The gap between rich and poor Americans is now the widest of any industrial nation.
One-fifth of the world's population lives in dire poverty, slowly dying of hunger and disease. Millions of others desperately need more material goods. Yet, were they to consume as Americans do, the result would be an environmental disaster.
Americans throw away 7 million cars a year, 2 million plastic bottles every hour and enough aluminum cans annually to make 6,000 DC-10 airliners.
Start video when screen reads: "Symptom: Social Scars." (about 16:03 on the counter) This clip is used with both the Popcorn Party and Small World activities.
Stop video after this scene: "Affluenza, the disease of consumerism, is spreading around the world... so it's really critical that we here in North America begin to alter our patterns of consumption and set a better example for the rest of the world of what the good life really is, or none of us are going to have a good life." (about 18:57)
Review the following definitions with students:
The United Nations divides the world into the First, Second and Third Worlds.
First World countries are wealthier nations that consume most of the world's resources--for instance, the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom and France. Economic systems are based on capitalism/free enterprise and the nations are highly industrialized. Families in these countries tend to be small and money, status and performing tasks with great speed is valued. Although these countries are rich, a significant portion of the population is still very poor.
Second World countries are less wealthy. They consume fewer goods, and have a moderate standard of living. These countries--for instance, Russia, China and Poland--have economies that have been influenced by socialism. Industry in these countries is rapidly developing, and families tend to be small.
Third World countries--for instance, Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia and Uganda--are extremely poor. Poverty and hunger are common, families are larger and many children do not survive to adulthood. (Large families mean more workers who can help the family to survive.)
Fourth and Fifth Worlds are people that depend on nature for survival--for instance, hunter and gatherer societies.
Divide students into unequal First, Second and Third World groups. (Twenty-five students might be divided into four students in the First World group, seven students in the Second World group and fourteen students in the Third World group.)
(Option: there could also be a Fourth/Fifth World group with a single student.)
Give members of First World a really big bag of popcorn with butter and salt, and a two sodas each to drink. (Don't eat or drink yet!)
The Second World students receive a smaller bag of plain popcorn and some iced tea without sugar. (Don't eat or drink yet!)
The Third World students get a few kernels of popped corn, some burned, half-popped kernels and some unpopped kernels and water. (Don't eat or drink yet!)
(Option: if there is a Fourth/Fifth World Group, they receive unpopped popcorn only.)
After the popcorn has been distributed, ask students if they want to change places.
(The First World students may travel freely. The Second World students must decide on a specific destination--and they may not be able to return home. The Third World students are too poor to travel. The Fourth/Fifth World students don't have a way to travel outside their homeland.)
Ask students how to divide up the popcorn for the members of their group.
(Students may decide to divide up the popcorn among all the students. Teachers might ask the students to divide the popcorn among the members of each group only. Some students might have already eaten their popcorn.)
After students have divided up the popcorn, they may eat it.
Did students in the First World have any leftover popcorn? Did they eat it right away? Did they share? Did they spill popcorn or waste soda?
How did students decide to divide up their resources? Did anyone with extra popcorn offer to share theirs with a member of the Second or Third World?
How did the Third World members feel watching the others enjoy their popcorn? Did any of them see parallels with real life? (People in the Third World have seen the same commercials for products, and they want the same goods that people in the First World have.)
If you played a video of people eating, ask students if they noticed it, and if they did, how it made them feel.