By Lito Pardo, BCBP Las Pinas
As the world’s population hit seven billion last October 2011, the challenge facing humanity has never been greater. To some extent the solutions to many of the fundamental challenges can be found in science, like for example switching from fossil fuels to alternative energy to stop global warming. But providing adequate food, energy and social safety needs of a growing population will require more than science alone. It would demand the imperative necessity of people working together as one big universal community sharing and caring for one another, people who can collaborate across borders in improving the lives of people around the world, redistributing the fruits of human endeavors.
I came across a very interesting formula in an article in National Geographic Magazine. The formula is:
I = P x A x T
Where I = Impact or Development
P = Population
A = Affluence, measured in terms of global GDP (amount of goods and services produced globally)
T = Technology, measured in terms of number of registered patents
In 1900, the world’s population was tagged at 1.8 billion people. The global GDP was USD 2 trillion and there were 141,000 registered patents.
In 1950, the world’s population increased to 2.5 billion, while global GDP significantly improved to USD 5.3 trillion and the number of registered patents steadily increased to 412,000 patents.
Sixty one years later, or in 2011, global population hit 7 billion; global GDP exponentially increased to USD 55 trillion while registered patents significantly increased to 1.9 million.
The data showed that human impact on development, which had been growing steadily since industrial revolution, started to grow exponentially after World War II, a phase some scientists now call the “great acceleration”. But the more revealing observation is the fact that the rate of growth of affluence primarily brought about by technology is far much higher than the growth rate in population. This brings us to the conclusion that the more fundamental challenge we face as a human race is about a more equitable distribution of the wealth and goods that we produce as a universal community. On our home front, structural inequality exists where 1% of the 96 million Filipinos own 70% of the country’s wealth.
The past years have been dramatized by political turmoil and financial meltdown of epic proportion. The Arab Spring characterized by political upheavals across the Arab World is described as the Poverty of Dictatorship, a prolonged authoritarian rule of greed and abuses devoid of any form of accountability.
On the other hand, the “Occupy Wall Street” mass actions in the developed countries eloquently denounced corporate greed and the lack of transparency and accountability in corporate governance. The world is indeed in turmoil, we need to be saved from this malady of GREED.
In this season of lent, rich and poor will find a temporary common ground; they will visit the Holy Ground. The poor, the vast majority, will continue begging for divine help to find enough food, medicine and shelter for their sick members and families, while the rich will be praying for forgiveness, giving alms and donating money hoping to gain salvation. The poor will be trying to live a few days more, while the rich will be trying to live forever.
The call for the active citizenry is now! People who are enlightened and are aware of the social and human reality and are determined to use their influence and resources to change this world for the better. We need these modern Zacchaeuses to come down from the tree and be agents of change, people who would have compassion for the poor, exploited and the abused. People who would dedicate their “borrowed” talents, wealth and time to change this unjust divide between the rich and the poor.
But it is not an easy task. The way of salvation, according to our Lord, implies that we resist and fight against our instinct of self-preservation. Salvation means to reverse such natural drive to the point of becoming other-oriented. Salvation is God’s gift to those who leave their comfort zones using their “borrowed” time, talents, resources and energies for the service of the community. Yes, we are all mere stewards, not owners; we live on borrowed time. At a time we do not know, God will judge us if we had been wise and faithful stewards or pretentious and self-serving owners.
Trying to make a more honest, loving and compassionate world, where equality and justice reigns, is the life as well as the goal of every Christian. To us in the BCBP, the mission remains: to bring Christ to the marketplace, and win the marketplace for Christ!
1 Author’s own interpretation
2 GDP figures are in constant 1990 US dollars.