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- Categorized in: Schools
John Dornan from our education team was recently involved in the launch of a new resource for teachers and students interested in global issues. Here are his thoughts on the book. Conforti Institute can offer CPD sessions for teachers around this resource. Contact John on 01236 707907 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
80:20 Development in an Unequal World (6th Edition)
“In some respects the world is a much better place today than it was in 1990... Many people around the world have experienced dramatic improvements… They are healthier, more educated and wealthier and have more power… nonetheless, nearly 7 billion people now inhabit the earth. Some live in extreme poverty – others in gracious luxury.”
About two years ago, the editor of 80:20 sent me a spoof press release announcing that poverty had been named as the 8th wonder of the world, given that it had outlasted virtually every other man-made construction. In his introduction to this 6th edition, Colm Regan pointedly reminds us that poverty in our time is not a result of natural scarcity but ‘a set of priorities imposed on the rest of the world by the rich’.
Over the past 28 years, this series has placed the realities of global poverty in front of its readers in a variety of formats and the latest edition takes this further with the inclusion of a DVD of additional visual material, ideas for using the book as well as the entire text in searchable format. It also provides links to further sources of accurate information and there is a website (www.8020.ie) which will enable users of the book to learn from each other as it is used in different contexts.
But do we need another book on poverty? Only if you need to re-engage with the debates and questions or if, in the words of the editor, “We consistently fail to make the connections – between our well-being and the ill-being of others, between conspicuous consumption and deprivation, between ‘them’ and ‘us’. We acquiesce in a set of ‘resistances’ that paralyse and disempower, that tell us that change is not possible despite the evidence of change before us.”
The editor, Colm Regan, describes himself as an educational activist, and has dedicated this latest edition to ‘educators worldwide who continue to teach not just what is but also what is possible’. The purpose of the book is to ask hard questions about the persistence of poverty and deprivation:
why do 529,000 women die annually from complications of pregnancy and childbirth when this could be ended for the cost of a single Stealth Bomber?
Why do so many lack clean water and effective sanitation when providing it would cost just over half of the annual expenditure on cosmetic surgery in the USA?
Why is there no declaration of war against poverty when raising the 40% of humanity living below the $2 a day line would cost $300 billion annually, a fraction of the estimated $1.29 trillion cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan up to the end of 2011?
This book does not simply seek to inform or even map out the scale of poverty but challenges those who open it to decide how we feel about what we learn: to bring our values and emotions to bear as well as our knowledge and skills. Unlike previous generations we cannot claim ‘not to know’. We can choose to act for change or not but we cannot remain ‘neutral’.
Throughout its 16 chapters, 80:20 combines up to date information with challenging perspectives, attractive graphic displays and cartoons alongside the matter-of-fact accounts of the people whose lives make up the statistics which can often de-personalise the reality of their daily struggles. From inhabitants of a shanty town in South Africa taking control of cleaning up their area, to a Brazilian domestic worker inspired to join a union fighting for workers’ rights, to the South African activists of taking on 39 international drugs companies for the right to affordable treatments for HIV+, there are case studies which remind us time and again that the marginalised, disregarded and excluded have names, families, hopes, fears and dreams.
The graphic presentation pages lend themselves to use in wall displays for schools or church porches. The numerous quotations offer ample material for reflection and inspiration, and the introduction alone brings a passion to the field of development, justice and rights reminiscent of Martin Luther King’s oratory on civil rights.
On the personal level, I am still appalled by the simple fact, eloquently and visually presented on the DVD by Judi Dench and Daniel Craig, that no country on the planet treats its women the same as its men.
From sustainable development to human rights, from the rights of women to conflict over resources, from aid to empowerment, there is an entry point into this book for everyone. The authors make no claims to have written the last word but it provides comprehensive coverage of the major questions with guidance towards other sources (particularly other Third World sources – and there’s a term that causes endless debate in itself) and will be of value to teachers, students and interested individuals. Try it for yourself, but be sure that it will disturb and challenge your conscience.
80:20, Development in an Unequal World, with accompanying DVD, is available from the Scottish Development Education Centre, 3 Stafford Street, Edinburgh, EH3 7AU. Tel: 0131 226 1499, or through www.seedsforlearning.org.uk Price £17.50 plus p&p, discount available for bulk orders.
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