Thursday, June 5, 2008

APB Online book discussion: "Common Wealth"

In an effort to get myself to read a book in a reasonable timeframe, I'm going to try something here! I have just purchased Jeffrey Sachs new book, "Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet." If anyone would like to join me, I'm going to do an on-line book discussion. I saw this proposed on another site and thought it was a cool idea because people can just weigh in whenever they get done with their reading and the posts will still be here for months to come for anyone who wants to read the comments.

Sach's other book was sort of difficult reading for me, so I don't know how this will go for me or anyone else, but we'll try the experiment anyway! I'm going to shoot for starting the discussion on Part One (that's about 50 pages) by the end of June to give people a chance to get the book and do the reading.

I hope you'll join in the discussion whether you have already read the book or will be reading along with me!

NOTE: (added later same day) A colleague of mine just informed me that the first part of the book is mainly about climate change. That's great for me because I'm really interested in how climate change and poverty are related, but just a warning that the poverty stuff doesn't kick in until later in the book.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Zambians Are Not Lazy

An entry by Lawrence Temfwe of the Micah Campaign in Zambia to provide an African perspective on poverty...
Are Zambians lazy as was reported in the Post newspaper recently? Song writer Nathan Nyirenda does not agree. In his song Mwemakufi, there is a line in which he states that we work like donkeys, in the morning, at noon and in the evening and yet we remain poor. Zambians are not lazy when doing manual work. The foreign owned mining companies are making treble profits because the Zambians who do labor work of digging copper are not lazy. Consider the women and men who work on the swamps of Lake Bangweulu catching fish. They work very hard to catch and smoke fish and to bring it to the market. Also most women who trade in vegetables have very little sleep as they wake up early in the morning to go and work in their gardens or to walk to the market to go and sale vegetables. Should we also talk about charcoal burners and traders who walk several kilometers starting as early as 04:00 hours pushing their bicycles with their merchandise to the market?

If Zambians work like donkeys why is poverty so rife especially among communities where people work in the morning, at noon and evening? First, we are lazy at planning for long-term. Most of our people work that they have food to eat at night. Few work that they have food to eat seven years from today. Joseph helped the Egyptians to plan for the lean years. Second we are lazy at using time as a resource. Several years ago when I worked at a college library overseas, I was paid per hour. Each time I went out to pick my child from school during working hours the clock stopped and I was not paid for that period I was not working. Can you imagine how many Zambians would not be paid for those times they leave office for personal errands?

Third we are lazy at holding public leaders accountable for their actions. Take the example of a case that happened two months ago where a government minister passed degrading remarks on women. This simple case demanded a motion by fellow parliamentarians that this minister be impeached for his self-confessed reckless life. Yet this case is still pending because the public is lazy to hold their public leaders accountable for their actions. Former USA president, Bill Clinton was almost impeached for a similar offence because the public was not lazy. But in this nation the public is lazy to hold leaders accountable for their actions and therefore, we have leaders who are not models of hard work and character.

Zambians are hard working people. What they lack are examples of diligence, and planning by their leaders. In Proverb 12:24 we read, “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.” Our people end up in slave labors because our leaders who are supposed to provide guidance on how we should live and perform duties in order to profit from the abundant resources God has blessed us are lazy. When Jethro the father-in-law to Moses visited him and found him doing unproductive work he said to him, “What you’re doing is not good. You and the people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.” Jethro advised Moses, “Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform” (Ex.18). Is this what civil leaders are doing? Is this what you are doing? If you are not then you’re part of the problem of why our people are not coming out of poverty.

Lawrence Temfwe

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Recipe for Hope Week #5

The next installment of Bread for the World's Recipe for Hope Campaign (a reason for despair in the current food crisis and an action for hope and change!)...Note that Chicagoland's own Willow Creek Church gets a mention!
Ingredient for Despair: The mixed blessing of increased consumption
Another key cause of increasing food prices is growing demand for food around the world, including some parts of the developing world. Hundreds of millions of poor people in China and India have escaped poverty in recent years—an accomplishment to be celebrated.
But it comes with a new challenge. With higher incomes, people are, for the first time, enjoying more diverse diets. In addition to higher demand for food staples, there is rising demand for meat, which in turn increases the demand for grain to feed livestock. And supply hasn't caught up to demand yet. Helping to boost the productivity of farmers in developing countries would go a long way to increasing the food supply.
National Public Radio’s recent series about soaring world food prices featured an excellent piece about this situation in China. Read or listen online.

Ingredients for Hope:
Our Recipe for Hope has two components—something you can do; and something you can say to our nation’s leaders.

-Take the Five-Day Solidarity Challenge: For five days, eat as half the world’s population does, with meals of oatmeal, rice, beans and vegetables. Set aside the money you would have spent on additional groceries to redirect those dollars to help alleviate hunger by making a donation to Bread for the World or your denominational hunger program. See how one church did an excellent job of educating its congregation and rallying support for the Five-Day Solidarity Challenge.

-Write to Congress:
Urge your members of Congress to ensure that food aid and agricultural assistance are available immediately, rather than 2009, to address this hunger crisis. Send an email to Congress.