had all the beef he could eat, so would definitely be loyal to the Queen).  As if the moneyed were infinitely stupid about maintaining health if wishing longevity (time to enjoy it).  Rich people jog and ride bikes *more* than poor people because they use their leisure time (which poor people don't get) to work out.

I think fussing about "overpopulation" is more a case of dispepsia, the kind of mental indigestion noises one gets from inadequate education (no GST!), with lots of left-over "White Mans Burden" reflexes i.e. holdover assumptions from Brit empire days, when Malthusian doom-saying merged with Social Darwinism and Protestant Calvinism (fatalism).  I'm hoping most of that kind of thinking was left behind in the 1900s, at least among thinking engineers.

Sometimes I despair that the English language will be able to cope with the 21st Century, so full of bugs and misnomers, but then I remember how its ability to quickly adapt.  That's where evolution happens, in memes, not in genes so much (or so fast).  Language is epigenetic.

Paul Klinkman said:

I have invented a better greenhouse, and so I understand that food can probably be grown on almost any land.  This would greatly increase the earth's ability to carry more billions of people. 

I know that some day we'll still have to deal with the population explosion.  Albert Einstein was asked, what is the most powerful force in the universe.  "Compound interest," he replied.

Okay, to clarify:

There are possibilities of growing more food than we do; and yes, much current malnutrition is due to maldistribution rather than any present shortage.

It could be tolerable, even pleasant, to live more densely packed together than we do now -- if we would use the space better, ie have small sleeping quarters for each person-or-pair, plus ample shared space, similar to the arrangements at Pendle Hill when I was there. And for people to avoid intruding on each other's space by noise, late-night drunken conversation, etc. 

But functioning ecosystems require more space than we've left for them, more time than is probably available before changing weather patterns -- droughts, fires, floods, windstorms & (?) -- render every habitat on Earth, including ours, subject to serious disruption. Hydroponics works when one has pipes and pumps; but the more low-tech, robust techniques for farming require soil, ie dirt that hasn't been too drastically polluted or leached out of minerals or of the spongy organic filler stuff that lets moisture and a modicum of air get through to roots.

Even if we can get through the next few years without climatic catastrophe and a massive die-off, there is only a finite amount of food that can be produced in this space, only a limited amount of crowding we can live with before turning into something like naked mole rats. (I do not wish to be pejorative about naked mole rats; but them is them and we is us, and their niche is taken!) Malthus' misuse of mathematics to support a classist agenda was wrong, but everything you heard about the harsh limits to exponential growth is simply built-in to life in a physical world.

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