If you happen to browse through the MSN newsreel today (my favorite source of mostly worthless information), you might find, tucked between "How to Wear Summer Whites in the Fall" and "Dining at the World's Weirdest Restaurants," a brief mention of a Ghanan boy who is raising money to aid Somalian children. Unfortunately, the article on fall fashion gets a whole page of the newsreel, while the story about 11-year-old Andrew Adansi-Bonnah walking door to door to local businesses to collect donations had to share space with two other articles.
Well, MSN's journalistic priorities aside, the famine in Somalia has been weighing on my mind lately. International aid organizations are calling on the world to donate to help alleviate the widespread malnutrition in Somalia, which is currently being called the world's "Worst Humanitarian Crisis."
While staring at the World Vision information page on the Somali crisis, I was torn between the urge to donate and the knowledge that, really, though it will save lives in the short term, relief donations are no permanent solution to the food shortages and economic disparities plaguing the globe.
But what in the world can I do about it?
Isn't that always the question? We are so inundated by images of poverty, corporate abuse, and unfair economic conditions, and so often, we have NO idea how we can really help. Yes, we can donate in crisis situations, but I think we in the Fat West have a sneaking suspicion that our daily lives are spent propping up an unjust system. And we just don't know how to make a difference in such an enormous problem, so we do nothing.
With all these feelings of helplessness roiling in my mind, I read an article this morning that summarized the main factors influencing world hunger in the last few decades, and guess what? It made me feel angry, small, and deceived by the powers that be, but it also gave me hope. The article described the international developments that have occurred since the 1960's, from the Green Revolution to the WTO and agricultural subsidies in developed nations. In different ways, most of these "development" policies have taken food production control out of the hands of local people worldwide, and put them in the hands of the largest developed nations and huge multinational corporations. Frustrating? Yes.
Fortunately, this excellent article had a solution: place food control back in the hands of the people. When people are empowered to grow their own crops, they have food, yes, and often a surplus to sell to make some money on the side. Compare that to the desperate scenario of hungry fathers, mothers and children sitting in crowds, waiting for the next rice 'n beans shipment from the UN, because the system makes it impossible for them to grow their own food.
Don't you love it when you know that what you are doing matters? I know many people who read this blog already support their local food systems for health, economic, and moral reasons. But let me encourage you even more: every dollar you spend supporting a local, organic farm is a dollar that doesn't go into the hands of Monsanto, Du Pont, or Wal Mart, and it's a dollar that is NOT supporting an unjust system.
We who have the privilege of deciding how to spend our money also have the huge responsibility of making sure that money is well-spent.
If you care about the plight of the world's poor, by all means, donate to a worthy aid organization. Hug your children and thank God that they are well-fed. And then stop buying worthless crap at Wal-Mart, and go plant a garden.
Posted at Fight Back Friday