With all the attention on the Syrian Refugee Crisis, the Golden State Warriors, ISIS and an endless stream of shootings and terror attacks, it appears the world has forgotten about all of the other pressing issues around the globe. Presented below is a small sample of some of the major events going on that the world has pretty much turned a blind eye to.
Indonesia: Forest Fires, Orangutans, and a Quiet War
Since July, Indonesia has been on fire. Its biodiverse forests are aflame, from coast to coast. It has caused some half million respiratory infections and roughly 20 deaths, with another 100,000 premature deaths estimated to come. In just three weeks, these fires released more CO2 than an entire year’s worth of emissions from Germany. It has already caused nearly $50 billion in damage, and some have called it the worst environmental catastrophe of the 21st century.
The fires have exacerbated the plight of Indonesia’s precious orangutans. Each hour, an area of forest the size of three hundred football fields is cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. As many as a dozen orangutans are killed in the process each day. Over the past two decades, more than 90% of orangutan habitats have been destroyed, along with some 50,000 of the apes, who share approximately 97% of our genes and whose Malay name literally means “forest person”. Their extinction is imminent.
Meanwhile, Indonesia is fighting a quiet war against the indigenous people of West Papua. Since the 1960s, it has taken around 100,000 lives, and the Indonesia army has been accused of brutal oppression. The UN is silent on this issue (while over the same time period adopting more than 80 resolutions with regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which in comparison has caused 75% less casualties).
Dubai: Glamour, Riches, and Slavery
Dubai is known for its oil wealth, soaring skyscrapers, and artificial fun-shaped islands. In just three decades, it has transformed itself from a barren desert into a sprawling metropolis. However, all of this unbounded growth comes at a price. It has been accomplished through the labour of migrant workers, primarily from India.
These workers are recruited from their homelands with an “American Dream”-style promise of opportunity. In reality, they are brought into dilapidated workers camps on the outskirts of the city, living with eight or more others in a tiny room. Just one such camp, called Sonapur, has over 150,000 workers. Many of them have their passports confiscated at the airport, preventing them from leaving. Not that they could afford to leave anyway, with a typical salary of under $200 a month, from which they have to pay for their own rent and food. The labourers are forced to work twelve to fourteen hours a day, sometimes longer, under blistering heat. Human rights violations abound. Yet, Dubai is consistently praised on the global stage.
The Balance of Power in the Middle East
A proxy war continues to be waged in Yemen. Earlier this year, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels launched a successful insurrection that forced the Yemenite president to flee. In response, Saudi Arabia organized a coalition to defeat the Houthis, with the support of the United States, who is providing intelligence and weapons. In addition to air strikes, the coalition has imposed an aerial and naval blockade on Yemen. Nearly 80% of the Yemenite population is now in need of food and medical aid. Over 300,000 have been displaced. The Saudis are also preventing entry to journalists, helping to keep the world ignorant of the humanitarian crisis.
This is just one of several conflicts being fought indirectly between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who are vying for supremacy in the Middle East. In Syria, too, Iran is supporting Assad’s regime while Saudi Arabia is arming the rebels. Over 200 of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard troops have already been killed, together with nearly a thousand more Hezbollah fighters whom they are funding.
Despite all the positive talk around the nuclear deal with Iran, it has only spurred the Saudis to develop their own nuclear weapons. On the 10th of October and the 21st of November, Iran tested ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, in breach of UN Security Council resolutions. This has only made Saudi Arabia more nervous, while the “deeply concerned” US government has said that this “would not derail the nuclear deal.” Meanwhile, the ever-desperate North Korea has announced the development of a hydrogen bomb.
Of course, the above is just a small sample of the many critical issues taking place around the world. Having said that, it is important not to lose sight of all the positive things happening, too. While today’s media is constantly inundating us with a barrage of primarily negative images, the world is nonetheless rapidly progressing and improving. It is this thought that inspired the following video: