A habit of giving

As AKMA reminds us, new disasters have happened recently–Hurricane Stan and the earthquake in Pakistan–that seem to have fallen below the blogging radar. This is in addition to the longstanding disasters such as the continued mass starvation in Africa.

With environmental impacts due to global warming, and an increased population that is both more widely distributed and more dense, the events of this year are more likely to become the norm rather than the exception. We have seen thousands killed from earthquakes, flood, mudslides, and storms; these join those who die more slowly, less dramatically, from continuous warfare and starvation. Next year will, most likely, follow the patterns set this year and so on as a population grown too large for the world moves into areas vulnerable to natural events–not to mention unable to support the numbers.

No one is to ‘blame’ for being in the way of catastrophe, and as we know, any one of us could be the next victim. There are no safe spots where nothing is likely to happen; no places of invulnerability. To help others is to help ourselves; the days of geographical isolation are at an end and we have a responsibility to each other regardless of country, race, or religion.

But if we react to each event in a frenzy, soon we’ll burn out and truly catastrophic events will go by with barely a blink. We’re seeing this with Pakistan: it’s not that people aren’t caring; it’s that we’ve just been through one cycle of frantic giving following another a short 8 months ago. It may get to a point where a country would gain help for having an ‘early’ disaster, as compared to a country having a disaster later in the year. Perhaps these countries could stage their catastrophes close to Christmas.

Rather than react impulsively (and stop reacting just as impulsively), we need to establish a habit of giving that will hopefully provide enough support for organizations that meet the needs of people in stricken communities. We should budget in a monthly donation, even if it’s only a few dollars, and contribute consistently: both to international relief organizations and those that are domestic. We should also look at organizations that help in the long-term: with education, family planning, support of basic human rights, and other means to improve overall quality of life.

We should also learn to apply filters when listening to much of the news. Stories from New Orleans match stories from Pakistan where the number of dead leaps by tens of thousands by the minute, and people searching for food in stores become tales of rampant crime and looting. The news emphasizes the worst in all matters, and it’s easy to either develop a sense of despair or disappointment. What’s important is getting help to people, and providing what support we can–facts will fall out later.

After careful consideration, these are the organizations I’ve decided to support: international and national, immediate need and long-term. I am in the process of putting together sidebar images to link to the donation page for each:


The International Red Cross: This organization helps supplement local Red Cross chapters in case these are overwhelmed. I see the Red Cross as an ‘immediate need’ organization.

Oxfam: Oxfam helps not only in the immediate need, but also long-term.

Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)): Whether the problem is natural or political, this organization has never held back from helping regardless of risk to themselves.

World Wildlife Foundation and Rainforest Consevation, sometimes Green Peace: ecological


The National Red Cross: As per above

Habitat for Humanity: I think this organization’s program to provide decent housing for those who may not be able to afford to buy a house is one of the most efficient and best run; as long as religious beliefs are not a part of the decision process about who gets a home, that is.

United Way and Planned Parenthood: Long-term efforts primarily. The United Way supports neighborhood efforts, including programs for kids and the arts. The Planned Parenthood is an organization too long under attack considering what it provides: pre-natal care, examinations for female-related cancers, counseling, and safe birth control. Abortion is only a small, albeit essential, part of what it provides; yet it is consistently penalized because of its unwillingness to give up serving all of a community’s needs. Considering that overpopulation is the number one disease in the world, I consider Planned Parenthood’s efforts to be essential.

The Sierra Club and the HSUS: Care for the environment and critters.

Amnesty International: I consider this local, because when human rights are at stake, we’re all close neighbors.

I also give individually to local organizations with memberships, such as the Botanical Gardens.

Again, I’m making what I call a ‘giving ribbon bar’ to put into my sidebar for permanent display. I suggest you do the same, as well as establish your own policy of giving.

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