As Thanksgiving approaches, we'd be wise to reflect on how lucky we are to have evolved on this extremely rich and fertile planet that we call home. Earth, Gaia or Mother Nature may not always be kind, but she has been abundant. We've enjoyed an absolutely gorgeous environment replete with essentials that have sustained humankind for eons and countless generations, allowed us to develop sophisticated cultures and explore the universe beyond our own borders.
With that notion of natural abundance in mind, it's devastating to note that we've arrived at the moment in our evolution at which we must seriously consider whether or not we'll be able to meet our essential needs -- down to the very basics like fresh water -- in the future.
It's also peculiar and, frankly, startling to realize that the locales that have actually supplied humankind with many of the resources to which we attribute greatest value -- things like precious metals and essential ores, rare gemstones and much of the petroleum, coal other energy commodities that fuel our bustling lives -- are among the most poverty-stricken spots on our abundant planet.
For example, how does a country that mines most of the world's gold wind up with one of the world's poorest per capita populations? Or a region that abounds in diamonds have citizens who live in makeshift shanties? Or a nation with a wealth of oil not have the resources to provide fresh water for its people? Or a fertile 'bread basket' valley have starving residents?
While we Americans prepare to give thanks for our bounty, we might also take time to reflect on those who have been denied access to the natural riches that surround them -- and figure out if, how and why our two sets of circumstances are connected.
The End of Poverty? is a new documentary that will help us to do just that. In the film, director Philippe Diaz presents a fascinating history lesson showing that the world's wealth disparity began with the Europeans' military conquest of other continents, enslavement of indigenous people and colonization that resulted in the seizure of land, minerals and other resources, and forced labor, and that it continues today due to the existence and enforcement of unfair debt, trade and tax policies. With Martin Sheen as narrator, and Nobel Prize-winners Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz, plus authors John Perkins, Eric Toussaint, Susan George, impoverished mine worker, mothers with starving and dehydrated infants and others as expert witnesses, and the timely sprinkling of shocking statistics, the film makes a compelling argument that our present economic system is the equivalent of human doom.
The End of Poverty opens in theaters New York on Friday, November 13 -- yes, Friday the 13th -- a good day, just coincidentally, to contemplate luck and thanksgiving, and the upcoming holiday season and what it means, and the adjustments that we can and must make to avoid man made human doom. The film also opens in theaters in Los Angeles on November 25, and other cities thereafter. But if you're not where The End of Poverty? is screening and want to see this excellent documentary, you might be able to arrange a screening in your town, or wait for the December release of the DVD. Meanwhile, you can watch the trailer.
(PHOTO: Impoverished miner in Potosi, Bolivia. Courtesy Cinema Libre).