By Nhial Tiitmamer
The University of Alberta, Augustana Campus, marked International Week, from February 2-6, with many events aimed at raising awareness about global problems.
The celebration provided an opportunity for the participants to pause and challenge themselves with a theme of balancing their lives with the global realities of human basic needs.
For keynote speaker Frances Moore Lappe, it takes nothing short of democracy and equitable distribution of resources to realize a hunger free world. Lappe is the bestselling author of Diet for a Small Planet and a renowned advocate for democracy and hunger free world. She spoke at the North Campus in Edmonton on Feb 2nd and her speech was webcast live to the Faith and Life Chapel at Augustana Campus.
In her address, titled Ending Hunger, Feeding Hope, Lappe challenged the notion that world hunger exists because of scarcity of food.
“Scarcity is not our problem,” she said, arguing that food production has risen in the last several years ahead of world
|Professors and students participate in the No One Belongs in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp.|
population. If scarcity is not the problem, what is the problem?
Lappe pointed a finger of blame to what she described as society’s “fundamentally flawed mental map,” which holds assumption that there is scarcity. According to her, the “premise of scarcity” fuels what she called “selfish, competitive, acquisitive and materialistic" human nature, which she blamed for being responsible for the widening disparity between the rich and poor nations. She said six world corporations control most of the world trade in food grain. While a billion of people in the world are suffering from hunger, a lot of food is used for fuel and feeding of livestock.
Lappe stressed that democracy is the key to solving the problem of hunger because concentration of power in the hands of few without democratic checks and balances let “humans do bad things to one another.”
Lappe’s talk was characterized by optimism about the future prospects of the developing nations. She enumerated how thousands of villagers in places like India and other places in the global South have worked hard to improve their lives in the last three decades.
"What you don’t hear about is that more jobs have been created by villagers working together and improving their incomes than in high-tech industries," Lappe said in what could be seen as clear reference to a gloomy talk about the future prospects of poor nations, which often stirs despair in audience instead of hope. She said an Indian dairy cooperative society, which was set up by village women with100, 000 diaries, has made “India one of the world’s leading dairy producers." Bangladesh took the Indian example and helped increased the income of 300, 000 families tenfold. Lappe also gave an example in which Prof. Wangari Mathaai, a Kenyan environmentalist, planted about 40 million trees with village women, which won her the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Furthermore, Lappe cited an example of a city government in Brazil which was elected in 1993 on a platform of delivering food to people as a basic human right, and ten years later, the infant mortality rate was reduced to more than half.
Lappe called for a “deep need of fairness” in the world and what she called “fundamental shift in the premise of lack to the premise of responsibility.”
It may take a dose of active global citizenship too in order to realize a balanced world. Alyson Rowe of the War Child Canada was here on campus to drive home the point of active global citizenship. Rowe spoke on Monday, Feb 2nd to a group of students at the Faith and Life Chapel about what it means to be a global citizen. War Child Canada, for which Rowe has been coordinating its activities across university campuses all over Canada, is a Canadian charity that has devoted time and resources to helping war affected children worldwide.
The week was remembered with a lot of events, which included talks, film shows, music, sports and international meal in the cafeteria. The Augustana Walk for Darfur Club set up a simulation of an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp throughout the week to raise awareness about the plight of internally displaced people in the Sudanese region of Darfur.
Apathy towards the participation in the events was not a big issue this time on campus. For Leslie Landballe, people’s passion about global issues coupled with generosity to give their time was a source of delight for her. “So many people have volunteered so much time and energy to bring everything together that in a lot of ways I feel like I have just got to enjoy the week,” she said, adding that she was grateful to “all of the groups who have put on different events and did everything further than expected.”
Leslie Lindballe and Danielle Hachey, who have been at the centre of organizing this year international week, said they have been inspired by the turn out at many of the events and the concern many people have shown.