Yes, more, because it was borne in upon me — I mean, I knew this, but I hadn’t stopped to think about it — that this isn’t going away in a week or a month or a year. Long after the media have stopped looking for adorable toddlers in trees and wet supermodels, people in the affected areas will still be trying to patch their lives back together, particularly since so many of them are among the world’s poorest.
What brought this to mind was this post on WorldChanging, who by the way have put together such excellent coverage of this disaster that I’m inclined to say, if you’re fed up with tsunami this and tsunami that, ignore everything but WorldChanging and you won’t miss anything that matters. Over to Alex Steffen:
What if relief and reconstruction efforts aimed not just to save, but to improve the lives of the victims of this week’s disaster?
This might not seem like the time to look ahead. The situation all around the Indian Ocean is grim: the bulldozers are digging mass-graves for as many as 100,000 bodies; at least a million people are homeless, hungry and utterly destitute; clean water and sanitation facilities don’t exist; disease is beginning to break out; and relief is still far off for too, too many people. This is a full-blown global crisis.
But this is exactly the right time for foresight.
For one thing, history shows that the world tends to lose interest in disasters in developing world once people stop dying in large numbers. If we don’t think now about our commitment to helping these communities recover and rebuild after the immediate crisis has passed, we never will.
And the ruined cities and villages lining the shores of the Indian Ocean are now home to some of the poorest of the world’s poor. In many places, traumatized people, who had very little with which to earn their livelihoods to begin with, now have nothing left at all. Add to this the long-term challenges they face — like decimated local economies, massive pollution (and some new industrial accidents), declining fisheries and forests, lack of capital and, perhaps most ominously, the rising seas and catastrophic storms they can expect from global warming — and their fate may not be an enviable one.
But that fate is not written in stone. We can still change it. What if didn’t just do something to help, but did the right things, and did them fully? What if we looked at this relief and reconstruction effort as a chance to not only save lives (and of course that must come first) but to truly rebuild coastal Southeast Asia along more sustainably prosperous lines? What if we made the commitment to take what are now some of the most ravaged, destitute areas on Earth, and worked with the people there to reimagine and rebuild their communities to be the cutting edge of sustainable development?
What if we made not just relief but rebirth the new measure of our success?
There’s more, including concrete suggestions, and you should go read it all.
So what can we do? Here’s a short list to be going on with:
- Donate to disaster relief funds, if you haven’t already; donate more, if you have.
- Sign this petition urging the Bush administration to commit to a $1 billion contribution (I’m #291). I’m not going to get into what a despicable creature Bush’s reaction to the tsunami shows him to be because it’s bad for my blood pressure; T, from whom I found out about this petition, has been covering that if you’re interested.
- Be part of a small good thing. WorldChanging and Architecture for Humanity have made a commitment to the recovery process. They’re in it for the long haul and I’m asking you to consider joining them. Ten bucks, right now, and more later as you can afford it (I’ll