Intelligence and PovertyFor people in poverty, we already know that it is difficult for them to escape the toxic poverty cycle. When one is poor, one cannot afford services that will take you out of poverty, which thus leads to more poverty. However, is there a relationship between intelligence and poverty?

In a 2013 scientific study, scientists took two groups of people, from rural India, and “from shoppers” in New Jersey. The results demonstrated a 13 point IQ difference between the two groups. As useful as this measure may sound, it fails to capture the wider context of differences between these two groups.

Firstly, the authors of this paper do not take any age into account, which, if poverty affected children and adults differently, would nullify the research. Of course, poverty does affect children and adults differently, but we do not know the exact effects it does have.

Another problem with the research is that the paper takes two groups of people from different cultures and attempts to compare them on the basis of an IQ test. This is not scientifically sound because measuring IQ in itself depends on one’s history and culture.

What this basically means is that the results of the test depend on how a certain person grew up, as well as how intelligent they truly are. In other words, the article is at best inaccurate. At worst, its conclusion is entirely false.

However, a new study by researchers in Bangladesh claims that children are much more heavily affected by the effects of poverty, by ways of malnutrition, sanitation and others. But one interesting thing to note is that people of all IQs fall into poverty, which accelerates cognitive aging and damages their brains permanently. This means that even people who are highly intelligent who fall into poverty are as much affected by the ravages of this struggle as people who don’t score highly on IQ and are educated.

Thus, there is a relationship between intelligence and poverty. A big part has to do with children growing up in poverty, while a smaller one has to with adults ending up poor. Although the topic sounds dreadful, it is extremely beneficial to know that intelligence and poverty has been studied, and it has been confirmed that we are all equals in the eyes of cognitive recession. Racism, genetic disorders and cultural clashes may divide the human race. Intelligence, however, will not.

Michal Burgunder

Photo: Flickr

Blockchain
Many people have heard about bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that has more than doubled in value over the past year. However, few are familiar with blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin. Blockchain creates a tamperproof public ledger of transactions, thus removing the need for a trusted third party between strangers. Because it is public and contains multiple nodes, the blockchain is practically impossible to corrupt. The potential applications for blockchain are promising and diverse. Blockchain could revolutionize the financial industry, as well as the healthcare sector. There are at least three ways blockchain can help the poor.

  1. Blockchain can be used to establish identity. According to UNICEF, there are more than 200 million children under the age of 5 that are unregistered. More than 80 million of these belong to the least developed countries. Lack of identification can perpetuate the cycle of poverty and increase the risk of exploitation. Children without birth certificates can be denied access to education and healthcare. Later in life, lack of identity can hinder employment or access to assistance programs. In some countries, failure to register is due to governmental red tape. Thankfully, groups like ID2020, BitNation and OneName are already working to use blockchain to help the unidentified poor.
  2. Blockchain can improve healthcare for the poor. Paper-based medical records are onerous, but especially so in developing countries where people frequently relocate due to economic or political instability. Also, it can be difficult to keep track of vaccination history, particularly during the early years of life. Pediatric vaccines often require multiple administrations along a specified timeline. Blockchain technology would help maintain a more accurate record of which vaccines have been administered and are still due to be administered to a child.
  3. One of the ways blockchain can help the poor is by altering the flow of money. Most of the money pouring into developing nations is not from foreign aid, but rather from remittances. On average, more than eight percent of the more than $400 billion of remittances sent to developing countries each year is lost to fees. Because blockchain removes the middle man, the cost of sending remittances would drop significantly. Since more funds would be reaching their target recipient, senders would be motivated to send even more, thus further increasing the cash flow into developing nations. Just as blockchain would help to ensure that remittances make it to their intended recipient, it would also help to ensure foreign aid is used appropriately. Since donations would be part of a public ledger, they would not be susceptible to diversion by corrupt individuals.

These are just a few of the many ways blockchain can help the poor. The technology also holds promise for improving access to credit and establishing land ownership, among a myriad of other applications. It’s no wonder that more and more people are expressing interest in the blockchain.

Rebecca Yu

Photo: Flickr

planet_labs
Planet Labs tracks human activity via satellites, ground stations and data centers. It provides timely information to best approach global stewardship. From food security, environmental monitoring, disaster response and climate resilience, Planet Labs advances social impact by developing rigorous data literacy.

Born in San Francisco in 2012, the startup envisioned what it would be like to create a cheap, simple spacecraft that could work with other tiny crafts to deliver real-time monitoring of the planet. The goal was to help people make more informed decisions about their impact on the earth. Fast-forward three years and today, Planet Labs’ mission is, “Fresh data from any place on earth is foundational to solving commercial, environmental, and humanitarian challenges.”

By “using space to help life on earth” Planet Labs creates tiny shoebox-sized satellites they call “Doves.” In January 2014, it launched Flock 1. At 28 Doves, it was the largest collection of Earth-imaging satellites ever sent to space.

Information technologies have the power to monitor local and global development for humanitarian and commercial use. They also provide mass appeal to those without access to such information. At the same time, the Doves are meant to canopy the earth at heights low enough to see treetops but high enough to conceal personal privacy.

Currently, its views are used in independent logistics, site development, crop monitoring, urbanization, natural resources and asset management.

In western Beijing, China, Planet Labs measures urban growth rates and points of infrastructural change. In 2013, Beijing welcomed an additional 455,000 people, totaling to 21.15 million.

The Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in China is one of the world’s largest solar power plants. Settled in China’s Qinghai Province, the park produces nearly 320 megawatts of power. Planet Labs imagery assists in monitoring these large facilities for environment and social impact that would otherwise be undetected.

In Iraq, gas flares at Rumalia Oil Field pose serious economic, environmental and health risks. Massive gas flaring wastes the nation’s resources every day, and the acid rain, sulfur dioxide and fine soot particles harm human and livestock health, as well as damage the land.

Planet Labs curates galleries of images for monitoring global development. It “makes global change visible, accessible and actionable for those who need it most.” Providing universal access is one of Planet Labs’ missions, all of which are at affordable costs.

– Lin Sabones

Sources: Planet Labs, Planet Labs, Planet Labs, CNN
Photo: Andrew Zolli

Learning to be Smarter: How Bilinguals Have a Cognition (and Communication) Advantage
Charlemagne once said, “To have another language is to possess a second soul.” Learning a language is something most of us strive to do. Whether it’s travel, business, new friends or even literature, learning a new language is something that appeals to people for a wide variety of reasons. At its core, language learning is kind of like finding a key that unlocks new countries, cultures, and people.

However, recent studies have shown that there’s an advantage to being bilingual beyond the ability to immerse oneself in new places. Researchers have found that those who learn a second (or third, or fourth) language have more gray matter in the “executive control areas” of their brains in the frontal and parietal regions. This extra tissue supports memory management, reasoning, planning and problem-solving. The cognitive control required to determine which language is spoken in what context requires increased tissue growth that leads to better control over other brain functions as well.

The study, led by Dr. Olumide Olulade, found that this advantage was only present in individuals who spoke both languages out loud. English-American Sign Language bilinguals did not have increased brain matter while English-Spanish bilinguals did. Communication, the greatest part of language learning, is key to increased development.

Beyond enforced executive control skills, people who speak more than one language have been shown to have improved listening skills, multi-tasking abilities, attention spans and vocabulary in their mother tongue. Beyond this, they learn to perceive the world in a whole different way and come into contact on a deeper level with a greater number of people.

And the fastest, easiest way to learn a new language? Visit a new country. Live amongst new people, visit local haunts, read books in the new language. Fully immerse yourself not only in a new language, but a new way of life. That way, when you become proficient enough to speak to your new friends, you’ll be a true inhabitant of this new place. Becoming a global citizen not only means being able to interact with people from around the world, but also sharing their mindsets, cultural references and perspectives. Global citizens are knowledgeable and, more importantly, compassionate about people in all corners of the world.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: PsyBlog 1, PsyBlog 2
Photo: ZDNet

drones
As far as tech trends go, the topic of drones is one of the hottest and most controversial. Their military use is infamous and quite tragic in some cases, but this one understanding of drones shouldn’t totally taint the public’s perception of their potential uses.

The concept of drone technology should still be viewed as exciting, actually, considering what they’re capable of. As remote aerial tools, drones have the capacity to vastly improve lives and simplify important tasks.

Companies like Google and Amazon are already in talks of starting a drone delivery service for goods ordered online. However, it is actually illegal to use drones to make money in the United States, at least until laws are in place to regulate their use and safety.

Countries like El Salvador are taking full advantage of the technology’s positive uses, having recently launched drones for news coverage. Salvadoran newspaper, La Presna Grafica, bought three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), also known as drones, back in January. Since then, they’ve joined other Latin American countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Peru in using drones to enrich the news coverage of the area.

What’s interesting about the use of drones in Latin American countries is that there aren’t any regulatory laws concerning the technology. Meanwhile, commercial drone usage won’t be allowed in the U.S. for a least a few more years.

Drones used in modern warfare and those used to take aerial footage (or make deliveries) are vastly different. Still, the experimental airspace countries like El Salvador is creating has attracted concern about privacy and spying.

A unique security issue for El Salvador is rooted in the 12-year civil war that took place in the country 20 years ago. Some worry that biased news stations will use drones to spy on political opponents – or be urged to do so.

The bottom line is that laws protecting the privacy rights of citizens in El Salvador simply don’t exist. The airspace is unregulated and, for many people, this will invite fun and exciting experimentation with the fairly new drone technology. Yet, as history and even modern events show, there is always the possibility that a good thing will be used for bad purposes.

– Edward Heinrich

Sources: Global Post, Knight Center, Business Insider
Photo: La Prensagrafica

partnership_walk
In 1985, a group of globally-minded women from Vancouver rounded up 1,000 people for what they called the Partnership Walk in order to raise money for global poverty. The instigators had immigrated from Asia and Africa and wanted to make a difference for those still living in poverty.

That first year’s walk raised $55,000 in donations.

Today, the event is sponsored by the Aga Khan Foundation and has raised over $82 million for international development programs in the past 30 years. The Partnership Walk is held every year on the last Sunday in May in 10 Canadian cities including Regina, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, London, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Kitchener-Waterloo and Montreal. The walk is Canada’s most successful humanitarian event.

In 2013, the walk raised over $7 million and had 40,000 walkers across 10 cities in Canada. The 2014 walk is anticipated to raise over $7 million across Canada with around 25,000 walkers.

With the money raised, the Aga Khan Foundation puts 100 percent of the donations toward sustainable solutions such as education, clean water and community development.

“We didn’t just give them money or material support, we gave them knowledge and skills as well as advice,” said an Aga Khan representative about a village in Zanzibar that benefitted from the walk.

Aga Khan understands that their efforts cannot be black and white. Each country and community must be approached differently depending on resource availability, government structure and cultural beliefs, among other factors.

For the 2014 walk, the U.N. Women National Committee Canada joined the walk.

“People often say to me, ‘I’m just one person. I can’t make a difference,” said Almas Jiwani, the U.N. Women National Committee’s president. “The World Partnership Walk is something anyone can do to effect change.”

In addition to participants, individuals who sponsor walkers and those who volunteer make a huge difference in the event’s success.

As Jiwani said, anyone can participate in the walk and by doing so be part of the solution to eradicate poverty. The walk offers people an outlet in which they can be a part of something greater than themselves. Individuals can collaborate to affect the world in a much greater way than one individual’s efforts alone.

Heather Klosterman

Sources: Aga Khan Foundation, Global News, World Partnership Walk
Photo: Arlen Redekop

local-farmers
Springtime is often seen as a time for renewal and change; the weather is warming up and activities are gravitating towards the outdoors. Here are 5 great spring changes you can make for better health and also help to benefit the globe.

Eat Fresh Foods from Local Farmers

I am sure you’ve heard it before, but buying foods from local farmers is an effective and beneficial way to stay healthy, keep the world green, and support your local economy. Farmers markets usually sell food within a day or two of being harvested so it will be fresh and still nutrient-rich.

Foods that are shipped to supermarkets are often on trucks for at least a week, losing freshness and nutrients that are vital in vegetables and fruits. Without the long distances traveling to deliver foods, local farmers are also selling better food for you without wasting gas and polluting the air.

Visiting farmers markets is fun, and they also provide local farmers with jobs, support, and a source of income. “When farmers sell directly to the consumer, the middleman is cut out thus producing a higher profit for the farmer. The farmer then circulates his profits throughout the community with local merchants creating a cycle that helps to build a strong local economy.”

Communities Grow by Donating Outgrown Clothes

Donating clothing is an easy way to give back to the community and make use of clothing that either you or your kids have outgrown. The springtime is one of the best times to donate clothes and to check out stores such as Savers and the Salvation Army in the US, and Goodwill worldwide; the weather is getting nicer, people are breaking out shorts, and more people are trying to get into shape.

Thrift stores sell gently-worn clothing at affordable prices, and many stores accept not just clothing, but other household items like glassware, shoes, books, and jewelry. Some thrift stores, such as Savers, give nonprofit partners money to help pay for their programs and allow communities the chance to buy cared-for clothing at minimum price.

Go Green to Help Your Greens Grow

When the weather becomes prime gardening weather, pesticides are an easy crutch to lean on to help plants grow. It is not a secret that the use of pesticides is directly correlated with health problems globally. Specifically in under-developed countries, pesticides are often used because farmers are unable to afford health-conscious pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides.

Chemicals in these products are more likely to harm children than adults. Since children are often playing outside, they are more prone to exposure for long periods of time, and they are more likely to bring home chemicals to other members of their families.

In the U.S., pesticides are commonly used in amounts too low to cause severe reactions, but this isn’t to say they do not have negative health effects. Depending on the chemicals being used, the toxins may irritate the nervous and endocrine system, eyesight and skin.

Toss Away the Chemicals in Cleaning Products

Like pesticides, chemicals in house cleaning products are not always as clean for the environment or your body. We are often looking for convenient, easy to use, and inexpensive products, but convenience does not necessarily mean it will be healthy in the long run.

By eliminating exposure to harmful toxins in cleaning products, your body will thank you and benefit over time. Cleaning products often contain chemicals that are bioaccumulative, so after frequent exposure they can add up to deadly levels, even if they are not orally ingested.

Since springtime is a common time for household cleaning and starting fresh, what better time is there to also flush out those common toxins from under your sink?

Take Advantage of Warm Weather

The body is able to synthesize vitamin D from the sun, and springtime has perfect weather to spend outdoors in order to meet your daily vitamin D intake. Scientists recommend spending 10-15 minutes in direct sunlight, which is usually enough for a fair skinned individual to received the recommended dosage of vitamin D from ultraviolet rays.

For a darker skinned individual, it is more difficult to generate vitamin D from the sun and it may require a longer period of time in direct sunlight. This is caused by a higher level of melanin in the skin, which blocks the skin from ultraviolet rays, meaning that darker skinned individuals have a higher rate of vitamin D deficiency than lighter skinned individuals.

Often, even the lowest amount of SPF blocks 95% of ultraviolet rays from penetrating the skin, and this is usually the cause of people not receiving the recommended amount of vitamin D during the spring and summer time.

So doctors recommend taking at least 10 minutes before applying sunscreen in order to meet your vitamin D needs, and if this is not possible, consider asking your doctor about a supplement or look towards healthy fatty fish like salmon, or fortified milks and orange juices.

Vitamin D deficiencies contribute to osteoporosis, rickets, and osteomalacia, but some light outside activities can help fight these deficiencies.

These simple steps can make an incredibly big difference on your body and the world. By doing something as easy as eating locally and giving locally, we are able to help maintain and create a cyclical community based on healthy habits.

– Rebecca Felcon

Sources: Farmers Market Authority, Savers, Global Medicine, Green Clean Certified, Vitamin D Council, Grosvenor, Mary B. Visualizing Nutrition. Toronto: John Wiley & Sons, 2014.
Photo: Food Day

trust_in_foreign_aid
Helping others is the smart thing to do – literally! Recent studies based on the surveying of public opinion in America seems to indicate that there is a direct link between an individual’s intelligence and their capacity to trust others.

The question posed to thousands of Americans asked, “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people?” The responses gave some very positive evidence to indicate that a trusting community is a stronger one.

Why it might be that intelligence and trust are so entwined remains a mystery. Possible theories from the study’s lead author, Noah Carol of Oxford University, speculate that it might have something to do with their character judgments and interpersonal perception skills. The root cause is not nearly as significant, though, as its manifested benefits to society.

On a personal level, a trusting nature is proven to bring more health and happiness to one’s life. Those smart individuals who venture to trust are ultimately more adventurous, as well, as they are more willing to embark into the unknown, such as opening a new business or signing up for extensive volunteer work.

This means that there are more men and women actively taking risks upon themselves, thereby contributing to the social and economic well being of their communities. Fostering a broad sense of trust then is an excellent investment for all society’s and institutions.

Carol’s study also argues that the foundation of trust operates more on the broader societal level, meaning trust of unknown strangers, and not so much trust of those we know best, such as family or friends (not that we don’t trust them, too). This is wonderful news, in terms of creating harmony between communities and bridging boundaries, whether racial, ethnic, religious, national or gendered, so as to increase humanitarian aid and charitable good will for all.

If trust is so smart, though, then why is the common culture frequently caught up in an attitude of skepticism, especially when it comes to helping others. Efforts in philanthropy are all too often met with cynicism and uncertainty, revolving around several over emphasized points. Isn’t solving global poverty too big of a problem to solve? Won’t all my donations just go into the pockets of corrupt leaders? Aren’t our own country’s issues more important? False, to all of those!

Corruption unfortunately becomes the mental image too many people conjure up when they think of aid, but this is honestly quite misinformed. Yes, it exists. It even exists in the United States. However, there are many strategic measures that can and do safeguard against such criminality. Most foreign aid funds and policies are actually preceded by regulations and expectations that prevent corrupt leaders from siphoning off amounts of cash for their own personal gain. Also, for every corrupt government official, there are several benevolent ones, who want just as much as anybody else to see an end to the world’s ills. All we have to do it have a little bit of faith in them.

As for poverty’s solvability, this is another area that gets severely mischaracterized. Poverty is a challenge, but one that humanity is surely up for, given a bit of confidence. $30 billion a year is the number estimated by the FAO that is needed to solve poverty worldwide, and though it is large, it is a fraction of what the United States spends on the military. Just like those individuals who turn their trust into entrepreneurial yields, we too should have a spirit for new financial projects in the name of humanitarian undertakings, because we might just get the profit that we want.

It’s not as though the benefits of our trust wouldn’t come right back at us, for solving poverty would have enormous benefits for the health and happiness of our country. For one, national security would cease to be an issue, due to the new international friendships forged in the trusting process. Instead, we could spend out defense budget on other things, like education, healthcare, urban renewal, and more.

Do you see now? A trusting approach to foreign aid and international affairs most definitely seem like the smartest idea, benefiting everyone involved! Turning away from the world’s poor would be, aside from other things, simply unintelligent. Trust in Foreign Aid!

– Stefanie Doucette

Photo: Watoday
Sources:
PsyBlog, The Borgen Project

danny_kaye_unicef_ambassador_100th_birthday_international_aid_children_global_poverty_opt_zps57d5c3a9
Have you ever tried to change someone’s mind about something? It can be extremely difficult, and especially frustrating when you have the facts to prove your case, yet your well-founded arguments seem to fall on deaf ears. Well, believe it or not, it is in our nature to only hear the information that supports what we already believe. Psychologists call this mental phenomenon confirmation bias, and it can really stall the gears of social change.

Humans feel safe and secure when our world is predictable, and for this reason learning new information that disproves the philosophies that govern our beliefs can be a bit startling. We also like to believe that we can trust our own capacities to sort out the truths from the untruths. This is why we human beings tend to seek out information that supports what we already know, and avoid the evidence that would prove us wrong.

The way we naturally default to reinforcing our own beliefs can be quite harmful if we happen to be wrong, and the result of our cumulative avoidance of the truth can have serious implications for society as a whole. Confirmation bias explains why people believe in common myths that are continually repeated, but the good news is that by understanding confirmation bias as a basic psychological drive, it becomes easier to deconstruct false arguments to get to the truth.

Persistent misconceptions, like “foreign aid only makes overpopulation worse,” wouldn’t hold any water if more people decided to do some investigating to test their hypothesis. After setting aside a little time for research, or perhaps after an enlightening conversation from someone who already knows a little about the subject, one would discover that birthrates actually slow as poverty rates decrease, since poor families have no access to family planning services, and because people who live in extreme poverty choose to have more children because the likelihood of one of their children surviving to adulthood is much lower.

Individuals tend to assume they are above average in many areas, and that the groups they are a part of are too. This cognitive bias might explain why Americans, when surveyed at random, believe that their government dedicates a quarter of the federal budget to saving lives around the world with foreign aid. In fact, less than 1 percent goes to foreign aid, making the United States one of the least generous countries in the world, considering the immense wealth of the nation.

In order to make a positive change, it’s necessary to be informed, so if you want to make a difference it is essential to question what you know, and try to prove yourself wrong now and then. Having an understanding of one of our natural quirks, the confirmation bias, makes it easier to change your mind and maybe even convince others, too. People aren’t just stubborn, they just need to be asked the right questions to get their gears turning.

– Jennifer Bills

Sources: PsyBlog, PsyBlog, The Borgen Project

birds_flying_geese

It is a clichéd ideal: the poor person pulling themselves up “by the bootstraps” and becoming a success in spite of their menial beginnings.  In the US, this concept has become practically archetypal, forming a piece of the collective consciousness which helps rationalize poverty in relation to success.  If someone is poor, it is because they are lazy or stupid.

This assumption is even easier to make in relation to the developing world.  Despite the great economic strides taken by countries like China and India in recent years, the connection between aid and development is becoming more and more convoluted.  Most people take it for granted that the rampant corruption afflicting these poverty-ridden areas prevents foreign aid from being fully utilized.  Some even assert that the aid given to these countries is making them detrimentally dependent upon the charity of autonomous benefactors.  Overall, questions as to the effectiveness of humanitarian aid in developing the “third world” abound in a fiscal climate that leaves less and less room for charity.

Here in the US, what people of all walks of life fail to understand is that they engage in a process of rationalization in respect to foreign aid eerily similar to those arguments employed against the maintenance of domestic public welfare programs.  The assumption that the poor have done something to deserve their lot in life allows those who exist outside the mire of extreme poverty to absolve themselves of guilt while at the same time rationalizing their “need” for consumer products in the face of the poor’s desperate lack of necessities.

With it now established how the ignorance of the privileged exacerbates the plight of the needy, a scientific study claims that poverty can itself beget more poverty.  Though many who have suffered the pangs of hunger or exposure the elements may easily see the truth in this, such a statement flies in the face of the aforementioned capitalist archetype.  Hard work and perseverance may not be enough to overcome extreme poverty.  Poverty may in fact be self-perpetuating.

A Princeton University study claims to have found a link between poverty and a quantifiable depreciation in cognitive ability.  Jiaying Zhao and Eldar Shafir tracked the ability to make productive decisions given dire economic circumstances between those seen as definitely poor and the relatively well-to-do.  Their study showed that men and women who suffer under the preexisting stresses associated with poverty did remarkably worse in decision-making exercises when compared to counterparts who were relatively carefree.  This cognitive relationship would seem to support the opinion that poverty can in fact place those that suffer from it in a fundamentally disadvantageous position, one from which it can be exponentially more difficult to climb.

All this is to say that aid, when spent in ways that help alleviate the impediments of poverty, can be a great boon to those it is allowed to benefit.  While it is undeniable that corruption can drastically undermine the effectiveness of humanitarian aid, this fact alone does not offer a basis for abandoning such philanthropic endeavors.  Greed will take any excuse to hoard wealth upon itself.  It is the both the ignorance that breeds such rationalizations as well as that ignorance bred of poverty itself that must be combated.  Not with more callous ignorance, not with violence, but with hope.

– Shaun Franco

Sources: Princeton University , IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis , JTA