‘The world has divided into rich and poor as at no time in history’

Speaking ahead of the G20 summit held in Toronto last week, Maude Barlow, head of the Council of Canadian — Canada’s largest public advocacy organization — said:

On the eve of this G-20 gathering, let’s look at a few facts. Fact, the world has divided into rich and poor as at no time in our history. The richest 2% own more than half the household wealth in the world. The richest 10% hold 85% of total global assets and the bottom half of humanity owns less than 1% of the wealth in the world. The three richest men in the world have more money than the poorest 48 countries. Fact, while those responsible for the 2008 global financial crisis were bailed out and even rewarded by the G-20 government’s gathering here, the International Labor Organization tells us that in 2009, 34 million people were added to the global unemployed, swelling those ranks to 239 million, the highest ever recorded. Another 200 million are at risk in precarious jobs and the World Bank tells us that at the end of 2010, another 64 million will have lost their jobs. By 2030, more than half the population of the megacities of the Global South will be slumdwellers with no access to education, health care, water, or sanitation. Fact, global climate change is rapidly advancing, claiming at least 300,000 lives and $125 billion in damages every year. Called the silent crisis, climate change is melting glaciers, eroding soil, causing freak and increasingly wild storms, displacing untold millions from rural communities to live in desperate poverty in peri-urban centers. Almost every victim lives in the Global South in communities not responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and not represented here at the summit.

The atmosphere has already warmed up a full degree in the last several decades and is on course to warm up another two degrees by 2100. Fact, half the tropical forests in the world, the lungs of our ecosystem, are gone. By 2030, at the present rate of extraction or so-called harvest, only 10% will be left standing. 90% of the big fish in the sea are gone, victim to wanton predatory fishing practice. Says a prominent scientist studying their demise, there is no blue frontier left. Half the world’s wetlands, the kidneys of our ecosystem, have been destroyed in the 20th century. Species extinction is taking place at a rate 1,000 times greater than before humans existed. According to a Smithsonian scientist, we are headed toward of biodiversity deficit in which species and ecosystems will be destroyed at a rate faster than nature can replace them with new ones. Fact, we are polluting our lakes, rivers and streams to death. Every day, two million tons of sewage and industrial agricultural waste are discharged into the world’s water. That’s the equivalent of the entire human population of 6.8 billion people. The amount of waste water produced annually is about six times more water than exists in all the rivers of the world. We are mining our ground water faster than we can replenish it, sucking it to grow water guzzling chemical-fed crops in deserts or to water thirsty cities who dump an astounding 700 trillion liters of land-based water into oceans every year as waste.

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2 thoughts on “‘The world has divided into rich and poor as at no time in history’

  1. delia ruhe

    Capitalism thrives on the gap between rich and poor, so this bigger-than-ever gap should surprise no one. The gap will persist as long as there are natural resources to be exploited and human resources upon whose backs the upper 2% can continue to flourish.

  2. Óscar Palacios

    I think capitalism has two major issues.

    For me, the main problem lies in the fact that this system permits unlimited accumulation of money. It’s ok to be a little rich. I mean, I have no problem with someone making 100 times more money than me — by making aproximately 14 thousand dollars a year in Mexico City, I live rather comfortably. The problem is that these guys want to earn 10000 times more, which is, to begin with, completely unjustified and absurd; they don’t work 10000 times more, they don’t have 10000 times more needs, etc.

    The second problem is that money should have a fixed value. It’s understandable that prices should fluctuate. But when the value of money itself fluctuates, you add unnecesary complexity to the system. Were would engineering stand if the length of a meter fluctuated according to laws who only a very privileged few understood?

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