"We wish we were Obi-Wan Kenobi, and for the most part we are, but there's a little Darth Vader in all of us." -Chris Stevens
Question #92580 posted on 09/22/2019 10:36 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

The recent media floodgates about the Amazon rain forest fires has made me wonder what other world crises are going on unbeknownst to me. I want to be aware and active, and maybe even appropriately panicking. You're a knowledgeable bunch- what little publicized world problem are you most worried about?




It's not the fires I'm as worried about as the recent relaxation of restrictions on clearing the Amazon for agricultural and industrial uses. I get that Brazil wants to profit off the Amazon, but I believe that clearing it away for pastures is pretty much the worst thing for Brazil. There are endless treasures of biodiversity in the Amazon. There are so many life saving cures yet to be discovered, and so many unique and exotic plants that could be harvested on a sustainable basis. These will be much more valuable to Brazil and to the whole world in the long run.

Also, Venezuela has been a mess for at least a decade now. Venezuelans are starving, and many are attempting to either flee the country, or overthrow a corrupt government that rejects foreign aid. I think it's a shame that the issues in Venezuela get so little publicity because their political situation is awful and something needs to be done about it because it's not getting solved anytime soon.





Thinking about the problems that I have seen recently, I think that there are three that should be better understood and dealt with. These are things I haven't looked into fully myself and so I don't have a fully formed opinion about, but I know that they are definitely at the top of my list of important global issues. These are global warming, the situation with Muslims in China (I've seen just a bit about internment camps, but know I need to look into it further), and the issues surrounding the southern US border (I know this has gotten coverage recently, but I would like to be more informed).




I'll just give you brief introduction into a view things off the top of my head, and let you go research them on your own. These are not event-like crises. They're ongoing problems. They're also not immediately changeable. These are the things I think people don't know about, even though they are very important. In other words, these are the crises that are either silent, or have been happening long enough to become background noise.

People dying is, by the standards of many people, one of the things we really like to prevent. We especially like to reduce violent and uncomfortable, premature, or unexpected death. I say this to make the next thing feel more urgent to you, and I apologize for that. But listen: drug overdose kills more Americans than car accidents do, and a lot of it is opioids. It's the leading cause of death second to suicide in the United States. So I've just told you the top three causes of death in the United States, and a lot of us are worrying around the clock to do something about them. I focus on the drug overdose because it feels less well-known, and a terrifying conflation of physical, psychological, and economic suffering. So keep up with local initiatives working on this problem. I know Provo city is largely concerned with the stigma our community places on addicts, and they are really focused on prevention. So learn what they know, talk about it to improve our local culture (help people think kindly and correctly about the disease, i.e without judgement or isolation). Also, be careful about your prescriptions from doctors and dentists. Just because it's prescribed doesn't mean you're not at risk. 

The next thing I think more people should know about: illegal pot groves on public lands are destroying our watersheds, and endangering the lives of our Fish and Game officers. So basically, we have illegal immigrants growing marijuana in secret remote places on public lands (National Forests and BLM land mostly.) Being from another country and growing pot are not cardinal sins in my book. However, they use pesticides that are cheap and very toxic to the surrounding land. The kind they've been protected from since the '70s. I'm not an angry person, but that makes me shaky, and I can't talk about it without yelling a little. But there's more. To avoid law enforcement, many of these groups dig Punji pits. Concealed holes in the ground with sharpened stakes at the bottom, sometimes coated in poison. These people carry guns, and don't mind shooting people who happen upon their operation. I tell you this, so you can appreciate the Fish and Game enforcement officers that are dealing with this. They signed on because they love the outdoors, and they expected to protect them by checking fishing licenses and talking to hunters. But they've been thrust into this crazy drug war, and they wage it for exactly the same reason. They love the outdoors and they want to protect it. That genuinely makes me emotional guys (I'm such a baby). I also tell you this so you can talk about it to others. Be careful out there. Even hearing it once could help you recognize a dangerous situation, and know that there are dangerous people in our wilderness areas. Watch for guns, watch for Punji pits. Vote to get some more money and resources to our natural resource managers. Legalizing marijuana would disincentivize these operations, but it would also likely weaken the prosecuting power to get rid of these guys. So people need to know about it so we can promote legal provisions that maintain those powers. 

This is certainly not less urgent than the others, but Native Americans (and Native American women) are disproportionately subject to domestic violence, rape, murder, and going missing. Housing, contaminated water, running water, electricity, connection to public sewage, education, crime--it seems like in any issue related to race or socioeconomic status, Native Americans have worse. I'm all for Black Lives Matter, addressing crime and poverty for inner-city and black communities, and all around representation. I think we're making progress there. But I think it's important to recognize when we talk about racial issues that Native Americans are dealing with the same problems, often with greater depth, less representation and advocacy, and less resources. We don't talk about them. We aren't taught to understand the complexities of Native American law. In fact, because of tribal rights, benefits, "reparations", and affirmative action, they also the subject of widespread resentment from otherwise "not racist" people. This makes Indians, in my opinion, the most ignored and misunderstood group in America. Learn about Native relations and law, espouse their causes when you agree with them and, most importantly, respect their sovereignty.  

I may have made some bold statements here, and without much proof. I haven't had much time to find sources and I recognize that. I'd love to be corrected on any blaring flaws in my analysis. But whatever mistakes I've made here do not reflect on the seriousness of the topic, and I encourage people to research these topics for themselves. 



Dear extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis,

Well, I just googled your 'nym and now I am definitely panicking about drug resistant bacteria. I think that's now on the top of my most-worrisome-little-publicized-world-problem list. So, uh, thanks? 




Dear TB, 

I think the housing and eviction crisis, especially in big cities, is something more people need to care about. Shelter is something I think people should be provided with, and if not that, should at least have much more accessible and affordable options. The fact that evictions and homelessness are on the rise in the U.S. is a testament to how poorly we care for our own neighbors and citizens. Heck, there are plenty of landlords and corporate housing companies that are guilty of serial eviction, where they lend out bad properties at unfair rent prices to individuals and families that are already economically fragile, knowing full well they're going to evict them shortly. In other words, they're capitalizing on the already existing misfortune of the poor and destitute. It's sickening! We can't forget, too, that these kinds of things happen to Black Americans at much higher rates than anyone else. And, for those who can't be made to care about inequality, also take note that homeless veterans aren't an uncommon phenomenon either. Our inability to provide basic shelter for so many people simply because we care too much about profit makes me furious. It is impractical to expect people to be able to sustain a job and work to get themselves out of a bad condition when they don't have somewhere to return to at the end of the day. Yayfulness could probably do a much better job explaining this than I can, but the fact of the matter is that housing is a crucial element in the cycle of poverty. To get out of that cycle, people need stability, and so much of that is tied to a place to call home. 

You can read & hear more about eviction and the housing crisis in several locations, namely hereherehere, and here. I also highly recommend Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.