$1.25/day

Beginning in childhood, I think we all start to awaken to the fact that although the world is in many ways a beautiful place full of wonder, utopia does not exist. Initially, learning about how millions of people don’t even have their basic needs met is shocking. The outrage and injustice of it all – that factors you cannot control (where you are born and who your parents are) should so strongly influence how long you live and the quality of your life – is aggravating, at least at first. I mean, who isn’t upset when they learn that thousands of children die daily simply because of an imbalance in who has access to resources? Yet being the incredibly adaptable creatures that we are, this insanity is tolerated. This fits the very definition of power and privilege: being able to live in ignorance or apathy toward a social injustice. How can resource rich people forget about or be apathetic toward resource disadvantage people? Easily.

This blog is born out of frustration. Relative to Americans, I’m much closer to the bottom of the SES totem pole, but the reality is that I have my basic needs met and I have a world of opportunities open to me. This automatically makes me richer than over 68% of the global population (click here for more info).

I think one of the many ways in which this privilege is evident in my life is my diet. Acquiring healthy, delicious food is just so easy. I can go to Costco and get a giant bag of broccoli, 1.5 pounds of pistachios, a huge container of organic spring mix, and a 5-pound box of peaches and live off mainly that for over a week. As an {almost} vegan, the only risk of malnutrition I might face is a deficiency in B-vitamins (which I can make up through multivitamins and occasionally having a bit of organic meat). I do not feel guilty for having enough to eat, but it just doesn’t sit quite right with me that by chance I have this privilege while millions of others do not. I think what’s even more disturbing is that I can so readily forget how privileged I am.

I had this idea to try living off $1.25 a day for a month. Nearly 1 billion people fall below the global poverty line and live off less than an average of $1.25 per day (although some advocate to change the poverty line to $10/day to include billions more people that still are barely getting by – check out this site to read more). I want to regain a deeper appreciation for what I have, and I want to use the next month to learn more about systematic disparities in wealth, health, and power. I plan on re-reading Amartya Sen’s “Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation” and seeking more information on anything pertaining to poverty and chronic hunger. However, I want to pay particular attention to what could be done on both a micro and macro level to reduce the huge resource gaps that exist.

I would like to think that I am doing this in solidarity with those who have less than $1.25 per day to meet all of their needs, but I realize that my experience is completely out of context and won’t come close to matching the devastating reality that millions face. This might be personally beneficial more than anything else, I think. Nonetheless, if myself and other privileged people reduced their consumption even a little bit, this could potentially have a huge, positive impact on our planet and on other people.

It is important to mention that I have carefully thought through how I might afford and maintain an adequate macro-nutrient intake {i.e., consume a sufficient amount of calories, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats}. I will likely be malnourished from a severely reduced intake of fruits and vegetables, but this experiment is temporary and I have access to a doctor and a dietitian if anything should go awry. Also, I can safely lose several pounds and still remain within a healthy weight range for my height and body type. For anyone else considering trying to live off $1.25/day, please be sure to carefully consider whether this is safe for you, plan in advance, and take good care of yourself.

I will post more details about my experience and what I learn as the month progresses. I started today, so I will end in exactly one month on Tuesday, September 9th.

Peace ❤

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