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Friday, April 22, 2011


I am finalizing SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:

How One Person Made a Difference: The End of Poverty
       The simple solution is for each person to try to make a positive difference. It is as simple as that. Can one individual, for example, do anything about poverty?

In 2005, The Lancet reported on a study showing that $5.1 billion could save 6 million kids. That sum is 6% of the expenditures for tobacco products. The average smoker does a pack a day.  If these individuals can smoke only one less cigarette a day, and a way is found to effectively apply that savings, poof, we solve that poverty problem, and, maybe start the process of saving your life (if you smoke or are in poverty), too. How simple can it get?

There is, of course, the other side of the coin, for most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa, where living is torture. What is the rationale for keeping a child alive for another week when the rest of his life could well be agony? If you make the decision that any life saved for however short timeframe is justified, then, read on. If you think that curing poverty will only cause more anguish for the rescued, you miss the point, for you need to attain step one to reach the ultimate.

Jeffrey D. Sachs wrote, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for our Time. It’s a New York Times bestseller. Says Business Week, “Sensible, often brilliant analysis of poverty’s root causes and potential solutions…leaves you with hope that this crisis is more curable than it seems.” Is Jeffrey Sachs that individual that should be crediting to ending poverty? Nope, although it takes a village, and he is an important part of the ultimate solution.

Well, consider Live 8, which occurred on July 2, 2005, as one of the most momentous concerts ever and one of the greatest political lobby ever formed, all for the cause of poverty in Africa. It was timed a week before the G8 summit in Scotland (that's a group photo from the back) to resolve the African matter. The message was received, as these world leaders agreed on double the aid to Africa, although some quibble that this would have happened anyway.

But Live 8 was preceded by Live Aid on July 13, 1985—yes, that is Madonna above, a quarter century ago--60 artists in London and Philadelphia, 1.5 billion television viewers in 120 countries to raise $140 million for famine relief in Africa--which derived from the Band Aid Trust organized by Bob Geldorf (to left, in 1985) to record “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” which inspired USA for Africa’s “We are the World.” Is Geldorf that spark? Known for starring on screen in The Wall, Sir Bob raised three children after his wife, Paula Yates, ran off with INXS singer Michael Hutchence (below with Yates and their daughter, Tiger Lily, later in life, right), but become the guardian of their (Paula/Michael’s) daughter after their "accidental" deaths. Real hero, right? Most definitely, I guess! Ah, but he did salvage some revenge.  The story is a lot more complicated than this.

However, Sir Geldorf did not really start all this. It might have been an aid worker in Ethiopia, Claire Bertschinger. Claire, a nurse for the Red Cross, making life and death decisions on who to feed, was filmed by Michael Buerk and his BBC crew. Her clearest memory of that momentous recording day was taking an anemic baby to the hospital for a blood transfusion. “They had no blood, so I gave him one unit of mine and my diary entry was that ‘today I have done something.’.” This clip was seen by Geldorf, who was moved to also do something. Bertschinger’s story can be read in Moving Mountains.

For most, just donating blood is beyond duty to humanity. But to have done both without any thought to inspiring Live 8 or later receiving the Florence Nightingale Medal, is what each individual can do. A key point here is that, if you care, don’t stop at one good deed. Do what you can, but some element of perseverance is also necessary. Over time, someone will notice. If no one ever notices, well…anything is connected to everything else, and something you do can affect the future, what is called the butterfly effect. Every step you take, every move you make, if done with good will, will only benefit humanity over time.

This can happen in the negative too, as in Ray Bradbury’s Sound of Thunder. In this short story and movie, a tour guide some time in the future takes a couple of hunters in a time machine to shoot a dinosaur just at the moment it was supposed to die anyway. Unfortunately, one of them steps on a butterfly, and when they return home, they find a world significantly changed for the worse, a wrong kind of butterfly effect.

Has Claire Bertschinger cured poverty? Hardly, but what she started sparked the beginning of the solution, even if she originally had no clue as to what she was doing, except with good conscience helping humanity. You do have a clue, so you should be able to be more effective.

So, if Claire and the heavy footed hunter so monumentally can change the future without even knowing what they had done, why bother? Think about that. If you do something terrible, the future will  probably be negatively influenced. But, if you do anything purposeful and good, and keep at it, the odds are that you can, and will, change the future for the better. Claire Bertschinger’s act of sacrifice brought early (book) and continuing personal dividends (she was made a Dame--female version of knighthood, where males are called sir--by Queen Elizabeth II in 2010). Yours might take a millennium or more, but Planet Earth is good for another a billion years, and probably longer.

This Good Friday.  The stock, gold and oil markets in the U.S. and Europe are closed, but Japan's Nikkei was largely unchanged, closing at 9682.

Interestingly enough, here it is, April, and there is a disturbed area East of Florida, which shows potential of forming a tropical storm.


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