from The Worldview Literacy Book   copyright 2009            back to worldview theme #24


     One approach to development—to the process of improving the quality of human life, especially in poor countries—is to target the poorest people and help them meet their most basic needs for food, clean water, shelter, clothing, health care and education.  To appreciate what a staggering job this is, consider recent global statistics (from UN agencies or reports to them). 

1) The world has 850 million hungry, food insecure people     (13% of its population).  Where are they?  See Figure #24a.

2) Over one billion people on the planet (>15%) lack adequate housing, while around 100 million have no housing whatsoever. 

3) More than one billion people (>15%) lack access to safe drinking water, around 2.6 billion people (40% of population)   currently have insufficient fresh water for minimal hygiene.

4) ~2.7 billion people have no access to improved sanitation.

     Suppose you are an aid worker, readying yourself for your first experience working directly with hungry, homeless, thirsty, dirty people—those living in absolute poverty.  In preparation you do some reading about hunger: an uneasy sensation, craving, or urgent need for food (or specific nutrient) due to lack of it.  Prolonged lack of food produces a weakened condition.

     It is one thing to read statistics and definitions related to people "Struggling With a Basic Need: Sustenance" and another to actually be one of those people!  Try to imagine what it would be like.  To have chronic diarrhea, to be unable to absorb nutrients from the little food you do get to eat given the parasites that live in your intestines—they're there because your only source of drinking water is contaminated.  As a mother, to watch your son slowly waste away as he starves.  As a father, unable to get a job because there are none, watching his eldest daughter pretty herself up before heading out on the streets: selling her body so the family can eat.  As a homeless wanderer,  being pleased you've found a dry place to sleep tonight—only to have someone much bigger show up and take it, along with stealing your tattered coat.  To be unable to read—not because of physical or mental defects, but because you started working factory jobs at a very young age and never got the opportunity to go to school.  To go to the country's main hospital: where dirt and flies are everywhere, rats lurk, where they have no drugs, no painkillers—not even aspirin, where dead bodies often sit for over a day before they are removed.

     You don't have to live in the developing world in a state of absolute poverty to relate to (perhaps even very strongly identify with) this worldview theme.  Rather it is for anyone who feels 1) their life is a daily struggle to obtain sustenance,   


and that their continued survival is at stake,  2) fear that their death by starvation, exposure, or illness brought on by lack of food, clean water, or sanitary living conditions may just be a matter of time—indeed it could just be one bad break or poor  decision away, or 3) for now, all they want out of life is to have their basic needs met so they can continue to stay alive: their wants have shrunk to the point where wants = needs, their thoughts are dominated by what they must do to obtain their next meal, drink of water, or place to sleep. 

     For many, obtaining sustenance centers on efforts to grow food (Figure #24b) on a small patch of land.  While this hard work can be rewarding when times are good and nature cooperates, it typically is a continuing struggle.  Drought can require hauling water long distances; continuing harvests and declines in soil fertility necessitate adding nutrients to it; if fertilizer is too expensive, some can slash and burn; natural pests—animals, insects, weedscan decimate crops requiring new fences and more pesticides—for which money may be lacking!

     The worldviews of those merely trying to stay alive narrow to focus (see "Focused Vision" theme #3) on matters of sustenance.  In a sense they are imprisoned (see "Servitude" theme #33A) by their poverty.  Psychologically, many suffer from poor self-esteem (theme #41).  Many have inner thoughts dominated by harm avoidance.  Some with mental illness are nonetheless trying to independently survive despite their handicap (see theme #52).  Those who feel they've been slowly beaten down by society have likely developed some cynicism (see theme #36A).  Some have developed a sense of fatalism (see theme #11A): becoming resigned to their poverty, feeling that no matter what they do, since they were destined to be poor, they can’t escape it.  Those struggling to eke out a living farming a poor piece of ground may still have a sense of "Belonging to Nature" (see theme #27)—but any remnant of ecological groundedness they feel has most likely long ago been stripped of joyous elements or sense of stewardship.  Many in desperate circumstances, sensing they have nothing left to lose, quit caring about things that were once important, and employ a selfish "end of game strategy" to survive. 

Figure #24a: Hunger Map

source: United Nations FAO



             RAIN ======>









Plants grow best in soils

rich in organic matter, moisture, and minerals—especially those containing nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.



Figure #24b: Food Comes From Plants 

plant gives off oxygen











soil erosion===>

Photosynthesis: sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide are absorbed by plants and transformed into carbohydrates (sugar, starch).  This serves as a direct source of food for people—or indirectly when they eat animals, who fed on plants. 

Microorganisms in soil fix nitrogen from the air and make it available to plants. They also decompose organic matter, minerals and release nutrients

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