In the Shadows
As corporate news companies flood the public consciousness with twenty-four-hour coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, other important news stories are swept away and lack the much needed attention they deserve. Such media systems do not serve public interest but instead cater to maximising profit. Free independent media forces the government and corporations to be held accountable for their actions and benefits the people. I understand the struggle that people experience attempting to give issues the individual attention they deserve when they are constantly bombarded with new information every day. It’s truly difficult, the world is fast paced and it's easy to just close your eyes and ignore the constant tragedy people in our world experience at the hands of others, but to do so is irresponsible. We must question things that we know are wrong, it is our duty, and we owe it to the people whose voices are not heard. I’ve compiled a few stories that have been largely ignored recently and deserve some attention. Thank you.
Yemen is currently the site of a horrific war and is experiencing the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Save the Children estimates 85,000 children have died from malnutrition from April 2015 to October 2018 and with ongoing conflict, deaths continue to rise. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) revealed in Oct 2019 they have confirmed more than 100,000 deaths, many the result of the Saudi led bombing campaign backed by the USA, the UK, and France. 80% of Yemen’s population lack stable access to food and water, this means over 24 million people are currently struggling for survival. For perspective, the population of Canada is 37 million. Recently Yemen has experienced the largest cholera outbreak in recorded history with 2.2 million active cases and thousands of deaths. BBC reports that “With only half of the country's 3,500 medical facilities fully functioning, almost 20 million people lack access to adequate healthcare. And almost 18 million do not have enough clean water or access to adequate sanitation.” These are awful statistics and the UN released a statement warning that the COVID-19 death toll in Yemen could be higher than that of the war, famine, and previous outbreaks combined. With millions expected to perish in the coming months, Yemen is most likely to receive little help from the rest of the world as most nations direct all resources towards controlling the COVID-19 pandemic within their own borders.
Record heat waves and 20,000 tonnes of fuel spilled in the Arctic circle
A record high temperature of 100 degrees fahrenheit was recorded in Verkhoyansk Russia on June 20th, the first day of summer. Verkhoyansk is located north of the Arctic circle and has recorded daily temperatures since 1885. This record breaking temperature is part of a steady increase due to global warming. The Arctic experiences warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. This is because of a process called polar amplification; traditionally snow and ice reflect light and therefore the arctic absorbs less heat. With snow melting to reveal dark land mass, the continent absorbs much more heat and in turn warms faster. The same goes for sea ice along the coast, the ice melts, shrinking the continent and creating more dark arctic sea water which absorbs heat and slows the formation of new ice. It’s a loop that increases speed as we continue to pollute the planet.
In fact, when 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil spilled from a diesel storage tank into the Arctic circle on May 29th the Russian government wasn’t even alerted until 2 days after the incident. The tank was backup fuel for a coal power and heating plant owned by Norilsk-Taimyr Energy (NTEK). “Why did government agencies only find out about this two days after the fact? Are we going to learn about emergency situations from social media?” Russian president told Sergei Lipin, the head of NTEK. Reports the Guardian. NTEK blamed the thaw of permafrost for the spill, claiming that the tank was in good condition and that they took all necessary precautions. However, investigations by Greenpeace and other environmental organizations revealed that the Russian government had conducted previous safety inspections of the plant and deemed the tanks unfit, NTEK promised to fix them. However they did not, and now 20,000 tonnes of diesel fuel flow through rivers in the arctic circle. This corporation must be held accountable for the huge impact this spill will have on the arctic.
Hong Kong Protests
Lastly, global coverage of the Hong Kong protests has gradually decreased allowing the Chinese government to crack down on Hong Kong without much resistance. Within the next few weeks the Chinese government plans on introducing a national security law, causing outrage among many of those living in the city. This law essentially allows mainland China to override Hong Kong’s legal system and establish security systems within the city. This law threatens political and civil freedoms in Hong Kong and allows suspects to be extradited to face trial and jail time in mainland China. Criminal offences stated in the law “include secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security” reports CNN. Basically, this allows China to jail anyone who opposes the regime. In fact, this new law makes ‘disrespect of the national anthem’ a crime punishable by multiple years in prison. This law could change Hong Kong's status as a safe place for international business. In mainland China, national security laws have been used to jail journalists, activists, pro-democracy campaigners and send thousands of muslims to internment camps. Chances that practices similar to those will be enacted in Hong Kong is very probable as fears that the “one country two systems model” is close to a collapse. It is also important to note that the Chinese people are separate from the Chinese system, that has little regard for human life. They are trapped in a terrible system, which is why it is crucial to distinguish between the people and the government when discussing current events.