Friday, January 15, 2010


Only after disaster can we be resurrected.
Chuck Palahniuk

I've written entries post-Myanmar, post-China earthquake, post-tsunamis and cyclones and I go through the same woeful tales of those who suffer through moments we cannot imagine. However, Taiwan, Indonesia, and now Haiti do not need pity-blogs right now. The future of those areas need people who are mindful, aware of their decisions and the implications of daily acts, and who are ready to make changes. To us, the tragedies are just headlines for the next few weeks or a month until a political scandal takes its place. Unfortunately, reading and talking about the headlines is not enough. Giving money to organizations like the Red Cross and the IRC and UNICEF and CARE but our compassion dwindles when the dust fades and those organizations are left alone until the next devastation strikes. Unfortunately, it is in these times that NGOs have an opportunity to enter center-stage and show the world how important they are; they can show the world how they can help when everyone else is too busy or too unprepared; they can show the world how much the world really depends on them. However, those impressions are not lasting for everybody. The real lessons usually aren't even broached.

What we need to do is understand our role during these tragedies, which is as much as any government’s or NGO’s. We can 'spread awareness' about problems and issues in the world. So what does that really mean? We cannot really affect much by telling people about an earthquake—that's just spreading the news. We can't simply tell people that Haitians live in poverty and need help. That's just asking for charity. The real solution perhaps lies in the idea that we are all able to affect changes in other places, close and faraway. Changes in how we perceive ourselves in the world and our relation to the global community can lead to bigger changes in rural areas. If we understand how our decisions and desires and needs affect developing nations, we can make better informed, conscientious decisions in the future that might affect the infrastructure, poverty, and economies of third-worlds.

We can’t prevent earthquakes or hurricanes (or can we?-depends on if you believe in global warming… we shall touch on this later). But before the next disaster strikes, we can influence the world’s capacity to prevent destruction of Haitian magnitude. By making consumer decisions that are more responsible, as well as creating awareness and promoting NGOs that help build infrastructure, we can support stability. Haiti is plagued by infrastructure problems (rough or lacking roads, shabby buildings, unsafe drinking water) as well as unemployment and lack of education. However, the island of Hispaniola and the Caribbean area in general is a huge tourist attraction. As tourists, we can influence the industry’s decisions on supporting the local economy, decreasing deforestation (or increasing forestation) which has led to huge problems in Haiti and how islands defend themselves in natural disasters, and support government developed infrastructure. As Americans (or Brits, or Canadians, or any country with too much time on their hands), we determine what the demand is and what direction development goes.

We can also support NGOs and organizations that work to improve sustainability—groups that help promote infrastructure rebuilding ( or, clean water access (;, access to food (, education access ( and organizations such as AIDG which helps individuals and communities get affordable and environmentally sound access to electricity, sanitation and clean water (
We can choose to support Fair Trade and voice our concerns about NAFTA. We can support local farmers, pay more for ethically grown produce and agriculture.

We can choose to be more environmentally aware and try to understand our impact on the earth. We make choices everyday that acts as a vote on how we see agriculture and environment. We make decisions to drive faster instead of economically or heat the house warmer instead of adequately. We can reduce our consumption, increase demand for ethically and morally produced goods and services and promote organizations that do the same.
Our decisions shape our world. Our sacrifices and contributions shape our world. The next country that gets hit by a cyclone or earthquake doesn’t have to suffer the same fate as Haiti, so long as we make that choice.

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