A few days ago I posted off my Micah Challenge Postcard to Prime Minister John Howard. Although I have not had a lot to do with the organisation, I think that Micah Challenge seems to be well worth the support. After all, Micah 6:8 has long been one of my favourite Bible verses:
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”
There is, however, a catch involved when we in the West are called upon to help “make poverty history”. Ghandi saw the dilemma, and when asked whether the then newly independent India would follow the British pattern of development he famously replied
“It took Britain half the resources of the planet to achieve this prosperity, how many planets will a country like India require?”
Last week I attended an interesting public lecture at ANU on the climate challenges associated with world development. The 2007 Narayanan Oration was presented by Dr Rajendra Pachauri, who is Director-General of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in India and Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Dr Pachauri spoke about the history of the awareness that Earth is a closed system, with finite resources. He presented many of the implications of the climate change that is already being observed, including several less-talked-about issues such as rising bacterial-borne disease.
His primary focus, however, was on the equity and ethical issues pertaining to climate change. Almost all of the responsibility for significant increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gases lies with the developed nations, but the most-at-risk are the undeveloped. The rich are not merely failing to share their wealth with those in poverty; we are literally living off their misfortune.
Humans already use more global resources each year than the Earth can produce in that time. At the moment humanity is using about 1.2 Earths; if all of us lived with the Australian average quality of life we would demand almost 6 Earths.
Despite these disconcerting facts, Dr Pachauri was still essentially optimistic. He is involved with India rising to the challenge of finding a path to development that can be sustained by the natural resources with which it has been endowed. Other countries are likewise searching for more egalitarian paths to development than the smoky road that we in the West forged.
Like Micah Challenge, I hope that poverty can become history. However, we are not going to achieve this by merely redistributing our wealth with gifts. Sacrifice is demanded: personally, communally, nationally and globally. If we cannot change the way we live, then humanity will suicide like a virus as it chokes its host to death.