The Better World Handbook
eBook - ePub

The Better World Handbook

Small Changes That Make A Big Difference

Ellis Jones, Ross Haenfler, Brett Johnson

  1. 320 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

The Better World Handbook

Small Changes That Make A Big Difference

Ellis Jones, Ross Haenfler, Brett Johnson

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Table of contents

About This Book

The definitive guide for people wanting to make a positive difference in the world.

Specifically designed to reach people who normally would not consider themselves activists, The Better World Handbook is directed toward those who care about creating a more just, sustainable, and socially responsible world but don't know where to begin. Substantially updated, this revised bestseller now contains more recent information on global problems, more effective actions, and many new resources.

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Economic Fairness
Comprehensive Peace
Ecological Sustainability
Deep Democracy
Social Justice
Simple Living
Revitalized Community
The arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE is a lifelong journey. If we plan and prepare for this journey as we would for any other, it will make the trip less frustrating and more gratifying. When we learn a bit about where we have been and consider where we are going, it helps us to understand our current place in the voyage. An understanding of the scope of the world’s problems and their potential solutions will help you realize the importance of your everyday actions and will inspire you to create meaningful change.
This section outlines seven essential foundations upon which we can build a better world. We begin our exploration of each foundation by describing the challenges that face us at home and around the world. Then we launch into concrete goals — viable alternatives that can confront the challenges and help us construct the foundation. We also give inspiring examples of dedicated people around the world who are already making a positive difference. We end with some of the best, most accessible resources from which you can learn more about each issue.
Economic Inequality End of Global Poverty
Debt Crisis and Unfair Trade Fair Trade
Sweatshops Ethical Economics
War and Genocide International Cooperation
Militarization Nonviolent Culture
Culture of Violence
Resource Overconsumption Clean Energy Sources
Pollution Sustainable Resource Use
Global Warming Stable Population Growth
Overpopulation Global Ecological Cooperation
Lack of Democracy Open and Honest Politics
Money in Politics Democratic Media
Media Control Civic Participation
Gender Inequality Equal Rights For All
Racism Universal Health Care and Education
Inadequate Health Care
Advertising Overload Reclaimed Consciousness
Commercialization of Childhood A Culture of Simplicity
Loss of Connection Revolution of Caring
Lack of Compassion Smart Growth
Strong Local Institutions
A world dedicated to economic fairness would strive to meet every person’s basic needs so that no one would lack food, shelter, clothing, or meaningful work. People’s strength of character and passion should determine their opportunities rather than the economic circumstances into which they were born. Everyone would benefit from economic prosperity.
Economic Inequality — Debt Crisis and Unfair Trade — Sweatshops
Economic Inequality
As each year passes, the immense gap between the rich and the very poor grows. While recent economic development in China and India has pulled millions out of poverty, about one billion people around the world still live in extreme poverty — living on less than one dollar a day.1 2.5 billion people (40% of the world’s population) live on less than $2 a day.2 Much of the world’s poor is caught in a “poverty trap.” Their daily struggle against hunger and disease is an overwhelming challenge for those without education, financial resources, or modern technology. This poverty is not caused by absolute scarcity. There is more than enough wealth in the world to meet everyone’s needs — poverty is caused by an unfair system of distribution. In 2005, the richest 10% of humanity made more money than the remaining 90% of the world’s population combined!3 The poorest 40% of humanity only received 5% of the world’s income.4 Citizens and leaders of wealthy nations should not be able to sleep at night knowing that 850 million people are chronically hungry!5
This cycle of inequality does not bode well for the 1.3 billion people — over one-fifth of the world’s population — who lack access to clean water and the 24,000 people who die from hunger-related causes every day. That’s one person dying every 4 seconds!6 And 6.5 million children under five years of age die every year from hunger-related causes — that’s 18,000 a day, every day of the year.7 As global economic inequality grows, the developing world’s voice in the global economy decreases — leaving the world’s poor in even a more powerless position.
In the rich countries huge corporate mergers further concentrate the world’s wealth by generating millions of dollars in profits for wealthy stockholders and executives, often while laying off (downsizing) tens of thousands of workers. In 1980, the average American CEO earned 42 times as much as the average worker they employed. By 2003, the gap had grown to over 300 times.8 In 2004, the CEO of Yahoo brought home a salary of $60 million in addition to cashing out $230 million in stock options — that’s almost $800,000 per day (including weekends).9
Source: Center on Budget Priorities based on data from Congressional Budget Office.
Since the 1970s, the US economy has increasingly become top heavy — with the privileged gaining huge amounts of wealth and the middle and lower classes often struggling to make it, let alone move ahead. The richest 1% of Americans owns over 33% of the country’s wealth—with the richest 10% owning a staggering 71%.10 Currently, the richest 1% of Americans owns as much wealth as the entire bottom 90% of the US population combined!11 Stock ownership is even more skewed. The richest 1% owns 44% of all value in stocks and mutual funds—three times the share of the poorest 90% of Americans.12 While a privileged few wield fortunes in the billions, others live in disem-powering poverty. Despite great progress in the 1960s, the official poverty rate in 2004 is higher than in 1973.13 In fact, more than 11 million US children live in poverty.14
Compared to 19 other rich, industrialized countries, the US has more inequality, less mobility out of poverty, and more child poverty.15 This inequality has even affected average life expectancy. According to the latest CIA estimates, the US ranks 48th in overall life expectancy, behind Bosnia and Herzegovina!16
Debt Crisis and Unfair Trade
Most developing countries owe staggering amounts of money to wealthier nations and global financial institutions. Interest payments on these debts further exacerbate the hardships poor people suffer. International aid often doesn’t work or doesn’t make it to the people who need it most. Despite their claims to the contrary, the world’s major international lending institutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, have consistently favored First World corporations and are widely acknowledged to have increased poverty among the world’s most desperate peoples. Despite having paid off the original $540 billion in loans, developing countries still owe approximately $520 billion in accumulated interest.17 Jubilee estimates that eliminating this debt could save the lives of 19,000 children every day.18
Once poor countries acquire so much debt that they have no hope of paying it back, the IMF bails them out on the condition they accept “structural adjustment programs” (SAPs, also called austerity programs). SAPs require government budget cuts in all kinds of social programs in favor of programs that focus on quickly transforming the countries’ assets into cash that can be paid directly to lending institutions. Not surprisingly, the rich government officials who accepted this debt in the first place don’t personally suffer when it comes time to pay it back. Food subsidies, education, health care, and other services that the poor depend on are often the first programs to go.19 In 2000, Mozambique’s debt payments on its IMF loans were $1.4 million per week, more than four times what the country spent weekly on basic health care.20 The Nicaraguan government spent almost twice as much on debt repayment as on education and health care combined.21
While many of the rich countries preach the ideology of “free trade” to get their products into poor countries, they highly subsidize their own industries (especially agriculture) and put tariffs on products coming from poorer countries. When poor countries export products to the richer world they face tariffs that are four times higher than when the trading relationship is reversed—to the sum of $100 billion a year.22 These “rigged rules and double standards” benefit rich countries and undermine the poverty-fighting potential of global trade.23 As corporate interests have dominated trade negotiations, corporate profits demand priority over labor standards, environmental protection, and any other social considerations.
When companies create jobs in poor countries, they often force workers to endure sweatshop conditions — unsafe work environments, forced overtime, and pitiful wages. Profit-hungry businesses and corrupt governments keep wages low by firing workers who try to organize unions and failing to enforce labor laws. A US Department of Labor investigation found that workers in an American Samoa factory were often beaten, deprived of food, and forced to work without pay — a modern form of slavery. The factory sold its clothing to J.C. Penney’s, Kohl’s, Sears, Target, and Wal-Mart.24 Thousands of miles away, children as young as ten work on banana plantations for half the legal minimum wage while being exposed to enormous amounts of toxic pesticides.25 Forced overtime, 16-hour work days, ...

Table of contents

  10. MONEY
  12. FOOD
  17. HOME
  18. WORK
  19. MEDIA
  22. TRAVEL
  25. NOTES
Citation styles for The Better World Handbook

APA 6 Citation

Jones, E., & Johnson, B. (2007). The Better World Handbook ([edition unavailable]). New Society Publishers. Retrieved from (Original work published 2007)

Chicago Citation

Jones, Ellis, and Brett Johnson. (2007) 2007. The Better World Handbook. [Edition unavailable]. New Society Publishers.

Harvard Citation

Jones, E. and Johnson, B. (2007) The Better World Handbook. [edition unavailable]. New Society Publishers. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Jones, Ellis, and Brett Johnson. The Better World Handbook. [edition unavailable]. New Society Publishers, 2007. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.