The Complete Idiot's Guide to Ending Global Poverty
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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Ending Global Poverty

Photo of kids in Malawi (in the region of Sub-Saharan African where extreme poverty is common) by Lars Plougmann.

When Chris Adams and Hugh Evans talk about the rewards in producing their film, there’s a remarkable sincerity in their words. Amidst all the TIFF buzz, it’s a relief to see such a lineup outside the door for a work that’s about the real world, with an audience engaged in the contents of the presentation rather than the contents of the star’s dress (we’re looking at you, Megan Fox fans). At this event, no one’s talking about what anyone’s wearing, nor do they really care—in fact, someone showing up in Valentino might be downright embarrassed by the presentation’s end.

This Friday marked the North American premiere of 1.4 Billion Reasons at the Danforth Music Hall, a free presentation on global poverty (which Torontoist was an event partner for). The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less that $1.25 US a day—a reality for 1.4 billion people today, hence the title. In the style of Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize– and Academy Award–winning An Inconvenient Truth, 1.4 Billion Reasons features a presenter in front of a slideshow with cameras poised to transform the presentation into a film documentary. The two works are so similar because they share the same producer—Chris Adams, one of the founders of Participant Productions, famous also for his work with George Clooney and David Strathairn in Good Night and Good Luck. Adams told us that the key difference between the two works “is that the 1.4 Billion Reasons presentation is not to be given by any one person…but can and will be given by people all over the globe to advance the overall vision of eradicating poverty as well as the specific, local, or entity-based initiatives and programs of various social selector organizations. It belongs to anyone and everyone.”

Photo courtesy of Hugh Evans.

While Adams asserts that everyone owns the presentation, Hugh Evans owned it on Friday. Evans, just 26 years young, was a major player in the Make Poverty History campaign (that’s the concert featuring U2), and has some pretty impressive awards to his name: he was named the 2004 Young Australian of the Year and 2005 International Junior Chambers Young Person of the World. Yeah. The world. The idea to spread their message as a slide presentation-cum-film came when Adams met Evans and Simon Moss, another presenter, in 2008 and, according to Adams, “the vision, mission, and mandate of The Global Poverty Project dovetailed very well with [his] experience with Participant Media and the way in which they wanted to evangelize the crisis of global poverty, through a slide presentation.” Since July, Evans and Moss have been touring Australia and New Zealand, and are now bringing the project across the pond much earlier than anyone expected.
It’s no World Vision. The interactive presentation does little to focus on individual philanthropy, or its benefits. Rather, it attempts to educate the audience as a means of inspiring action. “The problem [of global poverty] is immense and very hard to wrap one’s head around,” Adams says. “I believe that the presentation is the perfect math of science, data, anecdote, personal experience, perspective, and human interest.” And, from the second row on Friday, it was. It’s true that extreme poverty seems a daunting concept, too big for any generation to tackle on its own. It’s evident on our own streets, in one of the best-off countries, in certainly one of the best and most liveable cities in the world. But according to Evans and the gang, we’ve gone from 55% of the world’s population living in extreme poverty twenty-nine years ago in 1981, to 25% today—we’ve more than halved it. This can be largely credited to the new tiger economies in India, China, Thailand, and South Korea. Sub-Saharan African, on the other hand, has become much more of a concern. Critics wonder where we’ll find the resources, but Evans laid it out simply, without sounding like a pastor. Take, for example, the war in Afghanistan. The fight costs $21.6 billion a year, while clean water for everyone in the world (when 850 million people currently have no access to clean water) would cost $20 billion a year in comparison. If food were more evenly distributed, we’d have enough to feed the world one and a half times, each. Good governance, trade, and good aid, argues Evans, are all we truly need to end poverty in our lifetime.
And when he says it, you believe it. Just past halfway to the 2015 deadline for the UN’s eight Millennium Development Goals most of the goals to fight poverty and hunger are far more than halfway met. With the G8 Summit coming to Canada next year, plans are in action to show the new film to the leaders as they plan not towards, but beyond, the Millennium Development Goals. And if all goes well, they’ll give it the same gracious, inspired standing ovation Evans received here last week.

CORRECTION: SEPTEMBER 16, 2009 This article originally stated that “Just past halfway to the 2015 deadline for the UN’s eight Millennium Development Goals most of the goals to fight poverty and hunger have not been met, but exceeded.” That sentence is cut short, the result of a note-taking error: according to the presentation, most of the goals have not been exceeded, but rather have exceeded the halfway point.