America Is Not The World

world mapMany of us in the United States are so richly over blessed that we are out of touch with the rest of the world.  I remind my students a few times each year that America is not the world, and it happened again today.

I’m teaching geography in this summer school session.  I showed my students a 30 minute film today on the human effect of climate change.  In Bolivia, Bangladesh, the Bahamas and Moldova, a few degrees of average temperature change have effected local weather conditions greatly.  It was a recurring theme throughout the film for local residents to say things like “The rain comes at the wrong times.”  One woman talked about how flooding washed away their crops of maize, but the flooded rivers did not supply them with fish either.  Needless to say this left many people starving.  In Malawi, a rice farmer stood in the middle of a dry field that should have been practically underwater.  It had rained there in the winter, but stopped too early in the spring. 

In our industrialized economy, most of us are far removed from actually seeing our food grow.  For an example of American arrogance, look no further than our development of Flexfuel.  On the surface, this seems like a great idea; produce gasoline from organically grown products, thus lessening our dependency on foreign oil.  This alternative caught on quick when the price of gas passed $4 a year or two back.  The problem is that so much corn was being turned into Flexfuel, that the balance of the world food market was disturbed.  Corn is a staple in the diet of many of the world’s inhabitants, and we were driving our Hummers and such around on it while people starved.  As people switched from corn to rice, supply of that crop fell behind demand and the result was a worldwide food shortage.  No problem for wealthy Americans who could call Pizza Hut for delivery, but hundreds of thousands were starving world wide so that we could buy $2 gas. 

It may be the collapse of civilization as we know it when GM stock sells for less than $1 a share, but that level of “civilization” is unknown in much of the world.  Even in this period of economic meltdown, we live far beyond subsistence farming.  The next time you’re sipping a $4 cup of coffee at Starbucks, remember that verse that says “To whom much is given, much will be required.”  It may not be any of personal fault that 40% of the world’s children do not have clean water to drink, but have any one of us personally done anything about it?  I know some have, but I venture to say it’s a minority.

Every person on earth could eat one meal a day on what Americans spend each year on ice cream.  Of the 6 billion people on earth, 300 million live in America, yet we consume more than half of earth’s natural resources.  I am well aware that there are Christian organizations as well as secular programs that distribute food, water and medicines around the world.  For the most part, however, we have our collective heads in the sand when it comes to knowing what is going on around us.  Remember that cup of water Jesus talked about giving a child in his name?  It’s time for us to recognize.

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