a world

Let Us Help Close the Inequality Gap.

 

Out of the 25 wealthiest nations on Earth, the United States ranks No. 1 regarding income inequality.

And while it may be surprising to some, this vast inequality is the proximate cause of much of the violence, addiction and mental illness in our nation.

Income inequality affects all segments of society, not just those who are struggling to get by. Inequality is a sickness in the soul of society, and like any illness, while one part of the body may be hurting more than others, the body as a whole suffers fatigue and disease. If we wish to heal the soul of America from violence, disease and despair, we must act to address income inequality.

And this means convincing those in power that equality truly benefits us all, even the 1 percent of super-wealthy individuals.

Greater Inequality Means Greater Pollution for All

One surprising way in which income inequality impacts society is that the nations with the greatest income inequality also produce the most pollution.

The reasons why are multifaceted — however, the evidence clearly shows in countries where income inequality runs rampant, consumers produce more disposable waste, have a heavier carbon footprint, and release more harmful emissions into the air than nations where income is more equitable.

The increase in disposable waste stems from the fact that those in nations with the greatest wealth disparities feel the most pressure to keep up with the Joneses by creating at least the illusion of wealth. That leads consumers with lesser means to buy cheaper alternatives to fad products which fail to stand the test of time.

We all have a finite amount of space in our home and vehicles, which means eventually, we’ll throw away everything we buy. When consumers buy cheaper knockoffs of quality items, they tend to end up in the landfill.

Producing these products, of course, takes energy, which leads to an increase in CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels in industry. Not only does production use more energy, but transporting these goods to retailers likewise increases emissions of deadly greenhouse gases.

Couple this with the fact that those caught in the rat race often face long commutes to work, and before you know it, you have a society in which nobody thinks anything is wrong with cutting down the last Truffula tree, as long as they can have a cheap knockoff Thneed.

In nations with less income inequality, that pressure to keep up with having the latest trappings of wealth eases significantly. People engage in work that is meaningful, instead of spending hours in traffic to get to the highest-paying endeavor. Citizens purchase items for their longevity, and waste less.

And because quality products last longer, these societies create fewer emissions because there is no mad race to have the newest gadget.

Greater Inequality Means Worse Health Outcomes for All

Not only is inequality bad for the environment, but it’s also bad for human health. Part of this is due to increased pollution levels — however, not all of it is.

In nations such as the U.S. where income inequality is highest, infant and maternal mortality rates correspondingly rise. It should surprise no one, then, that the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations. The U.S. also remains unique in that it is the only developed nation that fails to guarantee the right to health care coverage for all citizens.

And with the removal of the individual mandate from the ACA, these already sobering numbers will indubitably rise even higher.

Rising income inequality also leads to a corresponding rise in mental health disorders, particularly addiction disorders, anxiety and depression. Again, as the most unequal nation among developed countries, the United States has an enormous number of people suffering from mental health disorders. The United States now suffers from a suicide epidemic, and the numbers continue to rise.

From 1999 to 2014, suicide in the U.S. rose by a staggering 24 percent.

Greater Inequality Means More Violence Toward All

It’s common wisdom that depression is anger turned inward. But what happens when that hostility radiates toward others? The answer is a rise in violent crime. Studies of people incarcerated for violent crimes indicate many of the triggers stem from feelings of being disrespected.

In societies where income inequality is highest, such as the U.S., entire segments of society feel downtrodden and disrespected. Is it any wonder, then, that such nations experience regular violent crime?

Indeed, the U.S. justice system receives constant criticism for the way wealthy individuals get off with a slap on the wrist while low-income individuals, especially people of color, receive unduly onerous sentences.

Further complicating matters is the fact that when these individuals are free from prison, they often cannot find employment that pays a sufficient amount to cover their basic living expenses, which in turn leads to recidivism, as a life of crime may be the only economic alternative for many ex-convicts.

If no other factor convinces those in charge that income inequality is the major political issue of our times, it should be the fact that the greater income inequality grows, the more crime increases. And, of course, wealthy individuals make the most attractive crime targets.

Income inequality hurts the environment, destroys health and enjoyment in life, and leads to a chaotic and crime-filled society. While perfect parity will always remain an impossible ideal, it is incumbent upon wealthy nations where inequality exists to try to level the playing field if they wish to decrease violence and maintain a habitable planet for all to share.

We can all help move this shift along on an individual level by speaking up, doing our own part everyday to cut back on waste and greed, and voting for politicians who uphold progressive stances on closing the inequality gap.

Remember: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

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Kate Harveston
Kate Harveston is a freelance writer and blogger. Her work focuses on equality and social justice issues. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found curled up in her hammock with a book or exploring the city for trendy coffee shops. If you would like to follow her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.