Wealth Pyramid

by bicyclemark 1 Comment

Sometime around the spring of 1999, I stepped into my first day of a class that would change my life forever. It was African-American politics at William Paterson U, and in walked a polite and mild mannered man who would later become one of my most valued friends and mentors.

In my fuzzy memory, the first thing Yemane did, after telling us his name, was to draw a pyramid on the board. He divided that pyramid, a tiny line near the narrow top, which he labelled — 80% of the world’s wealth. Then he circled the rest of the pyramid, pointing especially to the large bottom part — 20% of the world’s wealth.

Actually I think it was more dramatic than that… Yemane was (and is) excellent at breaking down the world around us. From that point on politics, understanding who gets what, why, and how, became an obsession.

This week I see a familiar statistic… the global concentration of wealth report reveals that in the last 5 years… that pyramid has gotten worse. The people at the top, the small group, have gotten richer than ever before. And the rest of the people in that pyramid, the majority of people in our world, have gotten poorer.

The updated and more accurate statistic from the report is as follows:

  • 0.7% of world’s population control more than 1/3 of the world’s wealth.
  • Where? Half of that group are in North America, while 1/4 are in Europe.

I’ve always believed that this statistic is one of the best places to start if you want to pick apart what is wrong with the world. If you want to spark people’s concern and interest in figuring out why this has happened and the tremendous price humans pay because of this mind boggling inequality.

Later this week I’ll have a podcast on this topic, with guests. So stay tuned.

Chemicals Everywhere Hurting Kids

by bicyclemark

What always amazes me about today’s society, besides how fun the Wii is, is how you can see articles and reports that identify the extreme dangers of everyday items, and yet if people like these items, they go on using them. The most famous is probably cigarettes, but I would call them an easy target. Items like PVC plastics, nonstick frying pans, hair dye, soft drinks, and various types of fast food.. are all proven to contain toxic ingredients that can destroy or weaken the body over time. No matter how many studies come out, I’m sure you or someone close to you have happily used one of these today. What do you call this phenomenon extactly? Complacency?

After doing some deep research in the last months on the topic of Dow Chemical and other companies producing nonstick products and failing to disclose the dangers posed by using them, today I noticed another chapter in this horrid tradition. In a series of articles which appeared in the New York Times along with medical journals, pediatricians have been investigating puberty and how it continues to arrive earlier and earlier in each generation of children. Research shows that one of the major causes of this can be found in regular household products, toys, and food.. which contain hormone-mimicking chemicals.

While I’m sure there will be people, including scientists and doctors who are not convinced, It seems clear to me than enough evidence has come forward to warrant some action. Which includes radically adjusting diets and changing your shopping habits. In this recent alternet post, several steps are recommended for protecting children from these chemicals, here’s the list:

    # Avoid meat, milk and dairy products containing growth hormones

    # Buy organic produce

    # Minimize soy, which mimics estrogen

    # Choose green household products

    # Encourage children to eat well and exercise

    # Prevent children from chewing on plastic toys

    # Avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products, including vinyl shower curtains and toys and packaging that bear the number “3,” indicating they’re made with PVC.

There’s also a reference site like Safe Cosmetics.org, which can also help identify which cosmetics have what.

Still, the truely strange fact for me writing this, is that even after you read this, you’ll take your child out for some hormone-injected meat and buy them a new plastic-pvc toy. WHY? -We don’t know.