Live Below the Line Challenge with Claire Knowlton

I meet a lot of inspiring people and sometimes when I’m really lucky they come over to my art studio, eat vegan cake with me and let me photograph them. This was one of those times.

My friend Carrie Poppy introduced me to a really cool woman by the name of Claire Knowlton. Claire does a lot of activism and she has thought deeply on where to put her efforts. During the last week of April she is participating in The Live Below the Line Challenge.

I asked Claire some questions about her activism and I took some photos of her. Enjoy!

Clair 2 sm

What type of activism do you do?

I’ve leafleted for animal rights with PETA. One time my bff and I brought a few signs and a stack of leaflets to a “Zombie Walk” down Hollywood Blvd. There were maybe 100 people dressed up in zombie costumes zombie-ing their way down the street. Since my bff and I were the only ones with signs, everyone assumed the whole thing was an animal rights stunt! Our signs said, “Flesh is for zombies. Go vegan.”

I’ve done phone banking for elections.

I’ve gone door-to-door through South Los Angeles for marriage equality.

I’ve written lots of letters on behalf of prisoners of conscious with Amnesty International.

But I think the best activism I do is in my day-to-day life: living according to my values, and explaining why I have the values that I do when asked.

Clair 5 sm

How did you fist get involved with The Life You Can Save organization?

I read the book by the same title (which my bff gave me). I jumped onto the website and took the pledge to give a percentage of my income to highly performing nonprofits working against extreme poverty. And I realized that there was no organization behind the book. 14,000 people had taken the pledge publicly on the website, but no one was harnessing their passion. In the fall of 2011, a couple of Peter Singer’s grad students reached out to me about helping them start the organization. And I’ve been helping since then. I am proud to say that we received our 501(c)(3) status from the IRS about 4 months ago, and I am serving as the President of the Board.

Clair 7 sm

Can you tell us a little bit about the specific issues you are addressing by participating in the, “Live Below The Line Challenge”?

Living in the U.S., it’s hard to imagine what extreme poverty really means. We have a social safety net. If you are really really poor, there is food, shelter, healthcare, clean water, and laws that will help protect you. Our social safety net is full of holes, It’s no where near perfect, but it’s more than much of the world has.

The Live Below the Line challenge takes a step toward mimicking extreme global poverty. 1.4 billion people live on less that $1.50 per day. And before you say “well $1.50 goes a lot farther in those countries”, no it doesn’t. That $1.50 figure is adjusted for purchasing power parity. It is the equivalent of having $1.50 in the U.S. to live on. With no social safety net to step fill in the gaps. So yeah, that is not enough. It’s not enough to feed yourself well, to clothe yourself, to shelter yourself. And forget education, transportation, or healthcare. You can’t meet your most basic needs on $1.50 a day. That’s what we mean by extreme poverty.

In the Live Below the Line challenge, I’ll be feeding myself on less than $1.50 a day for five days. I get to keep my apartment. I get to keep my car and my health insurance. I get to drink as much tap water as I want. I don’t have to account for the fuel to cook my food, or heat my home. It is not a perfect approximation to living in extreme poverty by any stretch. But it is effing hard! I did the challenge last year, and I walked away with a much more tangible concept of what it means to go without. Hunger hurts.

Clair 10 sm

How can other people get involved in this challenge or help out?

Live Below the Line yourself! You can join the challenge on your own, or be part of my team (I’m heading up The Life You Can Save’s team again this year).

You can donate to the challenge.

At The Life You Can Save, we recommend a minimum level that people should donate towards ending extreme poverty, based on their income. You can find out how much we recommend you give, and take the pledge:

Clair 6 sm

What other organizations do you recommend for people that want to help make the world a better place?

Check out The Life You Can Save’s list of recommended charities.

Claire, thank you so much for explaining this project to us and thank you for all the work you do. And an extra special thanks for letting me photograph you!

All photos © Amy Davis Roth

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. I’d presume a lot of it in those regions is subsistence farming, hunting, and fishing. Because I can’t see living on $1.50 a day without access to those things.

    I can mention places where, despite low incomes, bread costs $6.

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