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Mediating Our Future: A Road Map For Deconstructing Poverty

By Tina Cornely

Poverty reduction and stabilizing climate change are two critical components and two required undertakings so we can work together towards building a more sustainable world. Climate Change policies will help contribute to poverty reduction and poverty reduction policies will contribute to Climate Change mitigation and resilience building.

The 2015 COP21 Paris Conference helped bring Climate Change front and center on a global stage. The Giving Pledge is another important initiative that has already enlisted 142 of the world’s wealthiest who are dedicating the bulk of their wealth to philanthropy. Did you know that China is now home to 596 billionaires and has surpassed the US’ 537? If you include Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau in the tally, the count for China reaches 715. A staggering amount of wealth concentrated in a nation that is surrounded by extremely impoverished countries.

Could philanthropic billionaires be the key to eradicating poverty?

According to The Almanac of American Philanthropy Americans gave nearly $360 billion to charity in 2014. A notable achievement indeed but the breakout is even more notable. 14% came from private foundations and charitable endowments. 5% came from businesses. As remarkable as this may sound, the bulk of the $360 billion was donated by individuals.

The recently released Atlas Giving Report stated that total charitable giving in 2015 came in at an estimated $477.55 billion. This is the highest amount ever recorded.

The reality is eradicating poverty and mitigating Climate Change is everyone’s responsibility.

We already have our primer in place as clearly noted above the giving spirit and awareness about Climate Change is growing.

So what is the next step? Going local and fast tracking a circular economy? Sure but what about the world’s poorest countries which are the same ones that are poised to suffer the most from Climate Change?

The UN already has a solid blue print with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Additionally a recent World Bank study titled Poverty Reduction in Ghana concluded that Ghana has made remarkable achievements in poverty reduction which was made possible by diversifying the economy beyond agriculture and improving access to basic services, including education, health and electricity.

Ghana has been garnering attention as of late as its success story has proven that the vicious cycle of poverty can be broken. The UAE based NGO Dubai Cares recently donated $2 million to scale up long distance teacher training in Ghana. Better teachers, faster results.

However one size does not fit all as Ghana’s urban revival is not entirely applicable for poverty reduction strategies in remote rural communities.

A successful platform that I witnessed first hand is one implemented by the World Wildlife Fund. While on loan as a volunteer to the WWF Borneo team I spent time deep in the jungles of the Kalimatan region. My mandate was to teach the women from various Dayak tribes how to repurpose trash into arts and crafts. Sad but true, trash has made its way into the jungles of Borneo. Pollution will continue to be a problem unless there is a charge for plastic bags and containers. My goal was to achieve this through another approach by showing poor women how to weave kumihimo braids using plarn (plastic bag yarn) into purses and hammocks and how to make jewelry and sequins out of aluminum cans. Indigenous crafters have to invest money in materials for their wares. Showing them how to make their own materials saves money and helps the environment as they realize trash has a value.

What I witnessed while spending time in a small Dayak village called Ukit-Ukit was inspiring. This tight knit community was self sustained. Many homes had solar lights. They grew enough food to eat and sold the surplus. Each home had tilapia ponds and their own pigs which ate organic refuse. They made their own wine and tea from their own produce. When they wanted extra money to pay for their children’s school, clothes or petrol for their scooter, they would harvest and sell rubber from rubber trees. Rubber tree harvesting is non threatening to the tree.

WWF Borneo has done and continues to do an outstanding job. Their outreach training throughout remote areas of Borneo has successfully converted many poachers into animal protectors and loggers into conservationists. Their savvy guidance helped turn around impoverished remote communities and restore balance to damaged eco systems.

We have a road map to deconstruct poverty:

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
Accra, the capital of Ghana as a master plan for impoverished cities
WWF Borneo’s template for self sustained remote villages

Indeed the path to a more sustainable future is within our reach. Making this happen will be up to you and me, not just the world’s billionaires.

To tackle the world’s greatest challenges will require each of us becoming our planet’s Global Citizens.

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