“There are more people living in poverty in India than live in the entire United States”. This graphic is from Design Impact – an org based out of my hometown (Cincinnati, OH!) that is doing similar work, designing improved cookstoves for rural Indian populations, among other projects. You can read their full post here.
This info-graphic addresses a common refrain I hear: “you know, we have poor people here in the US, too.” The thing is- it’s really not the same. I care a lot about problems in the USA, strongly identify as a US citizen, and feel a very deep desire to work to improve my home country. But I can’t shake the belief that problems are worse elsewhere, and that I am more needed there.
In India, destitution is a continuous image – poverty, lack of education, poor sanitation, and environmental abuse saturating the land. Over 408 million people are living on less than $1.25 a day. Endless scenes make me want to scream until the whole world can hear that things are not OK. Things that seem to really “matter’ in the USA (dressing fashionably, having a great time hanging out with friends, going on vacations, getting into the best schools, always being happy) seem truly hollow and disconnected compared to the realities of daily life for so many… So many that urinate on the street, bathe in a river, drink water from a fountain… build a house by the road from bamboo sticks, sheets of plastic and cloth, and can’t even send their children to school.
I do not believe that lack of sanitation is fully someone’s “fault” in these conditions. If the government does not come to pick up your trash – what would you do with it? Clearly, take it out of your house. Maybe leave it outside in a pile, so that animals will come and eat it and thus it will be gone. Or burn it, if you want to get rid of it. Of course you don’t know that burning plastics has toxic emissions for you and the planet. Also, if your house is without electricity or running water, where will you go to the bathroom? Somewhere outside of your house, surely. Maybe into a small waterway so that things will be washed away. If you have no water, what will you drink? If you cannot buy soap, would that prevent you from eating? If you have no electricity or cleaner fuels, would you not burn whatever wood you could find to cook with?
I have met tourists who are in India and say: “These people are filthy and disgusting. This country is full of trash.” [These people were in Bhubaneswar] But again, unless the government provides basic public essentials (such as water, trash pickup, etc.) I cannot bring myself to blame the destitute who must do something with their waste and have very few options.
If you live in a country with these public services, you are a very, very, VERY lucky person.