Details of the problem and potential consequences.

Physical/Material Poverty:

When our Pysiological and Safety Needs are not met; when we are worried about our survival; when we lack nutritious food, clean water, good health, shelter or personal safety or live in abusive relationships and see no escape; when the places we live in are at war and our survival is under constant threat, our lives are often driven by fear and desperation.

Fear and desperation often lead to aggresive behavior such as violence, crime or conflict as we fight for those basic necessities of life anyway we can or to despondency, depression and lethargy where we see no way out and give up.

Currently, many hundreds of millions of people are suffering unmet Physiological and Safety Needs such as hunger, poverty, lack of access to clean water, energy and sanitation facilities, poor health, lack of adequate housing, violence, crime, etc. The consequences include:

  • There are currently more refugees and displaced people in the world than at any other time in history.
  • There are some 170 million children working as child laborers, many of them were born into servitude or sold into servitude by their families to enable the remainder of the family to survive.
  • the Secretary-General of the United Nations has said that there are currently more protracted conflicts in the world than at any time in recent history.
  • up to half the children in some of the most advanced developed countries are living below the poverty line. (It is estimated that one out of 5 people – 1 in 3 children – in New York City is living below the poverty line and one of every ten school children is homeless.)
  • A child dies of hunger roughly every 10 seconds.

The American psychologist, Dr Abraham Maslow is known for his widely used “hierarchy of needs,” whereby it is understood, that there is an order of priority reguarding which needs must be met before all of our needs can be met fully. For instance, physiological and then safety needs must be met before such needs as Esteem and Self-actualization: we will seek a means to get something to eat and be safe, before seeking a job which fulfills us personally and in which we can develop fully as a human being.

Spiritual Poverty: Beyond Physical/Material Poverty:

Beside the physical suffering caused when basic survival needs are not met, there is spiritual suffering: the suffering that comes when we are unable to connect, when we do not feel love and esteem for others or feel loved and esteemed in return. It also comes about when we are out of touch with those subtle feelings that tell us what actions to take to develop our own special qualities as a human being. 

When we are unable to connect with others to feel loved and love in return; when we do not feel that people respect us and we are unable to others, or when we are out of touch with those subtle feelings that guide us to doing and experiencing those things in life that make our own individual life feel deeply worthwhile as an individual we often lack feeling connection; there is a numbness and insensitivity that on the one hand leads us to seek surrogates to make up for the lack. This often takes the form of seeking riches, power and prestige to fill the need for connection without success, because power, prestige and riches cannot restore our capacity to feel, we seek more and more riches power and prestige.

Spiritual Poverty leads to Physical Poverty in a Race to the Bottom

Material and spiritual poverty, need and greed, are resulting in overuse, destruction and pollution of the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we need for our survival. This is affecting poverty levels, our health and our sense of security. It is leading to climate change, disruption of the water and food cycles, droughts, floods, fires, plagues and pandemics. As people’s lives and livelihoods are threatened this leads to a further overuse of Nature’s resources and the scarcer these become the more we scramble for what is left in an escalating race to the bottom.According to the UN Environment Programme, the Earth is in the midst of a mass extinction of life. Scientists estimate that 150-200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal become extinct every 24 hours. The following web site measures the species extinction rate: 

Species Extinction Rate – The World Counts

Needs that an Effective Solution Must Satisfy

An effective solution to the above-named needs:

  1. must satisfy people’s basic Physiological and Safety Needs such as nutritious and adequate food, clean drinking water, safe sanitation facilities, secure non-violent living and work conditions; and
  2. must nurture loving relationships that enable us to make the best of our own individual lives; must encourage esteem for what we are able to achieve at whatever level we are able to be active; and provide the wherewithal to be able to follow our hearts when it comes to developing our own individual potential;
  3. must foster constructive social relationship in which each person has a say;
  4. must result in a healthy and thriving natural environment that is secure from abuse and overuse and which is safeguarded by all people communally; and
  5. create a sustainable economic and social system globally that can keep all of the above intact and safeguard it for coming generations.

It is clear from above that we are looking for a system that can help us achieve all of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The next section describes a proposal for effectively addressing all of the above.