The National Nurses Union has nearly 12,000 volunteer nurses trying to get to Haiti to assist the doctors already there. Frustratingly, although they have valid travel documents, they are being denied entry due to a mess of bureaucratic red tape both in the U.S. and Haiti. In the meantime, the U.S. has "militarized the relief effort" sending about 16,000 troops to the country.
What's wrong with this picture? While there is a good argument to be made for ensuring security in places where there is a disaster, our government seems to have framed the relief effort by placing greater value on security, rather than that of saving lives with food and medicine.
When does value align with our values?
We're all familiar with the process of setting a goal and ensuring milestones are accomplished towards that end. One wonders what would have happened if the government had set the goal to save lives, rather than the goal of ensuring "security". The failure to articulate an agenda that is aligned with our values -- and the inevitable needless suffering and death that have followed -- is demonstrated by the speed with which soldiers got through and the resources they were provided with, versus the maddening delays for the nurses (who have had to enlist actor James Gandolfini to appeal on their behalf).
Yes, the scope and complexity of the disaster in Haiti is mind-boggling. But when faced with such severe challenges, we can either try to surround and contain it, as we are doing with our troops, or we can attack the heart of the problem.
We simplify complex problems by identifying a goal. When pairing our goals with core humanitarian values, and demanding that subsequent steps taken towards the goal are filtered through these same values, we have a lever that can move worlds.
There are countless solutions available when we filter through this lens: food and medicine could be deployed to the stricken community in Port-au-Prince, rather than sitting on the tarmac over "security concerns," mobile pre-fabricated pod-style housing could be dropped in, and yes, nurses could have top priority when it comes to diplomatic efforts to address the crisis.
Imagine if all it took to organize our response to disasters like Haiti was a perception shift. Now imagine if we aligned value with our values to solve the multiple and profound problems and risks confronting the human race. The journey begins when we set a top-level goal, paired with a simple theme that reflects our core authentic human values. When we do that, we can determine the value of sending 12,000 nurses over sending 16,000 troops.
As a social entrepreneur, I work on the URSULA Project. URSULA stands for Unified Rating System, Universal Lifecycle Assessment, and is a way of scoring and rating everything against a standard that serves all life on earth. URSULA is an open and transparent system that seeks to leverage crowd-sourced lifecycle data, and pair it with a fair voting mechanism that reflects core human values, to create a universal standard through collaborative definition.
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