Two articles are a must read for information and reflection. They both appeared in Sunday’s New York Times. The first was written by Michael Kimmelman, Mexico City, Parched and Sinking, Faces a Water Crisis. The lead quote from the article is:
Climate change is threatening to push a crowded capital toward a breaking point.
The second article, written by Neil MacFarquhar, Where the Booze Can Kill, and Putin Is Deemed a ‘Good Czar’, chronicles the challenges of the recession and alcoholism in Russia. People are looking for the “cheap fix” and buy alcohol tainted with methanol, a deadly poison. People are dying!
After reading these two articles, I couldn’t help but think that the fate of people in Mexico City, Irkutsk, the town in Russia afflicted by alcohol deaths, Flint, Chicago or any other city that comes to mind are undeniably linked. While this realization is not a new one, I was left feeling after reading the articles that we try to hide the fact that one country’s problem or one people’s affliction is the problem or affliction of all of us on the planet. It becomes easy to ignore the larger problem that one day we will all need to face reality: what is happening in communities across the globe is a problem we must own and address.
President Trump wants to build a wall between Mexico and the United States to keep out illegal immigrants. But there is no wall high enough that will keep 21.2 million Mexican people from immigrating to the United States if the water crisis in Mexico City is not addressed in a more urgent and creative way. They will flee a city that cannot provide for their most basic need, clean drinkable water. They will come legally and illegally, over walls and under walls. Read Kimmelman’s article and you will understand the problem is just around the corner. The fate of Mexico City is linked to our fate in the U.S.
We have our own water crisis situations in the U.S. Here are just a few examples that loom large in our society:
- Flint, MI water crisis now in its third year. Because Flint is a city filled with people who are struggling, 41.2% of residents live below the poverty line and the median household income is $24,862 (CNN.com), we (politicians) seem to ignore the problem.
- A National Water Crisis, a report in U.S. News illustrates that the problem is not unique to Flint, MI.
Across the globe, the water crisis is imminent. In Africa, 332 million people are without access to drinkable, safe water on a regular basis (water.org).
The world doesn’t stand a chance without water.
That is a chilling quote. If Africans cannot find safe, drinkable water, their problems will become our problems in a short order. These global water problems are rooted in the climate change crisis that encompasses the planet. While there are probably other reasons as well, inequity in the distribution of resources, our planet is fighting back after a century of uncontrolled abuse.
Our fates are undeniably linked. There is no wall that can be built high enough to shield us from the global challenges that exist. We must face them with a sense of urgency, creativity, and collaboration.
With the recession in Russia, people are facing the challenges of living with less. Russian people without a good paying job or the means to put nutritious food on the table are struggling to stay connected to their better selves. Without sufficient funds they become victims of contemptible people who want to make money off their vulnerability. They are being sold tainted vodka. The poison, methanol, is not detectable. Where are the Russian leaders holding those accountable for these crimes? Where are the protections that help make communities safe places to live productive lives and raise children?
We can look the other way, but we are undeniably linked to the people in Irkutsk. Think of the challenges people in the US face living in unsafe environments. It wasn’t too long ago that we had our own financial crisis and recession, remember 2008-2010. Here are some other examples:
- What’s Driving the Violence in Chicago (NPR)? “Chicago’s violence doesn’t have an age limit. Since September 2011, at least 134 people under 17 have been killed in shootings and at least 1,382 people in that age group have been shot. (Chicago Tribune)”
5 Charts That Show How Bad America’s Drug Problem Is (Time, 2016). “About 570,000 people die annually in the U.S. due to drug use. That breaks down to more than 480,000 deaths related to tobacco, about 31,000 due to alcohol, nearly 22,000 due to overdose from illicit (illegal) drugs, and close to 23,000 due to overdose from prescription pain relievers.” (cdc.gov)
We don’t talk about these problems very much nor do we devote precious resources to trying to solve these perplexing, global problems. Yet we are losing hundreds of thousands of innocent lives every year, lives of people whose potential is lost to the illegal drug trade.
In the US, we spend over 600 billions dollars annually on our military. We only spend about 50 billion on fighting the “war on drugs” in the US, and most of this money is wasted or has done little to address the problem. Where are our priorities?
Finally, these challenging problems are faced by people in every community in every country around the globe. We must be careful not to isolate ourselves or think that “well that’s Africa’s problem.” Africa’s problem is everyone’s problem. Every child that loses a chance to realize their full potential because he or she was unable to secure drinkable water, is a loss to our global community. Every person is the US that is lost to gun violence puts a drain on our global resources. We are all undeniably linked. We cannot build a wall high enough to shield ourselves from the challenges on the planet, most of which are human made. When will we fight like hell to confront these problems and do so in a collaborative way.
I do realize that there are thousands of hopeful initiatives taking place minute-by-minute; however, I fear it is far easier to ignore the scope of what we face. The New York Times articles I mention vividly present the problems, but fail to address the interconnected nature of these problems for all people.