Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

We Take Clean Water for Granted

As we travel around the world, we are constantly aware of water. Typically, we can't risk drinking the local water, and we often suffer minor illness at some point in a journey despite taking all the necessary precautions. But mostly, we stay healthy. We're fortunate to have easy access to bottled water wherever we go.

The locals are often not as fortunate. In some places, they can drink the water with impunity. Their bodies are accustomed to bacteria that would give us endless discomfort. But often, the water is completely undrinkable, even for locals. We see the evidence in illness and in the constant litter of plastic bottles. 

In some places we visit, drinkable water is almost a non-issue because they hardly have access to water at all. The landscape is parched and water sources are few and far between. We've heard stories of mothers and teen-age daughters walking miles to get water from a well or a stream. Girls are often kept home from school to tend to their "job" of providing the family with water.

Into this void steps a group called charity:water. Their mission is quite simply to provide potable water to villages around the world. When they go to a village and drill a well, this is the result: 

"Water changes everything. Preventable waterborne diseases are drastically reduced. Long walks to muddy ponds and rivers are no longer necessary. Time spent collecting water goes down, which gives women a chance to earn an income and children a chance at a better education. Clean water offers improved health, a higher quality of life and hope for a better future."

So many worthy causes solicit our help. It's hard to choose. But I think everyone is entitled to drinkable water and this group is making a difference.

Quote of the Day -- Ralph Crawshaw

Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel’s immediate rewards … but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way. 
-- Ralph Crawshaw

Fake News, Post-Truth, and the Media

The November election was a wake-up call in so many ways and leaves many of us with burning questions. How, for example, do we have any prayer of a more reasonable election result in a world where the two sides consume information from completely different sources and have different criteria for judging its veracity?

We're hearing lots of discussion about how our education system needs to change. We need to teach our youth to evaluate what they read and to distinguish fact from opinion or from deliberate mendacity. The problem, of course, is that we will create these curricula in the "blue states" for the children of educated parents. I highly doubt that we'll see much critical analysis of content in rural schools.

I've read quite a few postmortems on the role of journalism in the election results -- how they shirked their responsibilities for too long, gave Trump a free pass and, even worse, tons of free publicity. We'll never really know what role the media played in the outcome any more than we will know how many votes were swayed by the Russian hacking and propaganda campaign.

In the midst of all this angst and unanswered questions, this Brookings article by a Tom Rosenstiel, a governance expert, provides several constructive, actionable suggestions for the media going forward. I particularly like his idea of accompanying news articles with a box that identifies where it falls on the fact versus opinion spectrum, what the main idea or issue is, what the sources are, and what is as yet unknown. In this age of reading online and scanning (and yes, I'm as guilty as anyone else), long-form journalism is often overlooked. But perhaps with this kind of "caption," we might at least get the gist quickly and easily, and even be tempted to read the entire article.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Quote of the Day -- Pico Iyer

"...making a living and making a life sometimes point in opposite directions."

-- Pico Iyer