We are perpetually inundated with information in this day and age. With the combination of smart phones, social media and the 24/7 news cycle, it swirls around us constantly.
In this digitalized age, people have become accustomed to getting their information almost instantaneously. If it doesn't come quickly, they lose patience. Consequently, this is an era in which instant gratification has debilitated our attention span and capacity for critical thinking.
Most issues or global crises seemingly get about two weeks of consideration before we lose interest. If an issue or crisis hasn't been solved, and we don't perceive it as impacting our daily lives, we move on to the next big thing.
This is not necessarily our fault entirely. It's true that many conventional news outlets are often more concerned with sustaining viewership than with presenting important, timely and accurate information. When it comes down to it, these are businesses. If people aren't viewing their content, they lose money.
Thus, there is a great deal of pressure for media outlets to stay fresh. In the process, many ongoing situations don't receive the coverage they deserve.
Obviously, there are a number of factors at play when it comes to both our short attention spans and a lack of integrity in conventional media coverage. At the same time, too many people seem to believe that if they don't notice something in their daily lives, then it's not a real problem and it won't impact them. That's an incredibly narrow and potentially damaging worldview, and far from the truth.
The confluence of forces that converge upon this world affect all of us. Think about any global issue or crisis like a stone landing in water. At first the ripples are small, but eventually they spread out.
Recently, we have granted much of our attention to ISIS, the spread of Ebola, Ferguson and now the protests in Hong Kong, among other issues. All of these topics certainly merit attention. However, there are many issues that were at one point the center of our attention, but have now been pushed to the edges of our consciousnesses.
It's true that there are still people actively addressing many of these problems, but the majority of us typically grant our attention to whatever is directly in front of us. If it's not in our yard, or if it's not on our newsfeed, we probably forgot about it or aren't aware at all. Don't be fooled into thinking that something isn't important because it's not trending on Facebook or Twitter.
All of us are guilty of this, but we can move forward by making a more concerted effort to remain actively engaged in issues of global concern.
These are just a few ongoing problems that we have largely forgotten about over the past year or so, in no particular order:
ISIS and Ebola might seem like the most pressing issues in the world at the moment. Yet, for billions of people across the globe, poverty is far more threatening. Indeed, more than 1 billion people live on less than one dollar a day.
Likewise, there are around 780 million people without access to clean water, and around 2.5 billion without basic sanitation. In some places, people have to walk more than a mile just to get water.
Tragically, a child under 5 will die every 21 seconds from a preventable water-related disease. These are diseases that were eradicated in developed countries over a century ago, but still claim millions of lives in the present-day. What's more, there are viable solutions to this problem.
In addition to water, more than 800 million people (more than twice the population of the United States) go to bed without food every single day -- 300 million are children. Every 3.6 seconds, someone in the world will die from hunger.
Today, close to 33.4 million people are living with HIV/AIDs. Since 1981, when the first cases were reported, more than 25 million people have died from HIV/AIDs, and there is still no cure.
The vast majority of people living with HIV, close to 97 percent, live in low and middle-income countries. Most of these people reside in sub-Saharan Africa. Hence, poverty plays a huge role in the spread of this lethal virus.
3. Slavery/Human Trafficking
At present, nearly 21 million people are working as modern day slaves as a consequence of human trafficking. Indeed, human trafficking is one of the most profitable businesses in the world. Global profits per victim per year around around $21,800, coming out to around $150 billion in total profits.
In the United States, it is estimated that around 100,000 children are trafficked for sexual exploitation every year. Thus, this is not only a problem in impoverished countries, it's worldwide.
4. Guantanamo Bay
The Guantanamo Bay detention center, also known as Gitmo, will forever stand as a black mark on the history of the United States. Following 9/11, the United States has detained hundreds of individuals at Gitmo without charge or criminal trial.
Since the first detainees were sent to Gitmo in 2002, reports of secret detentions, torture, unfair trials and suicides have surfaced.
Currently, there are still 149 detainees at the detention camp, despite the fact that President Obama promised to shut it down when he came into office.
Likewise, a number of the remaining detainees are on hunger strike, and are controversially being force-fed, which is arguably a form of torture. There are impending hearings surrounding this issue, which the United States has attempted to keep secret.
5. Central African Republic
Sectarian fighting has been ravaging the Central African Republic since 2012. Yet, unlike ISIS, Syria and Iraq, it has received decidedly less attention.
American drone strikes have killed over 2000 people, many of whom were civilians and children. This policy has generated controversy around the world, and animosity towards to the United States. Many worry that it has the potential to perpetuate, rather than end, the War on Terror.
There is very little transparency surrounding the drone program, and we don't have a clear picture of why targets are selected and whether or not they posed an imminent threat to America. Yet, a majority of Americans still support this policy without really questioning it.
7. California Drought
California has been experience one of the worst droughts in recent memory. Some fear that entire communities could be left without water within two months.
The drought has had a detrimental impact on California's agriculture, which will have reverberating consequences both within the United States and around the world. California exports rice to Asia in addition to restaurants within the United States.
Stanford University scientists believe that greenhouse gases might be the cause of this drought. Accordingly, this is yet another instance of negative impact human activities have had on the environment, and the way in which climate change affects us all.
8. Iran's Nuclear Program
The situation with ISIS has led some to believe that the United States should team up with Iran. However, there are still many around the world who are concerned about Iran's nuclear ambitions, particularly Israel.
Indeed, Iran could pose a significant threat to both the Middle East and much of the world if it developed nuclear weapons. As the fight against ISIS rages on, this issue cannot be forgotten.
9. Incarceration Rates
The United States has the highest incarceration rates in the world. We often condemn other countries for violating human rights, yet rarely take an intimate look at ourselves in this regard.
In fact, while America only constitutes five percent of the global population, it has 25 percent of the world's prison population. For a nation that often claims to embody the notion of freedom, this is quite a startling statistic.
10. War On Drugs
The War on Drugs has been one of the most expensive failures in history. Right now, much of the focus on this issue surrounds the debate over the legalization of marijuana.
However, people should also consider the way in which keeping other drugs illegal fosters violence both within the United States and around the world.
Recently, global leaders met and called for the decriminalization of drugs, in order to make this a health issue, rather than a criminal one. When one thinks about it, this is a logical approach, and one which has worked very well for Portugal.
Photo Courtesy: James M Thorne