Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

The Basement, the Penthouse & the 2-Stop Elevator in Between

Times have changed. It’s no longer accurate to talk about the developed vs the developing world.

In Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, Hans Rosling challenges widespread misconceptions. At first blush, one of these sounds almost trivial, a mere matter of semantics. But it’s actually not.

For decades we’ve divided humanity into two groups: rich, developed nations and impoverished, developing ones – the First World versus the Third World. Rosling says we need to jettison these categories because they no longer correspond to reality. In fact, the majority of the planet’s 7 billion humans live between these extremes.

Approximately one billion remain in the economic basement, struggling to get by on less than $2 per day. Another one billion have access to $32 or more a day and therefore inhabit the luxurious penthouse apartment on the top floor.

click to enlarge & to see image source

That still leaves 5 billion human beings. Three billion live one floor above the basement, with access to $2-$7 per day. Another 2 billion inhabit the floor directly below the penthouse, with access to $8-$31 per day.

China and India are both found among these “middle-income countries” in which ordinary people are “Not poor, not rich, but somewhere in the middle and starting to live a reasonable life.” Among others nations we find Bangladesh, Columbia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Vietnam here, as well.

The differences between the four income levels are profound. Life on level 1 (the basement) is lived on foot. Life on level 2 (basement +1) involves a bicycle. People gain access to motorcycles on level 3 (penthouse -1). Automobiles become affordable on level 4 (the penthouse).

Similarly, access to safe water, sanitation infrastructure, healthy food, and high quality shelter all improve dramatically at each level. uses photographs from around the world to demonstrate these differences. The contrast between the toilets shown on this page, left to right, are dramatic. The kinds of soap available at different income levels may be seen here. Likewise, stoves are shown here.

Advances that many of us pessimistically assume will never happen are, in fact, well underway. Over the past 20 years, the percentage of the global population living in extreme poverty has been cut in half. But almost none of us know this. Even after it’s pointed out to us, we frequently revert back to our old ways of thinking.

Rosling urges us to actively fight against our own “gap instinct,” the inaccurate belief that humanity consists of only two groups divided by “a huge chasm of injustice.”

That worldview ignores 70% of humanity.

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Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling & Anna Rosling Rönnlund


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This entry was posted on November 19, 2018 by in historical perspective and tagged , .
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