The holiday season serves to remind us of the importance our friends and family, our well-being and relative comfort in the world. However, it also serves to remind us to serve those whose circumstances are much more dire, whether around the corner from us or half way around the world. I want to take a moment to reflect on some tragic situations here and abroad and encourage all of us to reflect on these words by 1950's British Parliment member, Henry Usborne: "the price of peace is justice," not dollars or power as most Americans seem to think."
1) Homelessness . Over a five-year period, about 2–3 percent of the U.S. population (5–8 million people) will experience at least one night of homelessness. Single men constitute about sixty percent of the homeless population, families constitute about one third of all homeless and are the fastest-growing group of homeless. Although about seventy percent of the homeless live in central cities, rural homelessness is a hidden problem. The rural homeless are more likely to be families that are homeless for shorter periods of time, often as a result of domestic violence (Singleton et al.*). One of the hardest groups to reach, however, is the one fourth of homeless who have been homeless for at least five years (Burt*).
2) War. Our war on terror in Iraq has resulted in (According to the DOD) 2950 of our soldiers killed and 22, 401 wounded. At least 50,998 Iraqi citizens have been killed. Across the globe, an additional 353 US soldiers have died and 1072 more injured. In Darfur, Sudan, more than 200,000 people have died. In Palestine and Israel, 4,398 Palestinians and 1,084 Israelis have been killed since September 29, 2000.
3) Hunger. 852 million people across the world are hungry, up from 842 million a year ago. Every day, more than 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes--one child every five seconds. 13.5 million households in the United States (11.9% of all households) were food insecure in 2004, of which 4.4 million (3.9% of all U.S. households) had experienced hunger at some point in that year. The food insecure households contained an estimated 38 million people, of whom almost 14 million were children. The existence of large numbers of people without secure access to adequate nutritious food represents a serious national concern.
4) Global warming. 2005 was hottest year on record(tied with 1998), according to NASA. 100 billion dollars of damage were caused by hurricanes hitting the U.S. coast in 2005 alone, according to the National Climatic Data Center. 400,000 Square miles of Arctic sea ice that have melted in the last 30 years (roughly the size of Texas), threatening polar bear habitats and further accelerating global warming worldwide, according to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. 15 to 37% of plant and animal species could be wiped out by 2050 due to global warming. The United States is the #1 global warming polluter compared to other large nations.
5) AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. 30 million people in Africa have HIV - this is 70% of global infections. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are currently 4.1 million people with AIDS who are in immediate need of life-saving anti-retroviral drugs. 15 million children orphaned due to HIV/AIDS (similar to the total children population in Germany or United Kingdom). Every day in Africa, 6,500 people die and another 9,500 contract the HIV virus - 1,400 of whom are newborn babies infected during childbirth or by their mothers' milk. Malaria kills an African child every 30 seconds. Someone in the world is newly infected with tuberculosis bacilli every second.
6) Access to clean water supplies. Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation. Access to piped water into the household averages about 85% for the wealthiest 20% of the population, compared with 25% for the poorest 20%. 1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.
I know that these problems can not be solved at once, but do require us to be constant gardeners. We must encourage our elected leaders to be strategic in what they do, but we also need to raise hell for those who are already living there.