My story of hope is one that begins with my journey from being a mum, living in poverty, and trying to heal and sustain myself through campaigning for a better world.  

The Poverty Truth Community empowered me by listening to me, acting with me, and believing in me; giving me the hope, strength, and guidance I needed to eventually find a job working with communities to create sustainable food systems.  

This work has been both fulfilling and transformative for me, and my journey is very much reflected in the opening words that I compiled for the 17th October event in George Square, Glasgow, which the PTC gave me the opportunity to host in 2015.  

The theme was: ‘Building a sustainable future: Coming together to end poverty and discrimination’, and, while my words captured some of the anguish I experienced as a mum living with poverty, they also provided hope for the future, which is what I have now:  Here is a summary:

Today we live in a frenzied, consumerist world and the beneficiaries of it are but a privileged few.  Yet consumerism has a way of convincing us that it benefits everyone.  We are told that we have freedom of choice, everything at our fingertips, we can have things right here and right now and, if we work hard enough, we can have anything we want and we need.  

This is the myth of consumerism.  The reality is that the cost of living is rising and the incomes of the poorest are being reduced; many are debt-ridden, battling illness/disability, discriminated against, working long, anti-social and low-paid jobs, and sacrificing precious time with their family and friends with little to show for it.  People are breaking their backs to achieve the impossible and then they get stigmatised for not trying hard enough.

Consumerism is a powerful machine, charging through communities, leaving shattered lives and broken people in its wake.  It is having a devastating effect on the environment and exacerbates poverty around the world.  But there are signs here and globally that the time is ripe to reverse some of the damage that has been done.  Sustainable development, in short, is:

“Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  From the World Commission on Environment and Development’s (the Brundtland Commission) report Our Common Future (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987). 

All over we see grass roots efforts in the shape of social enterprises, eco-groups, community activism, charities, churches and new approaches to community development that are linking people to their environment and communities in ways we have never seen before.   

Through sustainable development we can take the control of our future, and that of the generations who follow us, out of the hands of the privileged few who are driving consumerism, and into the hands of the people who have been affected by it.  

We are the ones who know the truth about how consumerism influences us; how it causes and contributes to poverty, environmental degradation, inequality, and discrimination.  We are the ones who can raise awareness of the damage it does to ordinary human beings trying, against the odds to live together harmoniously in communities here and the world over.  

Through sustainable development we can take small steps as individuals and communities to resist, transform and overcome.  

Jackie Stockdale