New Internationalist

The simple life

Issue 310

Eradicating poverty involves changing the lives of the non-poor. Gerald Iversen, Director of Alternatives, an organization which promotes ‘voluntary simplicity’, explains.

Living simply is not about ‘living on the cheap’. It’s more than frugality, far from being a tightwad, and surely not about being a miser. Rather, it’s a journey to find more meaning, more joy, more fun in life by removing the barrier of material goods that keeps us apart from other people – and even from ourselves.


  • Do justice
  • Nurture people, not things
  • Learn from the world community
  • Care for the earth
  • Don’t conform

Living more simply is about seeing our lives as extravagant, even out-of-control, and deciding what to do little by little, day-by-day, week-by-week to cut down on over-consumption. Every time you go to buy something, to use something, try thinking: Do I really need this? Do I buy the car I like, the one that will impress?

Or do I buy the economical one… the one that will get me around using less gas? Can I live without a car, using alternative transport? For every negative, wasteful habit, there is a positive, constructive one (or at least one that’s less wasteful). It’s not simple – but it is well worth it.

Gerald Iversen is National Co-ordinator of the US-based movement Alternatives which can be contacted at 5312 Morningside Ave, PO Box 2857, Sioux City, Iowa 51106 (formerly Ellenwood, Georgia), Tel: +1 712/274-8875 or +1 800/821-6153, Fax: +1 712/274-1402. e-mail: [email protected] . Web site: [](}

– From Living More with Less by Doris Janzen Longacre.


Here are just a few of the many organizations working on poverty in a participatory way. The main aid agencies in each country focus mainly on poverty overseas. The United Nations Development Programme produces an annual Human Development Report and both 1997 and 1998 are full of information and statistics on poverty.


Child Poverty Action Aotearoa, c/o Susan St John, Economics Dept, Private Bag 92019, Auckland. Fax: +64 9 373 7427. Website: Formed in 1994 to achieve better policies for children and young people.


Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), Locked Bag 4777 Strawberry Hills NSW 2012. Tel: +61 2 9310 4844. Fax: +61 2 9310 4822. Website: A campaigning body which acts as the principal voice of low-income and disadvantaged people in social and economic policy matters.


ATD Fourth World, 48 Addington Square, London SE5 7LB. Tel: +44 171 703 3231; Fax: +44 171 252 4276. Website: An international human-rights organization which works in partnership with people living in poverty, supporting their efforts to overcome social exclusion and to take an active role in the development of society.

Child Poverty Action Group, 94 White Lion St, London N1 9P7. Tel: +44 171 837 7979. Fax: +44 171 837 6414. Promotes action for the relief of poverty among children and families.

Oxfam GB Poverty Programme, 274 Banbury Rd, Oxford OX2 7DZ. Tel: +44 1865 313107. Engaged in policy and advocacy work and supports anti-poverty groups in the UK as well as fostering links between poor people in different parts of the world.

Single Parent Action Network, Millpond, Baptist St, Easton, Bristol BS5 OYW. Tel: +44 117 951 423; Fax: +44 117 935 5208. Challenges stereotypes and has produced a report on media coverage of single parents called Positive Images, Negative Stereotypes.

UK Coalition Against Poverty, 17 Grove Lane, London SE5 8RD. Tel: +44 171 703 5400; Fax: +44 171 703 5745. Promotes the participation of people with experience of poverty in partnerships between local, national and international organizations to work towards the reduction and eradication of poverty and to campaign for a National Poverty Eradication Plan. Produced an excellent action pack, Eradicate Poverty!


National Anti-Poverty Organization, 440-325 Dalhousie St, Ottawa, ON K1N 7G2. Tel: +1 613 789 0096; Fax:+ 1 613 789 0141. e-mail: [email protected] Website: A national voice for Canada’s poor. Assists anti-poverty organizations, prepares research and lobbies government.

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, 58 Queen St West, Kitchener, ON. Tel: +1 519 746 4090; Fax +1 519 746 4096. e-mail: [email protected] Website: Activist group involved in public education on causes of poverty. Innovative action campaigns on homelessness and government social service cut-backs.

Child Poverty in Canada/Campaign 2000, c/o Family Service Association of Metropolitan Toronto, 355 Church St, Toronto, ON M5B 1Z8. Tel: +1 416 595 9230; Fax: 416 595 0242. e-mail: [email protected] Website: Non-partisan coalition of national and community groups aiming to build awareness and support for the elimination of child poverty in Canada by the year 2000.


Food First/The Institute for Food and Development Policy, 398 60th Street, Oakland, California 94618. Tel: +1 510 654 4400; Fax: +1 510 654 4551; Website: A not-for-profit research and education-for-action center dedicated to eliminating the injustices that perpetuate hunger in the US and around the world. World Hunger: 12 Myths, written by Frances Moore Lappé, Joseph Collins and Peter Rosset of Food First (Earthscan 1998) makes excellent reading.

You might also like to read the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) Bulletin Vol 29 No 1 Poverty North and South which has a range of articles on the similarities between poverty in different parts of the world. Available from email: [email protected] And if you want to know what the World Bank is thinking, there is a website called ‘Poverty Net’

Thanks to: the people of ACCORD and AMS in Gudalur; Audrey Bronstein and colleagues at Oxfam’s GB Poverty Programme; Cheryl Brown at TIRN; Davenport Action Against Poverty; John Gaventa at IDS; Humaira Haider at the UK Coalition Against Poverty; Jean Penet at ATD Fourth World; Tina Wallace; Social Watch.


  1. Australia (Figures from ACOSS).
  2. Nothing. In fact, the poor world gives to the rich in loan and debt repayments. For example, between 1983 and 1989, creditors in the rich world received $242 billion more from these poor countries than they provided in new loans.
  3. Mahatma (M K) Gandhi.
  4. 2,500 million people – 47% of the world’s people.
  5. The United States.
  6. Britain (UK Coalition Against Poverty).
  7. All of them – including Australia.
  8. 31%.
  9. The World Bank in its 1990 World Development Report on poverty.
  10. -7.1% (The Reality of Aid 1998/9)
  11. Nadine Gordimer, winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize for Literature.
  12. The Former Soviet Union.

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  1. #1 Tom Ash 25 Aug 10

    The sort of article that makes me glad I subscribe :)

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This article was originally published in issue 310

New Internationalist Magazine issue 310
Issue 310

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