Thursday, June 14, 2012

Social Justice

According to the National Association of Social Workers, "social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities."  The Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice further defines it by stating, "Social justice embodies the vision of a society that is equitable and in which members are physically and psychologically safe.  Social justice also demands that all people have a right to basic human dignity and to have their basic economic needs met."  For me, social justice is something you notice when it's missing.  When one looks beyond the great American dream, there is poverty, hunger, squalor, exploitation, and environmental degradation.

Where do I begin?  American's make up less than 5 percent of the world's population, yet consumes 25 percent of the resources.  So the story begins with a very lopsided equation.  If we in the United States are maintaining our current lifestyle through the consumption of a large percentage of the world's resources, it follows that most of the rest of the world, the 95 percent plus living on 75 percent of the resources, is not doing so well.  Of course, it's even more lopsided than that.  The 25 percent of the resources being used in the United States is not evenly divided among the residents, nor is the remainder equally divided among the rest of the world.  Figures from the World Bank indicate that the world's richest 20 percent of the population consume almost 77 percent of the resources; those in the middle 60 percent consume almost 22 percent; and the world's poorest 20 percent consume less than 2 percent.

According to Global Issues, about 80 percent of the world's population lives on less than $10 a day.  About half of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day.  The World bank estimates that about 20 percent of the world lives on less than $1 a day.  The good news is that, the percentage of people living on less than $1 a day (defined as extreme poverty) has declined from about 45 percent in 1981 to 20 percent in 2008.  The bad news is billions of people still live in (and die from) poverty and extreme poverty.  The sad news is it doesn't have to be that way.

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