Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time

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Brazil becomes antipoverty showcase

The country’s Bolsa Familia program – which pays poor mothers to keep their children in school and follow healthcare rules – is reducing poverty.

Brazil becomes antipoverty showcase |

Of course, it costs too much for the richest country in the world to do anything like that.  Besides, who wants poor people who can read, write, think for themselves and see through lies?

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The Njabini wool-spinning workshop

10,000 Birds is on a birding expedition to Kenya, and stopped off at a small native industrial cooperative, a splendid example of what imagination and application can do to improve a variety of unsuitable conditions.

…without any reservation at all, the hour I spent at the workshop was as special a time as I’ve spent anywhere recently. It was motivating, inspiring, and – in a twist I simply didn’t see coming – extremely touching. …

The Njabini wool-spinning workshop – conservation at work

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The Other War We’re Not Winning

If you hadn’t heard that more than 10 percent of American households are in danger of running out of food, you’re not the only one. We don’t talk much about poverty anymore, in part because it’s a story that rarely makes headlines. “The issue is under-covered mainly because right now, the government is not actively engaged in programs trying to address the problem,” says David K. Shipler, author of The Working Poor: Invisible in America. Without War on Poverty programs to check in on, minimum-wage legislation to track, or new research findings to parse, reporters don’t have “hooks” on which to hang their stories. Consequently, there is a paucity of coverage outside of rare enterprise stories and ubiquitous holiday-themed tales about food shelves and shelters.

The result is that many people have an incomplete picture of poverty and what Shipler calls its “constellation of problems,” which magnify and reinforce one another. …

The Other War We’re Not Winning

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Blessed, or spoiled?

We have so many things happening in our lives that I suppose the idea of a day when we reflect on the good things makes a certain amount of sense.  However, it seems a bit of a shame that, as a society, we don’t stop to think about our blessings more frequently.

Some of the folks I hang out with are prone to having get-togethers with a gratitude theme.  There is a discussion, with each person taking a turn and expressing the things in their lives for which they are especially thankful.  On other occasions, when I was allowing life to get me down, it was suggested that I ought to make a “gratitude list” to help me concentrate on the positive aspects of a life that has been, overall, not only decidedly positive, but in some respects absolutely miraculous.

Those of us who have lived on the outer edges of existence — whether through physical sickness, mental illness, poverty, addiction, war, or combinations thereof — are perhaps a bit better-equipped to recognize the extremes than most folks.  That, alone, is a lot to be grateful for. 

They say that we have to have experienced unhappiness in order to appreciate joy.  While that might depend, to a degree, on our definition of joy, it is nonetheless true that a life lived on an even keel can seem pretty unremarkable when, in fact, the benefits of such a life are unimaginable for billions of people elsewhere (and perhaps nearby) on the planet.  Thanking a supreme being for such a life is the same as saying “We’re glad you love us more than all those people you have allowed to live in poverty and misery” — hubris by nearly anyone’s definition.

And, yet, isn’t that sometimes our attitude?  Do we not take the position, tacitly, if not openly, that we deserve the things we have by virtue of some sort of entitlement?  That we are in some way chosen?  That we are just the least bit better than all those other folks, or else we would not have been so blessed? 

Some people say that we’re only as big as the smallest thing that can annoy us.  I say that as a society we’re only as rich, spiritually, as the poorest of those among us, and that spiritual development must include development of a sustainable global economy with a decent standard of living for everyone. 

Even if some of us have to settle for a little less.

Before it’s too late.

Before we run out of things for which to be thankful.

Because, no matter what we have been led to believe, we’re really not that special.


Carbon Offsets: The New Cure for Enviroguilt

Airlines from Virgin Blue to Quantas have been touting new ecofriendly programs under which passengers paralyzed by enviroguilt over all of those jet-fueled carbon dioxide emissions can pay an extra carbon offset fee for tickets. The money these passengers pay — sometimes as little as $1 — is supposed to go to renewable energy or unspecified green causes and therefore make airline travel carbon neutral.

Carbon offset fees may be new, but the underlying notion goes back to the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church sold wealthy people indulgences to offset the spiritual cost of their sins and assure a place for them in heaven.

AlterNet: Environment: Carbon Offsets: The New Cure for Enviroguilt

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Rich Panoply of Giving Marks Third Clinton Global Initiative

NEW YORK, New York, October 1, 2007 (ENS) – When the formal portion of the third annual Clinton Global Initiative closed in New York on Friday, former President Bill Clinton announced that participants’ commitments will result in 170 million acres of forest protected or restored, plus millions of people with better access to health care, sustainable incomes, and education.

Rich Panoply of Giving Marks Third Clinton Global Initiative

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France’s open door is closing to easy immigration

France’s open door is closing |

An immigration bill, expected to pass, requires knowledge of French and proof of support. …Not only will incoming families face a higher hurdle, but an amendment quietly introduced DNA testing as a way to prove biological ties among them. In addition, French embassies abroad will be newly empowered to conduct extensive background checks of prospective residents. …

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Floods, Death, Destruction in Africa IGNORED by US Media

Floods hit large parts of Africa (BBC)

Severe flooding across Africa has wrecked hundreds of thousands of homes and left many people vulnerable to water-borne diseases, officials say.

Scores of people have died and much of the continent’s most fertile farmland has been washed away in what is being described as a humanitarian disaster.

 The BBC has it front page.  Al-Jazeera has it front page.  I checked the major US media sites, and NOT ONE is headlining it or even mentioning it on the front page.  We should have aircraft in the air and ships on the way, but THAT might involve money that can’t be funneled to Bush’s friends.

You can be proud to be an Amerricun all you want — I’m ashamed.

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What If Poverty Set the Government’s Agenda?

The actions of government alone will not address the persistent poverty that touches the lives of too many children in our society and beyond. Significant progress in reducing child poverty will require both government action and engagement from the private sector.

The church must assume its proper role in promoting both. Perhaps one way of doing so is being persistent in asking the question, both within and beyond the church, “What if poverty set the agenda?”

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