Global Citizenship

2012-13: Poverty and Wealth, Want and Waste


In March 2012, Santa Monica College students, staff, and faculty, voted online to choose our annual Global Citizenship theme for 2012-13. The winning theme, receiving nearly one-third of the 765 votes cast, is:

The Global Citizenship Theme for 2012-13 is: Poverty and Wealth, Want and Waste - The Unevenness of Globalization

This was the fourth consecutive year that SMC Global Citizenship has presented an annual campuswide theme. These themes are incorporated into numerous classes, campus events, and extracurricular activities throughout the year, and everyone throughout the college is invited to interpret and explore the theme as a means of thinking and acting as global citizens. Here is how several SMC faculty have utilized this year's theme in their classes.

As a further prompt to investigating the theme, here is how is was described on last spring's ballot:

Despite recent economic stagnation in Europe and North America, the last quarter century's rising tide of global affluence continues to transform human societies and natural environments. According to the UN's 2010 progress report on the Millennium Development Goals, the proportion of humanity living in extreme poverty soon will be just half of its 1990 levels, thanks largely to economic growth in emerging countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS). But the fight against poverty is far from over, and nearly one billion people worldwide continue to live on the equivalent of less than US$1.25 per day. This is but one indicator of how the wealth-generating effects of globalization have, so far at least, proven to be disproportionately concentrated on an elite global minority, leading to rising resentment among the "99 percent" who believe they are being left behind. Moreover, regardless of how the growing affluence yielded by globalization is distributed, it is tied to a modern economy built around mass consumption. How we manage our voracious demand for energy and other resources, and how we handle the large mountains and rivers of waste that our consumption yields, will go a long way in determining the fate of our species--and others--on planet Earth.

And here are just a few of the many, many questions that could be pursued under the theme--a list that is meant to be suggestive, rather than comprehensive:

  • Is fighting poverty enough, or should humanity also take actions to promote economic equality, both within and between societies? And if so, what actions can most effectively and appropriately address the gaps between rich and poor?
  • Do patterns of consumption merely reflect social-economic inequality, or does our consumption help to create that inequality, too?
  • How do our consumption choices drive our demand for natural resources?
  • How does our consumption help define and redefine our cultural identities, as well as our changing notions of the “good life”?
  • Does a sober, dismal rhetoric of finite limits and growing ecological “footprints” push us more toward effective action, or instead toward paralyzed inaction or, worse still, counter-productive reaction? Would we be better served by conceptualizing a global “handprint” of hope and possibility?
  • How do other species handle issues of want and waste? Is such evenness of resource use a natural part of life on Earth?

In addition to choosing their preferred theme for 2012-13, voters were asked in the spring to list books, films, or other resources that might be used in support of that theme. Here are their suggestions:

Recommended Readings

The following is the initial, preliminary list developed during the theme-selection process. A more complete bibliography can be found at our Goodreads site.

Recommended Viewing

Note: The complete vote count was as follows:

  1. Poverty and Wealth, Want and Waste, 234 votes (31%)
  2. Communication and Community, 192 (25%)
  3. The Search for Truth, 182 (24%)
  4. Migrations, 157 (20%)