2008 Blog Action Day: Poverty

Today is the second annual Blog Action Day, in which nearly 11,000 blogs across the Internet will join forces to bring attention and awareness to a single issue. That topic for the day is Poverty,

When considering how I would address this issue in a blog that is generally about outdoor adventures, travel, and expeditions to the far flung corners of the Earth, I wasn’t exactly sure what I would write about at first. But then I began to think about many of the places where the adventures that I write about take place, and I began to see a common theme. Those places are often remote, Third World nations, where poverty is an issue that people deal with on a daily basis.

Take for instance Nepal, where hundreds of climbers go each Spring and Fall to tackle the big Himalayan peaks, including Mt. Everest. In the rural areas of that nation, 40% of the people live below the poverty line, making less than $12/month. Basic needs like access to good health care, clean drinking water, and sanitation services are often non-existent, exasperating the issues even further.

The situation is not uncommon in other countries as well, with Pakistan and India dealing with abject poverty to their populations as well, and even Tanzania, a country I visited last year, still has 38% of it’s population considered poor, despite making huge gains in improving the lives of it’s citizens over the past two decades.

Poverty is obviously not a new issue. It’s been with mankind pretty much since we banded together as a civilization, and it’s not going to go away anytime soon, even though there are a number of incredible organizations that are working tirelessly toward that goal. As long as their is a cultural or class divide between people, there will be the “haves” and the “have nots”. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.

So what can we, as travelers and adventurers, do to help combat the problem? The answers lie with the concepts of sustainable travel, in which we think about our impact on the places we visit, and take steps to protect not only the environments we travel through, but the people that inhabit them. The money we spend in our travels can do a lot of good for the economies in those countries, but in order to do so, it has to go directly into the pockets of the people who live there. While in Africa last year, I used a guide service that was small, but completely owned and operated by people living in Tanzania. My money didn’t go to some large travel company that took their share off the top, and then gave what was left over to their employees. Everything I spent went directly into the local economy, which was an important concept for me, and will continue to be important in all of my future travels.

Responsible travel is just now becoming one of the industry buzzwords, and it has been mainly used in reference to our environmental impact, but it’s reach has begun to widen and encompass all aspects of our influence on a place that we visit, including our interactions with the indigenous people there. While it is still incredibly important to be respectful of the environment, shouldn’t the people that live in that environment be given at least the same level of respect and consideration?

Kraig Becker

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