December 11th, 2008
04:32 PM ET

Susan Sarandon: "I saw the choices people are forced to make"

Program Note: CNN’s award-winning Planet in Peril returns this year to examine the conflict between growing populations and natural resources. Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Lisa Ling travel to the front lines of this worldwide battle.
Watch Planet In Peril: Battle Lines Thursday 9p ET

We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/10/art.vert.sarandon.jpg caption="Susan Sarandon, actor and  'Heifer International' supporter" width=292 height=320]

Susan Sarandon
Actress and activist

One thing that could help relieve stress and reduce conflict would be if the poorest people on the planet, the one billion of us living on less than a dollar a day, could have hope for a brighter future - better nutrition, better livelihoods so their kids can have better diets as they grow up, clean water, education, and enough income so they have the few dollars it takes to prevent a child from dying of malaria.

Simple, basic needs being met. This goes to the heart of many of the stresses that lead to strife. One of my favorite charities, Heifer International, is addressing the problem in more than 50 countries around the world, working to help subsistence farmers who are living below the poverty line improve their farm production and have sustainable sources of food. In my trips overseas I saw the choices people are forced to make.

I saw how difficult it is to get a toehold to lift yourself up from poverty because you're always struggling to feed yourself one more day. Heifer provides a toehold. It gives people a dairy cow or goat that helps them feed themselves and have a little income. That's all they need to get the little push to lift themselves up.

And then they become responsible for helping lift up a neighbor through "Passing on the Gift" of offspring of their animals and training to others in their communities.

And they do this while helping the environment and building community. And it costs so little! It's just the best possible solution to the problem of hunger.

Filed under: Planet in Peril • Susan Sarandon