A detainee peers from his cell in the Camp Delta detention facility on Guantánamo Bay. Source: AP
WE ARE perpetually inundated with information in this day and age.
With the combination of smart phones, social media and the 24/7 news cycle, it swirls around us constantly.
This instant gratification has debilitated our attention span and capacity for critical thinking.
Most issues or global crises seemingly get about two weeks of consideration before we lose interest. If an issue or crisis hasn’t been solved, and we don’t perceive it as impacting our daily lives, we move on to the next big thing.
Recently, we have granted much of our attention to ISIS, the spread of Ebola, Ferguson and now the protests in Hong Kong, among other issues. All of these topics certainly merit attention. However, there are many issues that were at one point the centre of our attention, but have now been pushed to the edges of our consciousnesses.
It’s true that there are still people actively addressing many of these problems, but the majority of us typically grant our attention to whatever is directly in front of us. If it’s not in our yard, or if it’s not on our newsfeed, we probably forgot about it or aren’t aware at all. Don’t be fooled into thinking that something isn’t important because it’s not trending on Facebook or Twitter.
These are just a few ongoing problems that we have largely forgot about over the past year or so, in no particular order:
ISIS and Ebola might seem like the most pressing issues in the world at the moment. Yet, for billions of people across the globe, poverty is far more threatening. Indeed, more than 1 billion people live on less than one dollar a day.
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In 2009, police clashed with protesters who marched through London demanding action on poverty, climate change and jobs ahead of the G20 summit. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell Source: Getty Images
Girls walk on a street in the Paisopolis slum in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Picture: Andre Penner Source: AP
Skid Row, in Los Angeles, contains one of the largest stable populations of homeless people in the United States. Picture: Robyn Beck Source: AFP
According to study results announced earlier in the year by the German Institute for Economic Research, Germany has the highest division between rich and poor in terms of overall financial wealth. Picture: Sean Gallup Source: Getty Images
Likewise, there are around 780 million people without access to clean water, and around 2.5 billion without basic sanitation. In some places, people have to walk a kilometre or more just to get water.
Tragically, a child under 5 will die every 21 seconds from a preventable water-related disease. These are diseases that were eradicated in developed countries over a century ago, but still claim millions of lives in the present-day. What’s more, there are viable solutions to this problem.
In addition to water, more than 800 million people (more than twice the population of the United States) go to bed without food every single day — 300 million are children. Every 3.6 seconds, someone in the world will die from hunger.
Today, close to 33.4 million people are living with HIV/AIDs. Since 1981, when the first cases were reported, more than 25 million people have died from HIV/AIDs, and there is still no cure.
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This April 12, 2011 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows an H9 T cell, blue, infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), yellow. Source: Supplied
Njeri, a young girl from the Familia Moja Children’s Home in Mang’u, Kenya. The home cares for kids who have lost one or both parents to diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Picture: Amy Woodward Source: Supplied
Former heroin addict Lulu, pictured at his home, a boarding house in Denpasar, Bali, contracted AIDS from needle-sharing when shooting up heroin. Picture: Renee Nowytarger Source: News Limited
The vast majority of people living with HIV, close to 97 per cent, live in low and middle-income countries. Most of these people reside in sub-Saharan Africa. Hence, poverty plays a huge role in the spread of this lethal virus.
3. SLAVERY/HUMAN TRAFFICKING
At present, nearly 21 million people are working as modern day slaves as a consequence of human trafficking.
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President Barack Obama pauses after a tour of Goree Island, Senegal. Goree Island is the site of the former slave house and embarkation point built by the Dutch in 1776, from which slaves were brought to the Americas. Picture: Evan VucciSource: AP
Josef Fritzl, was charged with imprisoning and repeatedly raping his daughter in an underground bunker for 24 years. Source: News Limited
“Enung”, hired as a housekeeper, was beaten and scalded. She crouches in a closet in a Long Island, New York, mansion. Source: AP
AFP officers search an area of a house in Cabramatta, western Sydney. The Australian Federal Police allege Song Ea lured women to Sydney on student visas, but confiscated their passports once they arrived and took them to a brothel where they were kept against their will. Source: News Limited
Indeed, human trafficking is one of the most profitable businesses in the world. Global profits per victim per year are around $21,800, coming out to around $150 billion in total profits.
In the United States, it is estimated that around 100,000 children are trafficked for sexual exploitation every year. This is not only a problem in impoverished countries, it’s worldwide.
4. GUANTÁNAMO BAY
The Guantanamo Bay detention centre, also known as Gitmo, will forever stand as a black mark on the history of the United States. Following 9/11, the United States has detained hundreds of individuals at Gitmo without charge or criminal trial.
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A Guantanamo guard keeps watch from a tower overlooking the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba, in 2010. Picture: /Brennan Linsley Source: AP
A 2010 satellite image shows a portion of Naval Station Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, including the secret facility known as Penny Lane, upper middle in white. Source: AP
A detainee peers from his cell in the Camp Delta detention facility on Guantánamo Bay. Source: AP
A Guantanamo guard visually inspects cells on a two-minute cycle, right, while another stands watch in the Camp 5 maximum-security facility at Guantánamo Bay. Picture: Brennan Linsley Source: AP
Since the first detainees were sent to Gitmo in 2002, reports of secret detentions, torture, unfair trials and suicides have surfaced.
Currently, there are still 149 detainees at the detention camp, despite the fact that President Obama promised to shut it down when he came into office.
A number of the remaining detainees are on hunger strike, and are controversially being force-fed, which is arguably a form of torture. There are impending hearings surrounding this issue, which the United States has attempted to keep secret.
5. CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
Sectarian fighting has been ravaging the Central African Republic since 2012. Yet, unlike ISIS, Syria and Iraq, it has received decidedly less attention.
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A Christian fighter stands on the front of a looted Muslim store in Guen, about 250 kilometres north of Bangui, Central African Republic. Picture: Jerome Delay Source: AP
A handwritten list of the people slain in the town of Sibut by Muslim rebels, recorded by local Red Cross officials who collected the bodies and buried the dead. Picture: Krista Larson Source: AP
Bullet impacts inside a looted Muslim store in Guen. Picture: Jerome Delay Source: AP
Militants release 23 children held in Central African Republic
Many atrocities have been committed, and the conflict is ongoing. Likewise, due to the complex causes of this war, it doesn’t look as though it will stop anytime soon.
American drone strikes have killed over 2000 people, many of whom were civilians and children.
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Fighters from the Islamic State group gesture as they load a van with parts that they said was a US drone that crashed into a communications tower in Raqqa early on September 23, 2014. Source: AFP
Pakistani air force personnel carry coffins of foreign tourists as they are unloaded from a C-130 air plane upon arrival at Chaklala air base. Gunmen dressed as police killed nine Chinese and Ukrainian tourists in an unprecedented attack in the Pakistani Himalayas claimed by the Taliban, who said they had set up a new faction to target foreigners in revenge for US drone strikes. Source: AFP
This policy has generated controversy around the world, and animosity towards to the United States. Many worry that it has the potential to perpetuate, rather than end, the War on Terror.There is very little transparency surrounding the drone program, and we don’t have a clear picture of why targets are selected and whether or not they posed an imminent threat to America. Yet, a majority of Americans still support this policy without really questioning it.
7. CALIFORNIA DROUGHT
California has been experiencing one of the worst droughts in recent memory. Some fear that entire communities could be left without water within two months.
RELATED: 25 MILLION PEOPLE AFFECTED IN CALIFORNIA DROUGHT
Marina owner Mitzi Richards carries her granddaughter as they walk on their boat dock at the dried up lake bed of Huntington Lake, which is at only 30 per cent capacity as a severe drought continues to affect California. Picture: Mark Ralston Source: AFP
A man stands beside the stump of a fallen giant Sequoia tree at the Sequoia National Park. Scientists claim they are under threat from a diminishing snowpack and rising temperatures as a severe drought continues to affect California. Picture: Mark Ralston Source: AFP
Stanford University scientists believe that greenhouse gases might be the cause of this drought. Accordingly, this is yet another instance of negative impact human activities have had on the environment, and the way in which climate change affects us all.
8. IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The situation with ISIS has led some to believe that the United States should team up with Iran. However, there are still many around the world who are concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, particularly Israel.
An Iranian coal miner smokes a cigarette during a break on a mountain in Mazandaran province, near the city of Zirab, 212 kilometres northeast of the capital Tehran, Iran. Picture: Ebrahim Noroozi Source: AP
International sanctions linked to the decade-long dispute over Iran’s nuclear program have hindered the import of heavy machinery and modern technology in all sectors, and coal mining is no exception. Picture: Ebrahim Noroozi Source: AP
The decision to privatise the industry 10 years ago has further squeezed miners, who work often in dangerous conditions — and make just $300 a month, little more than minimum wage. Source: AP
Indeed, Iran could pose a significant threat to both the Middle East and much of the world if it developed nuclear weapons. As the fight against ISIS rages on, this issue cannot be forgot.
President Obama on Iran Nuclear Program Deal
9. WAR ON DRUGS
The War on Drugs has been one of the most expensive failures in history. Right now, much of the focus on this issue surrounds the debate over the legalisation of marijuana.
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Members of HMAS Toowoomba with 5.6 tonnes of cannabis resin, worth an estimated $280 million, intercepted during a boarding in support of Operation Manitou on September 19, 2014. Source: Getty Images
With her pink AK-47 assault rifle, they call Claudia Ochoa Felix the black widow maker after she took over the top job at one of Mexico’s deadliest drug Mafia gangs. Source:Supplied
HMAS Sydney’s Commanding Officer, Commander Brian Schlegel, RAN, and Executive Officer Lieutenant Commander Andrew Hough stand with nearly two tonnes of hashish on the ship’s flight deck. Source: Supplied
Relatives mourn Jose Yovanny Bocel at an Air Force base in Guatemala City. The discovery of 49 mutilated bodies dumped on a highway in northern Mexico in 2012 appears to be part of an increasingly gruesome war of intimidation among Mexican drug gangs. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP
However, people should also consider the way in which keeping other drugs illegal fosters violence both within the United States and around the world.
Recently, global leaders met and called for the decriminalisation of drugs, in order to make this a health issue, rather than a criminal one. When one thinks about it, this is a logical approach, and one which has worked very well for Portugal.
This article is an edited version of the original which appeared in Elite Daily.