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Editorial: Thinking globally in the face of disaster

The past several days have inundated United States media outlets with extensive coverage of Texas and Louisiana — and for good reason. The damages done to Houston and surrounding towns will have significant impact for years to come. Estimates on the economic impact of the hurricane stretch from $80 billion to a record-breaking $160 billion. While our country is struggling to get everyone back on their feet somewhere dry and safe, millions more outside the U.S. are facing similar hardships.

Severe flooding in Nepal, India and Bangladesh has caused serious structural damage, and thousands of lives have been lost overall. In India alone, more than 1,200 people have been killed. Many more are missing or displaced without access to basic necessities. In Sierra Leone, a catastrophic mudslide has left another 1,000 people dead. Overall, millions have been affected outside of U.S. borders.

Coverage of Houston is obviously important. Rallying support and charity for our own country is the number one priority. However, we’ve forgotten to spare some coverage for the global community. As Hurricane Harvey leaves U.S. land, it’s time to collect ourselves. We have two basic responsibilities ahead of us — rehabilitating Houston and all affected areas, and looking outward to other communities still reeling from their own devastations.

The University of Maine is a temporary home to scores of international students. These students come from all over the world, bringing small bits of other countries to our Maine campus with each new year. Supporting the international community is not only the most ethical thing to do — it is also a chance to pay homage to our international students and their families, friends and nations.

For countless causes, UMaine has shown that our campus is a powerful force for rallying support and charitable donations. Each year brings a growing roster of charitable events. Our school often holds food and toy drives, puts on bake sales for local causes and gathers student support for national crises. In response to Houston’s devastation and the chaos abroad, we should be pushing our community into reaching out supportive hands.

In the absence of monetary donations, there is still immense value in giving thought and time to other countries. Making others aware of the destruction overseas is a start. Rather than leaving them to suffer alone, we can illuminate the issues in Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone and everywhere else. With this light, we can push for more global involvement by relief organizations. Donating time is another viable option, especially since we’re significantly distanced from these disasters. It takes a few seconds to check global news and a few minutes to read some coverage about other countries. Sharing posts is simple, but effective in spreading awareness.

It’s easy to want to focus on one issue at a time, and even easier to ignore what’s happening elsewhere. If we are good global neighbors, then others will reflect that good back onto us. In the face of severe natural disaster, it’s better to be with friends than be isolated.

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