Each new year brings different highs and lows, and with so much going on, news outlets tend to focus on only the most recent of media frenzies. As time moves forward, old topics begin to fade in the minds of the public. Many unresolved issues languish in the past.
In honor of Throwback Thursday, I’d like to highlight a few things that shouldn’t be banished from your brain. While it’s important not to live in the past, remembering it is crucial for building a better future.
Gulf of Mexico oil spill (BP oil spill)
In April, an oil rig near the coast of Louisiana exploded, killing 11 workers and injuring 16 others. Following the explosion, oil leaked into the ocean at an alarming rate. The oil spill is considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the world, as well as the largest environmental disaster in US history.
It’s been five years since the spill, and the environmental consequences are still happening. Government studies are showing that dolphins in the area are dying at a much quicker rate than usual, and little balls of tar are still being picked off sandy beaches. Locals believe that marine ecosystems have been disrupted, and many fear that there will be long-term effects.
Just this year, another underground oil pipeline ruptured off the coast of California. As the climate change summit in Paris approaches, these events must remain at the forefront of the world’s collective mind. Hopefully, these events remind world leaders how important it is to prioritize clean energy and move away from using fossil fuels.
Earthquake in Haiti
Haiti’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake in early 2010 killed 220,000 people and left the country in ruins. Although billions of dollars were donated to relief efforts, the country is still suffering from political turmoil and disease.
Cholera, which began spreading after the earthquake, has killed thousands of Haitians and continues to plague the nation.
Fortunately, voting during the October 25 election appeared orderly and largely peaceful. Results won’t be available until late November, and a runoff election will be held on December 27. Hopefully, Haiti’s next president can help the poor country get back on its feet.
Earthquake in Japan
In February, a magnitude 8.9 earthquake hit the northeastern part of Japan, triggering a devastating tsunami and the explosion of nuclear reactors.
In response to this catastrophic event, the European Union agreed to hold earthquake stress tests of nuclear plants across the bloc, and Germany announced that it would phase out all nuclear power plants by 2022.
Today, several countries—including Switzerland, Italy, and Spain—remain opposed to nuclear power. This event serves as a powerful reminder that nuclear power can be dangerous, and more countries need to prioritize using renewable energy sources.
Famine in Somalia
On July 20, the UN formally declared famine in two regions of South Central Somalia. It was the first time a famine had been declared in the region by the UN in nearly 30 years, and it is thought to have killed 258,000 people.
While a leading cause of the famine was severe drought, this event highlighted the need for better humanitarian aid and development assistance in East Africa. Also, bad mismanagement of the country’s resources made the country especially vulnerable to environmental stress.
Since then, there has been agricultural growth in the region, but extreme poverty and vulnerability still persist. Communities in these areas have not been made resilient to drought or other natural disasters. Today, Ethiopia is facing a similar food crisis due to drought and lack of emergency resources.
Conflict in Syria
What began as peaceful pro-democracy protesting among teenagers in 2011, turned into a full-blown civil war by 2012. The conflict continues today, and it is said that around 250,000 people have been killed.
It is estimated that 9 million Syrians have been displaced since the beginning of the conflict, and many of them are living without access to education or decent work. Over 1 million of the Syrian refugees are children, a fact that has caused many to fear that there will be a “lost generation” of Syrian children. While efforts are underway to support these children, countries need to do more to protect and support Syrian refugees.
Delhi bus rape
In December, a 23-year-old woman was raped by a group of men while traveling on a bus in Delhi, India. Two weeks later, she died from injuries. The incident was definitely not the first of its kind, but the story drew widespread attention.
While the rape led to new laws on sexual assault in the region, violence against girls and women in India is still quite prevalent. The girls and women in India can’t be forgotten. More measures need to be taken to ensure that girls and women are protected and empowered to become successful members of society. It is also imperative that high-quality sexual education becomes an integral part of every man and woman’s upbringing.
Bangladesh factory disaster
Over 1,000 people, mostly female garment workers, were killed when a factory building collapsed in Bangladesh. The catastrophe led to public outrage over the negligence of factory and building owners, but sadly, not much has changed since 2013. Factory disasters are still common.
The garment industry is a complicated topic in Bangladesh. The industry is one of the biggest in the country and has provided many women with jobs, helping them break out of a cycle of male dependency. However, the growth of this industry has given it power and political clout; when factories cut corners and create unsafe working conditions, it is often overlooked.
Many believe the answer is to stop shopping at western retailers that sell clothes made in these factories, but the solution is far more complex.
In March, Ebola began spreading throughout West Africa and, upon reaching the US, became widely covered by the media. At least 11,312 people have been reported as having died from the disease in six countries: Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the US and Mali.
The media has simmered down on Ebola updates, but West Africa has yet to be declared Ebola-free. During the week of October 25, there were three new reported cases of Ebola in Guinea.
Conflict in Ukraine
In November, pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an agreement that would have more closely integrated Ukraine with the European Union, making it less dependent on Russia. Following this decision, thousands of protesters took to the streets and a violent crackdown resulted in scores of civilian deaths. Soon, Viktor Yanukovych was forced to flee the country.
Since then, the military in Ukraine has been fighting with pro-Russian rebels, who have been aided by around 1,000 Russian soldiers and supplies (though Putin denies this).
The actions have strained Moscow’s relations with the US and Europe, which have responded by imposing sanctions on Russia. According to the UN, the violence in Ukraine has killed at least 5,000 people and displaced many more. It has also caused a growing economic crisis.
While these stories highlight that much still needs to be done to fight injustices across the world, they shouldn’t mask the fact that big things have been accomplished over the years. Just today, I read that Tuberculosis mortality has been cut nearly in half since 1990.
And just this year, the UN formally announced a set of 17 Global Goals that seek to end poverty by 2030. Clean energy, zero hunger, gender equality, health, peace and justice, quality education, and decent work are now goals that world leaders are actively trying to achieve. With your help, the world can achieve these goals; the world can have a brighter future.