Thursday, March 20, 2008

Food For Thought 2

My uncle works in the dry lands of India doing watershed development. Water isn't the sexiest of issues for Non-Resident Indians, and so when my uncle speaks or does fundraisers, he's often asked, "Why water? Why not women's literacy or something like that?" To which my uncle invariably replies, "If people cannot EAT they don't have much use for reading."

Yesterday I talked about how most first world citizens have their basic needs met, yet still live in a state of uncertainty. While this is true, what I failed to mention was that for many Americans, secondary needs such as health care and affordable education are not being met. Why is this important? Because, simply put, if people are sick, if they are going into debt to pay medical bills, or college tuition, they aren't going to care so much about global warming.

In fact, according to a 2005 Nicholas Institute poll, when voters were asked what issue was the most important to them personally, the environment ranked last at ten percent. The economy/jobs ranked first at 34%, health care came in second at 25%, and Iraq came in 3rd at 22% (Break Through 32.)

Honestly, the most surprising thing about that for me? Is that a whole ten percent of voters chose the environment. Because as concerned as I am about the environment, if I'm being honest, I'd probably choose health care as my number one issue.

So what does this mean? Does it mean we have to wait around until we solve health care before doing anything about the environment? No, of course not. The real answer is that we can't afford to pick and choose one most important thing. It's all important. The more confident people are in the economy, the more likely they are to start looking outward more, and the more likely they will care about the world they live in. Getting out of Iraq means that money will be freed up for things like tackling our debt, or fixing health care. Healthier citizens have more energy to focus on such things as the environment.

As for my uncle, once his NGO had time to tackle the most urgent water needs, they did start a woman's cooperative. The women are learning important skills from reading to sewing to even using computers. Most importantly, they have learnt to make and sell products so they can earn a living, and be guaranteed fair wages. Here is a reusable bag one of them made:

Ecological AND empowering for women! What could be better than that?


Cindy said...

Majority of the people are not likely to tune into environment as a standalone issue. Whether they should be faulted or not may be ultimately irrelevant. The environmental messages would have way way way more appeal if they were framed as health care or employment issue. A while ago I heard McCain's take on global warming during a debate. His simple message is: We should invest in alternative energy and green businesses because if global warming is real and terrible, we will have averted the disaster; if global warming turns out to be less of a threat, we will still have created jobs and wealth and we will still have developed energy independence. He successfully avoided the potential nitpicking of the global warming model and scientific evidence. Instead he framed it as a job and wealth creation which has great appeal to most people. Democratic politician can probably learn a lot from Republicans when it is about creating framework with mass appeal.

lauren said...

I saw your comment on fakeplastic fish's post about composting. I live in an apartment complex without balconies, but with a small stretch of side (sort of) yard. We also don't produce enough food scraps to warrant our own bin.

However, our fellow apartment dwellers pitched into to buy a basic composting bin. Might be something to run by those in your building, if you have a small outdoor space.

arduous said...

But, but, that would mean TALKING to my NEIGHBORS. Heh, it's a good point and I'll definitely take it under consideration. Thanks. ;)

Green Bean said...

Interesting post, arduous. It is interesting how rarely people cite the environment as a concern though everything is intertwined. Thanks for the food for thought.

Beany said...

My husband and I have a solution for the US health care problem. Save a few thousand bucks for a plane trip to India and get treated there. Plenty of excellent doctors who speak excellent English, and you can get treated like a king...if you can survive the air quality.

And water is a very important issue. Why else is Georgia claiming a sliver of the Tennessee river?.

I wonder if the poll results are based on what issue the TV industry is touting to be the most important fact at the time of the poll.

arduous said...

Beany, no joke, I know a lot of people who have done just what you suggested. Of course, they were mostly of Indian origin.