20 September 2010

I Went There ... and I Cried

I was trying to ignore the Russian summer. And I was definitely trying to not notice the floods in Pakistan and the drought and famine in Niger. (I haven't "noticed" the landslides in China yet.)

And I certainly did not want to go "there" — there meaning, Russia's deadly fires and heat waves mean they lost a lot of their crops, so they're not exporting any grains this year ... and Pakistan's crops have been washed away while Niger's never came.

The United Nations estimates that over 21 million people have been affected by the floods in Pakistan (killed, injured, homeless, without food, whole villages destroyed). Imagine that! Australia's whole population is less than 21 million. There was a point where about one-fifth to one-quarter of Pakistan's total land area was underwater due to the flooding.

And Niger has experienced a "double whammy" leading to their worst ever famine disaster. According to Christy Collins, the country director for the American charity Mercy Corps, "in most years, even if the country's primary crop failed, at least the secondary crops survived. This year there was so little rain that not only did the fields of millet not bloom, but the secondary greens used for animal fodder also failed." This means that their livestock — their only "insurance" against famine — is also starving.

I didn't want to notice these disasters of epic proportions. But they finally found their way into my life, into my heart. And I cried.

By the way, is it "compassion fatigue" or just downright mean-spiritedness that leads people to make comments like this (truly):
"Who gives a crap?"
"Floods in Pakistan, killer smog in Russia, and famine in Niger. Tragedies all, but sorry, the good old USA is out of $$$$$ and has problems of its own in the Gulf States, in Iowa and in the economy. These people are just going to have to do the best they can, we are tapped out."
"And there are kids starving in every country... and the point is? Isn't that country against US or UN assistance, except when it benefits certain entities? It would be better to put the money into a failed stock than to give it to that country. Same difference. Sorry, those are humans there. But there are humans here. And just about everywhere on this fragile Earth that is being exploited. Let them work out their own problems."

p.s. We are going to organize a fundraising event here in our small community. In the short term, it seems to be all we can do to help. In the longer term, we need to stabilize the climate — fast. "There but for the grace of God go I."

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?