Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hans Rosling explains why I have a hard time choosing a cause to support

 For those who follow TED talks, Hans Rosling is a magician with statistics. This seemingly bookish Swedish professor of public health possesses a sharp wit and a showman's understanding of the power of infographics. His talks are captivating.

I found the following talk through Stumble Upon the other day. It helped explain to me why I have been having such a hard time choosing a cause or project to support. For quite some time, I have been looking for a charity or NGO to become involved with, seriously involved with. But it's been difficult to choose. Local or global? Hands on or advocacy? Women's rights or feeding hungry children? The choices are endless.

Around 14:30, a Rosling shows a list of dimensions for development. First, he points out that all of them are necessary to achieve a comfortable life, which explains the impossibility (for me) of choosing one cause above all else. Then, he analyzes their effectiveness as means vs. goals.

Human rights are especially dear to my heart as a member of multiple minorities. They are a great goal, but a lousy means for development; just because I have rights, it doesn't mean I'm any less hungry. Economic growth doesn't seem as exciting to me, as I associate it with business, finance, corporation, globalization, trade, and other things that make me go squick. It is a fantastic means, but money is a lousy goal in life; I can eat well and still not have self determination.

In one slide, Rosling has explained why I have been having a hard time choosing. At the same time, it suggests a way out: work on human rights in the developed world and work on economic growth in the developing world. For best effect in the developing world, support organizations that advocate for women's rights. In the USA, these are organizations such as the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and National Organization for Women. For the developing world, support economic growth organizations. Some examples include micro-credit lenders, World Vision, and Plan International (no relation to Planned Parenthood).

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