Poor countries often have poor waste management, water and air treatment, and power generation facilities. Even in large cities, people in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, etc. often burn their trash right beside their homes, bury toilet waste in pits beside their homes that may rarely or never get cleaned, don’t have very clean drinking water, and go without electricity every few days or weeks. A really good, humanitarian, and probably profitable idea for a large corporation, wealthy person, or the UN might be to build municipal utility facilities (water treatment; recycling; industrial quality incineration; urban air filtration; and solar, wind, or hydro power generation) into a fleet of ships that get deployed to the ocean and river shores of these countries — providing good quality utility services to a large portion of the planet at a cheap bulk rate.
There is a limited supply of (valuable) money, commodities, etc. in this world, and most of it is concentrated among wealthy nations, corporations, and billionaire individuals who often do not work as long or hard as people in poorer regions or nations. If “trickle-down economics” works (as Republicans in the US often claim), why are there poor people and nations in the world? Wealthy people can’t be counted on to reliably share their wealth or help others.
Social scientists often celebrate the diversity of cultures and languages in the world, because taken overall/comparatively, this diversity resists the negative aspects of globalization (e.g., corporate conglomeration and monopolization, the colonialistic imposition of wealthier or larger cultures on smaller or poorer ones, etc.) and offers a wide variety of ways of thinking about life.
However, most people are not social scientists; for most people, culture means ignorance. Most people don’t travel very far from home except perhaps for a very brief vacation or pilgrimage, just do a socially acceptable job, marry within their ethnic group and possibly social class, watch their people’s TV and movies, listen to their people’s music, speak their people’s language (thinking in terms of only one worldview, using words other groups can’t understand, etc.), eat their people’s food… and generally ignore or resist other societies and the natural world beyond their people’s territory.
People’s lives are small and brief, languages and cultures are complex and time-consuming to learn (sticking with the one you were raised with is easiest), and culture and language are tied up with people’s senses of self/identity. Culture+language is perhaps humanity’s most basic echo chamber, and most people seem trapped within one or two cultures, unable or unwilling to view their own existence differently.
If you can find ways of spending less, you don’t need to earn/work as much (but it’s still a good idea to have plenty of savings for old age or a rainy day). For example:
- Live in a poor area/country and work in/for a wealthy area/country. Rent or buy outright a tiny place, to minimize mortgage interest, utility, and maintenance fees.
- Own only 1-2 of the things you need (i.e., one primary and one backup).
- Keep pictures of things you’ve had/enjoyed in the past, instead of storing and moving things forever. Sell or donate more.
- Shop at thrift stores.
- Use prepaid cellphones, avoid long phone conversations, and find the free public wifi hotspots near you (and use HTTPS, Tor, and/or a VPN for protection).
- Replace large things that use a lot of electricity with smaller, more pinpointed things or well-designed locations (e.g., 1-watt USB fans and LED task/reading lights; phones, tablets, and laptops instead of desktops; put your computer to sleep when not in use; choose a house or apartment that gets good cross-breezes between the windows; etc.).
- Recharge small electronics from public places (malls, airports, etc.) or buy a small solar panel, if possible.
- Use free/open-source software instead of expensive proprietary software.
- Natural gas cooking and heating is usually cheaper than electric.
- Get in the habit of picking up a few groceries on your way home from work, so you don’t have to use a refrigerator as much or at all, and so that you eat fresher food.
- The body can adjust quite a bit to summer heat and winter cold, if you limit your exposure to heating and air conditioning systems. Also, fans, sweaters, blankets, and the like can go a long way before air conditioners and heaters really become necessary.
- Bathe in cool or lukewarm water.
- Handwash your clothes. Use clotheslines instead of clothes dryer machines.
- Bicycle or walk if you can. Use buses instead of subways, unless they are the same price (as in NYC). Use taxis and rental cars, instead of owning a car, unless owning a car is cheaper for your profession. If you must own a vehicle, consider a scooter/moped or motorized bicycle. I prefer motorized bikes, because if a scooter or motorcycle breaks down, you can’t pedal it home.
- Fill the empty spaces in your freezer with ice and fridge with cold water, so it doesn’t use as much energy to stay cool.
- A dark, thick, or reflective umbrella can protect against both rain and sun, and will probably last much longer than a tube of sunscreen.
- Watch and take care of wild animals (birds, trees, etc.), which live free and natural lives, instead of keeping pets, which often have genetic/breeding problems that can cause them pain and you high vet bills.
- Watch videos and listen to music from the public library or FM radio stations, instead of paying for streaming video and audio.
- Boil and maybe filter tap water, instead of buying bottled water.
- Live a healthy lifestyle, so your healthcare expenses are likely to be less.
Usually, I find that being well-educated and/or well-traveled makes people more open/large-minded, tolerant, patient, non-racist, non-nationalistic, peaceful, etc., and that being poorly educated and/or traveled makes people the opposite of those things. People who, mentally or physically, never go far from home usually seem to be the ones who are passionately attached to one (and against all others) religion, ethnic or national identity, sports team, local dialect of a language, and so on. A common metaphor for such people in south and southeast Asian countries is “frogs in a well.”
Here are three things, related to reconciliation and reparations, I wish the US would do:
- Give Native American nations some percentage of the land, of their choosing and under their administration, in every county of the US where they have historically lived, so that they are no longer confined to marginalized/poor reservations and can regain all of their ancestral lands to some degree.
- Create a federal Department of Slavery Reparations, which would have these five mandates:
- Work with the IRS and historians to tax white people whose ancestors held slaves, and either give the money directly to poor black people whose ancestors were slaves or make public colleges in the US free for such black people.
- Offer free historical family investigations, done by PhD historians and geneticists, to black people whose ancestors were slaves, going back to the tribe/village in Africa from which they were taken.
- Fund numerous community development and job-placement programs in majority black neighborhoods across the US, organized and led by African Americans.
- Create minimum quotas for African American inclusion/hiring in every American company and at every American mass media network/studio (every movie, TV show, etc.).
- Work in similar ways to repair the effects of other types of historical and modern slavery/trafficking in the US (e.g., indentured servitude, sex slavery, etc.).
- Coordinate with African governments and companies to allow African Americans to take free flights to/from Africa and to find housing, insurance, and decently paid public-service work in Africa, both to re-connect with the homeland from which they were stolen and to help all Africans lift themselves up from the colonialistic legacies that have weighed them down for so long.
Disclosure: In the 1700-1800s, some of my ancestors had a few (maybe 10) African slaves, and my ancestors settled on lands that were taken from Native Americans. Of these things, I am not proud.
In my opinion, there should be much lower legal or practical limits on how wealthy an individual or a corporation can become. Billionaires and large corporations just gobble up, and decide the fate of, most everything they encounter. Only they can often manage/afford representation on government committees. Only they can hire as many lawyers as necessary, and appeal for as long as necessary, to win any battle. Only they can afford to hire the most popular artists and constantly saturate the world with their marketing campaigns. Only they know that they will always have enough customers and employees, such that they can have exploitative internal policies and rude external customer service without consequences.
Why does a person need more than maybe a million dollars of savings (i.e., enough to have a middle-class family, house, car, health insurance, retirement, etc.), or a large corporation more than maybe a billion (i.e., enough to provide their service at a high quality to a large region)? Why do wealthier people get to act like monarchs/dictators and decide the fates of poorer people? Did they really earn their wealth fairly — through a daily workplace grind, like most people — or are they being rewarded for out-thinking, out-maneuvering, or being willing to do more unethical things than others? How many local people’s lives would have been enriched, how many local companies and jobs would have been created, if a large corporation’s store(s) had been required to close early, because they had reached their sales limit for that day?
“First you make the mistake, then you cry about it” (Siddharth), said by a policewoman to a poor man who had sent his child alone to a distant relative’s factory for weeks or months at a time to work, and who was then surprised when the child went missing or was abducted.
How does finding distant solar system objects or subtle gravity waves, studying distant supernovae, determining the geologic compositions and distant pasts of uninhabitable planets in our solar system, theorizing about the ultimate fate of the universe trillions of years from now, creating super-intelligent AI that could replace or kill us all, etc. solve humanity’s most pressing problems (i.e., old age, disease, death, poverty, ignorance, over-population / resource shortages / environmental destruction, natural disasters, etc.)?
Why isn’t the above research money being spent on healthcare research, poverty elimination programs, giant solar and wind farms in the Earth’s deserts, giant solar panels or shades in space, giant CO2 scrubbers for Earth’s atmosphere, propulsion systems and ships capable of taking many humans to other habitable worlds (or at least large-scale space stations and Mars colonies, so that not all of humanity is on one fragile planet), etc.?
For once, I wish the international news media would acknowledge that over 150,000 people die everyday on Earth for some reason, instead of focusing on celebrities and sensationalism. Heart disease, strokes, respiratory diseases, HIV, accidents, and so forth are often preventable and are much more dangerous than terrorists.