Keeping our Distance

Few people doubt that we are fortunate people here in Canada, and in North America in general. One aspect of protecting this undeserved good fortune has been that we have wide oceans that lap our shoreline and keep us isolated from the rest of the world. Although events like 9-11 have poked holes in that ocean-insulated security, we still manage to spend most of our lives oblivious to what is going on in the rest of the globe, or at least insulated enough that we can pass off any concerns aroused by disturbing newscasts with the comfort of a “Good thing we don’t live there!” kind of thought.

We don’t seem to realize the full extent of our wealth and good fortune. I suspect that if we did a little survey, many Canadians would indicate a belief that we have about as much wealth as most people in the world, but allow that we have certainly more than that unfortunate group of poor people in the “disadvantaged” countries.

The fact is, we are very well off, even the less fortunate of us, in comparison to most of the world around us. North Americans number only 5% of the world population, and together with another 5% from Europe, this 10% has for decades been in the unique situation of having more than the vast majority of people in the world, while we have used up much of the resources of the world, and polluted more than most in the world (China is rapidly moving into the lead in the area of pollution, largely in its rampant industrialism that caters to our insatiable need for goods).

In Canada, social scientists and government agencies have set a current “poverty line” at about $25,000 a year family income. That’s quite a bit more than the vast majority of the world has at its disposal. An interesting web site called “” allows you to compare your family income to the rest of the world. A family income of $25,000 puts you close to being in the richest 10% of the world (10.6 % actually). That’s our poverty line, and almost 90% of the world doesn’t meet it! A family income of $50,000 a year places you with only 1.78% of the world’s financial elite… in other words, 98.22% of the people in world have less income than you do. If we run things up a little further, if you are fortunate enough to have a family income of $100,000 a year, you would be in a group of less than one percent of the people of the world, with more than 99% of the world having less money than you. Your group would measure only 44 million people in a world of 6,600 million+, and you are in there with Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Oprah. I hope you feel special.

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The Scouts they are a-changin’

I suppose with “Be Prepared” still one of the guidelines of my life (on the negative side, probably an aspect of being a control freak), it was only natural that as a youth I got involved in the Boy Scout movement.

I don’t recall being in Cubs long, but I did attend for a time. Squatting down with fingers to ears chanting “A-Kay-La!” didn’t inspire me that much I guess, but I did take more to the older Scouts themselves, and remember proudly being a patrol leader and wearing a silver scout emblem on my mountie-like hat. Carving a particularly nice walking stave was also something I liked. I recall it was marked off in feet for the first five or six, and then about six one-inch markings on the top, useful for measuring all kinds of things. Likely now the pole is gone (insurance rules to avoid injuries) and the marking would have to be metric.

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