DINYAR GODREJ for the New Internationalist Co-operative newint.org

A worker snapped between carrying loads of coal to a truck in Jharia, India. Jharia has a 100-year-old open pit coalmine, sections of which regularly catch fire. Miners work in toxic conditions and their earnings remain at survival level. JONAS GRATZER/LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY

Poverty is a downer, no two ways about it. It refuses to be made history, though, mercy knows, it should have been consigned to it long ago. And it resists jollying up – narratives of the ‘we were poor, but we were happy’ type notwithstanding.

Sure, one can talk about ‘breaks’. How the woman running ragged doing four different jobs on the periphery of an Indonesian city got hers via a small loan and now runs her own successful business doing x.

In reality, such stories of ‘making it’ are not commonplace (we have an example in our report from Brazil on page 29). It defies logic that inside every hardworking poor person is an entrepreneur waiting to emerge. Or that the deprived communities in which they operate have the cash to support a streetful of small shopkeepers.

The hillside the marginalized face is steep and it’s a heavy stone they must push up it. Far more useful and effective would be creating a more level surface where efforts and fruits could be better shared. This requires a system change against the undervaluing of everything that poor people do only to expand the fortunes of the already wealthy – a form of thievery that this edition lays bare. This argument for change is not new, but it acquires urgency because today there is no material reason whatsoever why poverty should still exist and why inequality should be spiralling out of control.

Elsewhere, we share stories of people fighting the power: doughty indigenous human-rights defender Virginia Pinares from Peru, Canadian youth taking a stand for the planet, and Sarawak islanders in Malaysia holding out for sustainable renewable power over destructive mega-dams.


Anannya Bhattacharjee is the founder President of Garment and Allied Workers Union in India and the International Co-ordinator for Asia Floor Wage Alliance.

Jason Hickel is an economic anthropologist, author and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He has taught at the London School of Economics and Goldsmiths, University of London.

John Christensen trained as forensic auditor and economist. He chairs the board of the Tax Justice Network and has been widely published on the subject of offshore finance.

Vanessa Martina Silva is a journalist based in São Paulo. She is an editor of the Diálogos do Sul website and a Masters student in Latin American Studies.

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