According to Mavy d'Ache Harmon, director of the Brazilian Red Cross, there is no poverty -- just ignorance. To back up this remarkable statement, Mrs. Harmon cites the many areas of the world (including most of Brazil) with arable land, where eating just one mango a day is sufficient nourishment.
The solution to the world's water, air, and food problems, she argues, is education.
As a counterpoint to this assertion are the marvelous advances in food production (more yield per hectare) cited by David Rockefeller here during a conference of philanthropists and business leaders. He, too, cited education as the No. 1 development tool.
I had an opportunity to discuss the differences between poverty and ignorance further with Mrs. Harmon, who, besides her Red Cross work, is very active in voluntary educational activities.
She talked about Brazil's present use of grains to make a type of gasohol and said that as many as one-third of all the ears and trucks in Brazil used this type of fuel and not petroleum.
The problem, of course, is whether there is enough food both to feed a hungry nation and to move its vehicles.
Mrs. Harmon spoke, too, of the constant talk of "limits" by those who speak of coming global disasters -- of disease, famine, pollution of the ecosystem, etc. She declared: "There is no limit to learning." And further.
"We leave ourselves without hope if we don't use education as the weapon to fight fear."
And by education, she indicated, at every level. Acknowledging that many rural people had the understanding to feed one village, she nevertheless explained that they must learn to feed the next village as well -- the next and the next, each at every level getting the necessary education to cope with an ever-smaller and tumultuous globe.
Urbanization is a fast-growing problem in all nations. Again, according to this dynamic, multilingual entrepreneur, the need is to provide free education for all who are coming to the cities where both jobs and services are available.
If poverty were the problem, she insisted, then money would be the solution. But it is not. There is no poverty, she repeated, only ignorance. "And with education, both of ideas and skills, you see ignorance -- what some call poverty --dis appear."