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Poverty, health and chocolate: Do-gooder central

Updated, 2:30pm

KPLU-Humanosphere’s event Tuesday night at Seattle Town Hall — Can Seattle Save the World? — was clearly a huge hit, drawing in an estimated 700 people, despite our best efforts to confuse you.

Yes, the title was a bit goofy. We intended it so. And yes, I know the ticket sale thing got a bit hectic in between moving venues, but it was a test to see how much you cared.

Obviously, you care a great deal. Global health, global poverty and social justice are hot topics in this community, which I dubbed off-the-top-of-my-head “do-gooder central” at the event.

Here are a few moments from last night that stood out.

We all “tolerate poverty” — because our lives are subsidized by the suffering of others, said Bill Foege (paraphrasing MLK). That is, poverty makes our middle-class lifestyles possible, by keeping the prices cheap on so many products.

“I’d like to see half of all development money go to educating consumers,” about the choices we make, said Joe Whinney. Having consumers be educated will have more impact than any amount of philanthropy.

“It’s the most unproductive debate in global health,” said Chris Elias, referring to the debate over whether we should invest in technologies vs. strengthening local health systems. (“You need to do both,” he said. Design your technology to fit into real-world systems.)

Some people in the 20th century thought DDT was a “magic bullet” against malaria, even though it took a systems approach to wipe it out in the U.S., and now the discussion in Seattle seems to be centered on looking for new magic bullets, said Wendy Johnson. Whatever new technologies we develop, they should be equitably distributed.

But I’d rather get your thoughts, impressions and reactions. By the end of the evening, the conversation took on a life of its own, through the audience’s (excellent) questions. Judging by the line at the microphones, there’s still a lot left to be said. What about that whole thread on young people and jobs?

So please chime in using the comments below (and/or check out the Twitter stream at #SEAsaves).

We need to continue this discussion!


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.