“There were 672 new covid cases yesterday.”
Such words are common these days.
Certainly, the current pandemic has affected us greatly; it has drawn our very immediate attention to how quickly lives can change, our lives. No longer can we take the freedom of movement for granted, no longer can we assume that what we need or want will be available at the store if, in fact we can go to the store. No longer can we socialise the way we used to, no longer can we expect tomorrow to be much like today. And we are suffering, we are, in ways that we had never, ever imagined. We know what it is like to suffer. And we don’t like it.
There are some traditions of personal growth that urge us to recognise such discomfort, to embrace the negative emotions that arise, to assess them quietly, methodically, and to act. Such traditions also ask us to consider that we are not alone in such feelings, that there are many invisible others whom are going through hardships, just as we are. What we may never have considered is how severe such adversity might be.
Eighteen months ago, before the pandemic hit, I was comfortable. I knew that there were people in the world whose lives were far worse than mine. However, having lived so much of my life in relative comfort, the perspective I had of these others’ lives was limited. I could see, whether it was from my travels (how ironic) or from media coverage, people whose lives were worse than mine. I could read in books, journals and statistical data how people and how many people were disadvantaged, but I couldn’t feel what it was like to be in such a position. I still can’t.
What I can do, however, is reflect back on life in the past eighteen months; I can think of and feel for the liberties I have lost and can consider those things I used to take for granted. My world has changed. I cannot know for how long it will be this way, but I do know the powers that be are doing what they can to make my life better. Such immersion brings an opportunity for awareness and it raises in me the question of what I can do to make other’s lives better.
Today I looked at the year-to-date global death statistics for coronavirus and global hunger. They were as follows:
Deaths due to coronavirus: 1.93 million people
Deaths due to hunger and related diseases: 4.11 million people
Notwithstanding that such statistics are confounded for a number of reasons, the difference between the deaths due to these two “causes” is compelling. Hunger, or food insecurity is significant in our world.
What is more troubling, however, is the effects that the pandemic has had on food security. And it is not just the already distant poverty stricken who might suffer, the effects of food security due to the pandemic are, and will be, felt closer to home. According to The World Bank, global food prices have increased by 40% since January 2020. For those with a loss of income this means that either food quantity or food quality has decreased and this can seriously affect those in the mid to low income brackets in all parts of the world.
But this is not intended to be an educative piece of writing. Rather, it is one that attempts to consider how my perspective has changed, and how yours may too. For many of us, how we view the world is from the reference point that we find ourselves in. Two years ago, this reference point of mine was very different from what it is today. Two years ago, I saw people who were not as fortunate as I, but I considered their plight from where I stood. Now, two years later, and having experienced the changes in my world, I have a little more sense of what it is like to lose some privilege. I have a little more awareness of what it is like to be poorer, in whatever ways this has arisen. If I care to look outside of myself and my own plight, I may then be just that little bit closer to seeing, to feeling the world of those less fortunate than I. I may have a little more empathy. And this moves me to do something.
So what can I do? What can you do?
- Donate money to relief agencies. If you choose to do this you might consider doing a little bit of background reading to determine which agencies are rated highly. Organisations such as Charity Navigator and Givewell are two sites which provide background on different charities. You can also find apps that allow you do donate at the touch of a button.
- Closer to home, support your local food banks.
- Spend some online time at sites that donate money with your mouse clicks. Freerice.com and thehungersite.greatergood.com are two such sites.
- Reduce food waste – plan your meals well and buy accordingly. This allows us to spend less on food, and thus donate what we save. If we all reduce food waste, it can also result in changes to the way food is produced and distributed locally and around the world.
- Rethink your food choices. Limit your intake of elaborately packaged foods and those that require lots of energy to produce. If we eat less meat, this will allow for more grain to be available for human consumption.
- Raise awareness – talk with people you know, write letters to editors, contact your local politicians, use social media. Encourage others to act.
- Install Tab for a Cause on your browser. Every time you open a new tab you can raise money for a charity of your choice.
- Some retailers donate part of their sales to charity. Support them.
What we do need not be grand, but we do need to act.
And in case you are wondering, yes I did eat that pear.