The Amish

The Amish group are a Christian group believed to have been formed by a schism (disagreement) in an Anabaptist group in Switzerland in 1693. In the 18th Century members migrated to the US. The largest Amish communities are now found in the US and Canada. In the US the largest population is in Ohio where there are about 55,000, followed by Pennsylvania where there are about 51,000 - in total the Amish are believed to number over 250,000. The Amish population is growing fast (4% per annum between 1992 and 2010). The many reason for this is the very high fertility rate of 6.8 (remember the replacement rate is about 2.1).

The Amish normally pray in families and not churches. Congregation are based on location. Each congregation normally has about 25 families. Prayer meetings are held in different houses on a rotating basis. Members are normally baptised between the ages of 16-25 and are encouraged to marry within the Amish community. Family groups are very common within the Amish community. Elderly members are cared for within the family and also corporal punishment is handed out within the family.

The Amish are famous for trying to avoid the globalisation of their society. Below is a summary of the some of the ways that they have avoided globalisation, as well as some of the ways that they have been forced to globalise. There is also a summary of some of the positive and negative impacts that this has had on their way of life.
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Amish gene 'limits heart disease' - BBC article

The Amish are multiplying – so are their problems - Independent article

Seven men arrested over Amish hair-cutting attacks - BBC article



  • Anti-individualist (avoidance of labour saving technology so that they can work as a community)
  • They have largely separated themselves from society because they believe they are ‘Gods own people’.
  • Many groups still where traditional dress (must be plain and simple), use traditional tools and traditional forms of transport
  • Many speak traditional language ‘Pennsylvania German’.
  • Amish do not use mains electricity (must be self-generated)
  • Telephone discouraged to encourage direct communication
  • No computers, TVs or mobile phones
  • Expensive land prices and growing populations have forced many Amish to work outside communities
  • Amish have opened tourist shops selling handicrafts
  • Some groups have allowed the use of cars
  • They do not used motorised farm equipment, but do use pesticides and fertilisers.
  • Most Amish now also speak English
  • At the age of 16, members can spend time outside the community to decide if they want to remain a member, 90% decide to remain a member



  • Lower than average rates of cancer because of their clean living e.g. simple diet and limited use of tobacco and alcohol.
  • Close family ties and support network e.g. care for elderly
  • Little pollution because of no electricity
  • Suicide rates below national average (family support?)
  • Above average in lower grades (spelling, word use and mathematics)
  • Low rates of theft, fraud and other non-violent crimes
  • Self-sufficient so are not vulnerable to changes in supply and demand of goods
  • Pacifists so all disputes will be resolved within the community
  • Healthier diet, because people don’t east fast food, but a more basic healthier diet.
  • Maintain traditional culture
  • High incidence of genetic disorders (small gene pool)
  • Above average infant mortality (compared to US)
  • Education stops at grade 8
  • Overpopulation because of reluctance to use technology (food shortages)
  • Reluctance to use contraception has also led to overpopulation
  • Avoidance of medical care
  • Discrimination from outside because of lack of understanding
  • High profile sexual abuse cases (often not reported)
  • Physical abuse (corporal punishment)
  • They don’t accept state benefits during hard times
  • Women are subordinate to men (also true in many societies)
  • Traffic accidents with slow moving horse and carts

Uncontacted Tribes

The tribe shown in the photo to the right was discovered by Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI) – the Brazilian agency in charge of protecting indigenous groups in May 2008. About 50 uncontacted tribes live in Amazon rainforest - possibly numbering between 4000-6000 people. The tribe has been given no name. Current policy is not to contact tribes, unless their lives are in immediate danger.

The tribe is located deep in the Amazon rainforest near the Peru and Brazil border. The area currently has not been explored, so the group has had no contact with outside world. The photos of the group was taken from a plane. On the initial fly by, the tribe was not painted. On the return flight, several hours later, tribe members were painted and had spears. The group probably believed the plane was a large bird or spirit. Very little about the groups culture is known. They are probably hunter-gatherers although there is some evidence of agriculture. Accommodation is fairly basic but looks semi-permanent.

It is impossible to measure their quality of life using traditional measures e.g. GDP, HDI, etc. It is also very hard to measure development through happiness, family ties or social development? Is being isolated and surviving for 10,000 years a sign of a high quality of life? The photographs seem to show sustainability, good diet (tribe looked healthy), relative peace, basic and natural medical care and understanding of environment.

This and other uncontacted tribes are under threat for a number of reasons including:
  • Loggers
  • Miners
  • Cattle Ranchers
  • Disease (on average 50% of tribe die within year of first contact)
  • Dam building
  • Many people would be happy to kill indigenous groups to gain access to land

For more information on threats to rainforests, go to: Biodiversity and change
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Isolated tribe spotted in Brazil - BBC article

New images of remote Brazil tribe - BBC article



  • No debt (no credit crunches or recessions)
  • No outside diseases (measles, flu)
  • No materialism (no money)
  • Sustainable (in terms of food and energy)
  • Minimal pollution (smoke from fires, but no packaging, chemicals, fossil fuels, cars, etc.)
  • Nuclear family (no dispersion of friends and family)
  • No crime or minimal crime
  • No substance abuse e.g. drugs
  • Small gene pool (but no problem for thousands of years)
  • Conflict with other tribes
  • No treatment for injuries (possibly local remedies?)
  • No access to luxuries e.g. toilets and TV (but how can you miss something that you don’t know exists)
  • Lack of education and knowledge might mean that they can not protect their homeland (obviously unjust)

Survival International

Survival International is an NGO that campaigns for the rights for indigenous groups and uncontacted tribes. The organisation was founded in 1969 and is based in London, UK. The organisations fights for tribes so that they can:
  • Keep their ancestral lands
  • Maintain their traditional culture
  • Determine their own future i.e. their level of integration

Survival International tries to educate the general population against outdated and naive views that indigenous groups are some how uncivilised and backwards. Survival International campaigns for the estimated 150 million people living within indigenous tribes in over 60 countries. Survival International is currently doing a lot of work in the Amazon Rainforest where up to 50 uncontacted tribes still exist. Like FUNAI, Survival International believe that these groups should remain uncontacted in order to ensure there ongoing survival.

Survival International has about 50 staff and over 250,000 supporters. Survival International uses all forms of media (TV, radio, internet, newspapers) to highlight awareness and promote their campaigns.
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The Fairtrade Foundation

The Fairtrade Foundation was founded in 1992 by CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Traidcraft, the World Development Movement and the National Federation of Women's Institutes. The Fairterade Foundation is a British based charity which is a member of the Fair trade Labelling Organisation (FLO). The FLO unites 23 different labelling initiatives from around the world. The FLO was established in Bonn, Germany in 1997.

Although the Fair trade concept has been around for about 40 years, the first fair trade label was not used until 1988 when a label called Max Havelaar (Max Havelaar was a fictional character who apposed exploitation of coffee workers in Dutch colonies) was used on some Mexican coffee being sold in Dutch supermarkets. The Fairtrade Foundation introduced its first label on Green and Blacks Maya Gold Chocolate in 1994.

Even though there are 23 different labelling organisations, they all have common goals that are to ensure primary producers in LEDCs are paid a fair a survivable wage for the production of crops (cocoa, tea, coffee, bananas, flowers, etc.) and that workers are treated fairly. They also do some research into the impacts of poverty. In the UK sales reached 500 million pounds in 2007 and is widely used by large retailers like Starbucks, Cadbury's and Sainsbury's. Worldwide nearly $5 billion was spent on Fair trade products in 2008.
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Grameen Bank

The Grameen Bank was founded in 1983 by Muhammad Yunus. It specialises in microfinance and is headquarterd in Dhaka, Bangladesh. By 2006 the bank had over 2000 branches and had inspired similar projects in over 40 countries. The idea of the bank is to lend small amounts of capital to poor people (especially women) who previously did not have access to loans. Muhammad Yunus believed that the poor and especially females (97% of borrowers are female) were being underutilised because of their lack of access to finance. The bank is largely (94%) owned by the borrowers, this group membership creates peer pressure which ensures that repayment is much higher than most traditional banks. The banks main objectives are:
  • extend banking facilities to poor men and women;
  • eliminate the exploitation of the poor by money lenders;
  • create opportunities for self-employment for the vast multitude of unemployed people in rural Bangladesh;bring the disadvantaged, mostly the women from the poorest households, within the fold of an organizational format which they can understand and manage by themselves; and
  • reverse the age-old vicious circle of "low income, low saving & low investment", into virtuous circle of "low income, injection of credit, investment, more income, more savings, more investment, more income".

Since its inception the bank has lent over $11 billion with a repayment rate of over 96%. The bank has over 7 million members and over 25,000 employees. Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank received a Noble Peace Prize in 2006 in recognition of its efforts to reduce poverty. Even though most loans are very small with low interest rates (normally below $100 with interest of about 10%), the bank has received criticism for placing poor people in debt that they find very hard to escape from.
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