Meeting Minutes from inSPIRe Social on June 21, 2008

We had our fifth social event of 2008 at Joanne and Jim s home in West Seattle.  We had a nice turnout with approximately 30 guests to hear our guest speakers Dick Nelson, Michael Righi, Bobbi Righi and Jeff Keenan.  Thanks so much to Joanne and Jim for opening up their home!



The Jubilee Act Contact your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor the Jubilee Act.  (Contact Senator Maria Cantwell at 206-220-6400; Contact Senator Patty Murray at 206- 553-0891)  The Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation (HR 2634/ S 2166) has been scheduled for a committee markup and vote during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee business meeting on Tuesday, June 24, 2008.  If the bill passes committee, it will be considered by the full Senate. This legislation would expand debt cancellation to impoverished countries that need it to fight poverty, promote responsible lending, and require an audit of odious, illegal and onerous loans. The bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 285-132 on April 16. Take Action today! Contact your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor the Jubilee Act.

Help enhance public awareness regarding the UN Millennium Goals Project Joanne Dufour is a point-person for organizing speaking opportunities for the Puget Sound Millennium Goals Project.  Please contact Joanne if you have an idea or opportunity for a speaking opportunity Joanne will do the rest!  206-937-5724 or  We need to get the word out!  The Millennium Goals Project has great speakers that would love to come address your gathering.

Also, Seattle Times staff at Newspapers in Education is planning to run a 32 article series on the MDGs in the fall and is actively pursuing sponsorship for this series. Sponsorship means that the issue reaches all 258 teachers and students in the program in the Puget Sound area at no charge. It costs approximately $1500 per issue to accomplish this. If you know of someone or some group interested and willing to consider this, please ask them to contact Dana Twight, Circulation Department at Seattle Times at

Contact your members of Congress about the International Monetary Fund the IMF, as noted in the minutes below, engages in behavior that is disastrous for 3rd world countries.  Please call your members of Congress and ask them to withdraw any support for the IMF unless the IMF changes their approach towards debt repayment in impoverished nations.  (See more below)

Our Day to End Poverty: 24 Ways You Can Make a Difference guest speaker Jeff Keenen s book provides clear and simple ways for all of us to make a difference in fighting poverty.  Check it out at your local bookstore or online.  Read the online description of Our Day to End Poverty at Amazon.

inSPIRe Book Club! We are now reading Ishmael by Daniel Quinn for our next meeting, July 16th.  To join the book club and get on the list, just send an email to


Keynote Speakers:

Speaker #1:  Dick Nelson.  Dick is the coordinator of the Puget Sound Millennium Goals Project. Dick is a former engineer and also a former Washington State Representative who has been instrumental in bringing together a range of organizations and individuals interested in, advocating for and helping to reach the targets of the goals proclaimed by the United Nations in 2000.  Dick discussed the importance of the work being done at the UN.  Please see for local efforts.

Dick shared an overview of the goals, listed as follows:


1.  Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

2.  Achieve universal primary education

3.  Promote gender equality and empower women

4.  Reduce child mortality

5.  Improve maternal health

6.  Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

7.  Ensure environmental sustainability

8.  Develop a global partnership for development

Dick commented that these goals, although arguably focusing on eight of the most important issues we face today on our planet, may qualify at being the world s best kept secret.   All 190 UN membership nations signed up to the goals.  Many people in our community have questioned and grown weary of our current Bush Administration s approach towards dealing with terrorism through military efforts.  The MDGs offer a different avenue towards safety and peace.  There is a direct link between poverty and instability as well as between feelings of hopelessness and violent acts.  Our US foreign policy efforts towards creating a more stable world, thus a safer world for Americans, would benefit from directing more attention and money towards the MLGs and less towards military strategies.

Dick spoke in some detail regarding Goal 7 on issues of Climate Change.  The MDGs did not directly address climate change in Goal 7 s ensure environmental sustainability this has evolved in recent years as evidence of global warming has become indisputable and the dangers more defined.  Its targets include to integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and to reverse the loss of environmental resources, as well as to assist the most vulnerable nations and peoples in adapting to climate change.  It focuses on significantly reducing the risk of physical harm and displacement from extreme weather events.  Specific indicators being tracked to monitor progress.

To engage us in discussion, Dick put forth some climate change questions, including where we stand regarding emissions and global temperature increase, greenhouse emissions already in the atmosphere and future forecasts, the affect on sea levels, impact on the well-being of populations, impediments to curtailing emissions, adaptation will nations need to make, what will it cost, and who should pay for it.  Dick then showed us multiple charts indicating the rise in global temperatures, the rise in atmosphere CO2 concentration and the rise in CO2 emissions from human activity over time.

Dick then listed some of the many dilemmas we face in climate change mitigation.  This included the economic rise of China and India and their need for energy, as well as their use of their abundant coal reserves (I.E., a very high CO2 energy source).  This is true also in other developing countries.  These countries are striving to improve their own quality of life, trying to match our lifestyles here in the US, which are high in resource consumption as well in CO2 emissions. 

The needs of a fuel for worldwide transportation increases our burden of CO2 emissions.  Energy for transportation needs tends to be CO2 rich , such as oil, and alternatives such as biofuels need to be developed in a sustainable way to avoid competing with food (such as ethanol produced from corn does).  Also, capturing or sequestering CO2 is problematic and often expensive, even though the coal, oil and natural gas lobbies try to minimize this point.  Dick discussed many other challenges we face, but we have no choice but to face these challenges and succeed in overcoming them. 

Dick then discussed risk factors we face with climate change.  These include reduced agricultural productivity, heightened water insecurity, increased exposure to coastal flooding, extreme weather events, collapse of ecosystems and increased health risks.  Dick then discussed what it would cost to address these risks and meet our challenges.  Areas of cost include climate-proofing development, adapting poverty reduction to climate change and strengthening our disaster response efforts.  The UNDP Report of December 2007, based on GDP projections from World Bank 2007, estimates these costs to be up to $86 billion by 2015.  This seems like a lot of money, and it is, but to put it in perspective, this is what US taxpayers spend on the Iraq war every 7 weeks.  An obvious question is which US taxpayer investment will better help to keep Americans, and our world, more safe?  Dick showed a photo of efforts in Bangladesh to address climate change, with shelters being built on stilts to avoid future floods.  These shelters can double as much needed schools. 

Dick then shared a UN mission statement on climate change, which is as follows:

For too long, climate change adaptation has been treated as a peripheral concern, rather than as a core part of the international poverty reduction agenda. Mitigation is an imperative because it will define prospects for avoiding dangerous climate change in the future. But the world s poor cannot be left to sink or swim with their own resources while rich countries protect their citizens behind climate-defense fortifications. Social justice and respect of human rights demand stronger international commitment on adaptation.   UNDP Report, December 2007

Lastly, Dick addressed the issue of overpopulation.  As women s rights, education and community opportunities are improved, fertility rates decrease.  As economic opportunities are improved, birth rates dropped.  As maternal healthcare and infant mortalities are reduced, the feeling within impoverished families that they must have a large number of children is reduced.  By making family planning services available, affordable and accessible to all those that choose to use them, as well as with the providing of comprehensive sex education, families become dramatically healthier and family sized become smaller.  Sadly, all of these policies towards social, environmental and economic justice have been opposed by America s Religious Right, and have been trounced over the past 7+ years of the Bush Administration. 


Speaker #2:  Bobbi Righi.  Bobbi is an activist with Jubilee.  Jubilee focuses on debt relief.  Today, international debt has become a new form of slavery.  Jubilee calls for a definitive cancellation of international debts and the restoration of right relationships between nations.  Bobbi explained the impossibility impoverished nations face with trying to pay off their debt obligations, often at extremely high interest rates, and how this severely inhibits their ability of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  All eight goals are impacted by debt.  Countries cannot work towards the goals when a significant portion of their Gross National Product (GDP) is required to be directed at debt repayment.  With debt come lender rules from the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, which is the major organization in extending debt.  Effectively, countries are strangled and their peoples are impoverished.  As an example, 61% the people of Nigeria live on less than $1.00 per day.  This is sadly typical throughout the third world.


Speaker #3:  Michael Righi.  Michael is an Economics professor at Bellevue Community College.  He's been an active member of Jubilee NW Coalition since 1999.  Michael is a veteran on the economics of debt and debt cancellation, and gave us a brief economics explanation of the impact on debt on impoverished nations.  An example is a rule that the IMF places on countries when they receive IMF loans, frequently the IMF directs the country to stop growing their own food, asserting that they are inefficient at food production, and force them to buy their food from lending nations such as the US.  This effectively expands the market for US food exports but significantly raising the cost of food in the 3rd world.  Africa used to be a net-food-exporter, but through IMF demands no longer is.  Combine this with the high farm subsidies that both US and European farmers receive from their respective governments, and the result is that 3rd word farmers cannot compete. 

This creates crises in these countries.  Michael provided the example of Malawi, Africa.  In Malawi for years their government provided farmers the very small subsidy of fertilizer and seeds.  The IMF declared that they were spending too much on farm aid and made the Malawi government stop this practice.  The IMF also required the Malawi government to sell of their agricultural surpluses.  Shortly thereafter, Malawi suffered a drought, which resulted in widespread famine and resulted in human hardships and deaths.  Of course, the IMF would take no responsibility for this disaster their policies created. 

The US is the major player and influencer of the IMF.  Michael indicated there is no real difference in IMF behavior with a Democrat or a Republican US presidential administration.  He indicated the IMF effectively practices faith-based economics, I.E., economics not based in reality.  He suggested that the IMF economists may not actually understand the true disastrous impact of their actions.  When impoverished nations receive new grants, intended for fighting poverty or other millennium goals, the IMF mandates that these funds must first go towards debt repayment, thus their poverty crisis remains.  In the US, most Americans don t have any idea as to what the IMF is, but in the 3rd world, the impact of the IMF is widely known.  The US controls 21% of the IMF Board.  Our Department of Treasury appoints our members on the IFM Board.


Speaker #4:  Jeff Keenan.  Jeff is an author of Our Day to End Poverty, a book offering specific actions individuals can take towards reaching the goals will discuss the integration of the goals, and the importance of working towards them as a unified framework for eliminating povertyRead the online description of Our Day to End Poverty at Amazon.

For his day job, Jeff works as a computer software guy, but also volunteers to help make the world a more just place.  Part of his volunteer efforts includes his work with the Puget Sound Millennium Goals Project.  In his volunteer work Jeff views things through the eyes of a business person.  He was surprised when he got involved with the MDGs in that, as with successful business plans, they had a clearly defined mission and goals, measurable results and a firm schedule. 

Jeff conducted an interactive engagement with us, asking many questions and encouraging audience participation.  One question was who among us could name all 8 of the MDGs?  Laura Hart succeeded!  Jeff led us in an exercise to simplify and integrate the 8 goals.  There is a strong relationship between all the goals and the problems they are trying to solve.  Most Americans are unaware of the MDGs, but they are taught throughout Europe to school children. 

Jeff spoke of the powerful history and legacy in the US towards fighting poverty as well as the other 7 MD goals.  These efforts need to be cross-cultural and apolitical.  He discussed how to engage others with these issues and address that all-too-common reaction activists face when people s eyes glaze over when you try to bring them into awareness of things like the MDGs.  But it is absolutely essential for people like members of inSPIRe to become aware, concerned and engaged in supporting issues such as the MDGs.  Change, any sort of change, comes from the people.  We might not see it happening, especially not happening quickly, yet if we all work collectively towards these goals, in the end our efforts will be seen. 

Jeff passed out colorful 3x5 cards.  On one side he had us write down what motivates us to become involved.  On the other side he had us write down what it would take to make global/extreme poverty personal for each of us.  We had many answers to both questions.  Folks expressed outrage, such as outrage at the lack of justice at the IMF, etc.  People described their own personal experiences in seeing and dealing with poverty and how this personal experience keeps them engaged.  We had a very successful interactive discussion. 


As always, many, many questions were asked but not recorded.  Sorry!

Many thanks to our hosts and our speakers!

See you at the next inSPIRe meeting!

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Previous meeting minutes


Previous IAN Events


First speaker, Dick Nelson


Second and third speakers, Michael and Bobbi Righi


Fourth speaker, Jeff Keenan


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