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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Barber: Don’t Prioritize One Natural Disaster Over Another

U.S. Department of Defense
California Army and Air National Guard firefighting aircraft and their crews from the 129th Rescue Wing, out of Moffett Field, and the 3-140th Aviation Battalion, out of Los Alamitos, work out of a wildfire staging base near Redding, Calif., Aug. 24, 2012, where they maintain their birds, rest, and take to the skies with gigantic buckets of water filled from local dip sites and dropped on the fire line. The citizen soldiers and airmen are assisting CALFIRE and other local agencies in battling numerous blazes in the Golden State’s northern mountainous region.

As far as natural disasters go, 2017 has been one hell of a year. The U.S. has been plagued by colossal phenomena: fires, drought, flooding and hurricanes have been assailing us for the last several months, endangering countless people.

On the West Coast, unusually intense summer heat has led to blazing fires in California, Washington and Oregon. Landscapes have been devoured in flames, forcing citizens out of their homes. Local air quality has plummeted, causing health problems for residents in close proximity to or downwind of the fires.

Farther south, Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25th, causing widespread damage across the southeast portion of Texas. Huge floods occurred, which devastated and displaced tens of thousands of people.

As if Harvey hadn’t been enough, the month of September was the Atlantic’s busiest hurricane month ever recorded with five separate hurricanes in the basin. Just two and a half weeks after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, Irma ran straight up the Florida peninsula. The other hurricanes went… Well, somewhere, probably? Right?

It seems like we always end up forgetting something when we talk about natural disasters, climate change and global crises. There’s a whole world out there filled with people we’ve never met and likely never will, but we only seem to care about the “white” ones.

We spend a lot of time looking at tragedies in Western countries. Whenever something big happens in Europe, we’re automatically up in arms and offering our help. When something happens in Asia, or South America, or anywhere that isn’t a “white” country, we don’t seem to care.

Before sweeping up Florida, Hurricane Irma bulldozed straight through the Caribbean Sea only to be followed swiftly by another attack from Hurricane Maria. The entire island of Barbuda was evacuated. The lashing was so intense that satellite images could see stark differences between previously tropical green islands and post-hurricane mud brown islands. Even our two U.S. territories have gone largely ignored with little coverage in the media, aid or awareness.

Mexico was hit by two massive earthquakes with a total death toll in the hundreds. Shortly after, Hurricane Katia formed to give the country a third tragedy in an astoundingly short period of time.

South Asia has been experiencing unusually heavy flooding with death tolls in the thousands, yet barely a word on our news channels.

On it goes… Countries damaged, people killed and lives destroyed across the globe, and we only seem to pay attention to a small portion of them.

As our own country continues to struggle with the aftermath of wildfires and double hurricanes, let’s not forget that there are people around the world fighting similar catastrophes. Send your thoughts and prayers, but don’t forget to do tangible things as well. Fundraise money for relief efforts and organizations. Volunteer in your community. Spread awareness to the people around you about the things going on in the world. Pay attention all across the globe, not just in your small section. Stay informed, get mad and get involved.


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  • K

    kristin maddenOct 10, 2017 at 7:11 am

    Well done, Shaelyn!