On April 22, millions of people across the world volunteered in their local communities and "gave back" to celebrate Earth Day. Maybe they planted a garden, helped clean up litter, or took part in a campaign to save the polar bears.
I didn't join them.
Not because I don't have time. I do. As an eighth grader, I'm enjoying the last few weeks of middle school. And my parents would be thrilled if I participated in an activity that didn't take place in front of a computer screen. No, the reason I didn't participate in preserving forests, clean air or polar bears is that they're just not a top priority for me.
I don't have anything against preserving forests. But what's wrong with preserving health of our own people? In 2011, approximately 30 million trees were cut down in America. But 73 million new trees were planted in that same year. On the other hand, when will we help the 50 million Americans whose lives could be cut short because they don't have health insurance? We're doing a pretty good job of protecting American forests. But isn't it our responsibility to protect American lives too?
And I understand that clean air is important. Everyone is in a hurry to condemn air pollution. But where is the condemnation for the three decades of war in Asia? War, oh glorious war! Blood, gore, heroes and all the stuff that makes for great movies. What's not to love? How about the 66,000 innocent civilians -- which according to some estimates were as high as 200,000 -- who died as a result of it. War often results in leftover radiation, scattered land mines, contaminated water supply and air pollution. Modern-day bombs result in poisonous gases being released in the air, which in turn harm the ozone layer. Our country's military spending is more than the rest of the world combined (one place we've got China beat). Imagine if we cut 50 percent of our military spending? How much good would that do towards preserving not only a clean environment, but human life as well?
It's not that I'm a heartless person who's secretly plotting the extinction of the polar bear. A more accurate statement would be that I'm the type of person who places a much higher value at my fellow human beings as compared to the value of polar bears. Coca-Cola recently started a campaign that will save 100 polar bears each year. But in the same year, 15 million children worldwide will die of hunger, over 600,000 female fetuses will be aborted in India, and thousands will die at the hands of the Syrian regime, desperately pleading for our help. Why not save them first?
I don't know the answers to these questions. But I guess people get all excited about Earth Day because it's easier. It's easier to plant a tree, clean up a road, or fight for fat, furry, and friendly creatures miles away in the Arctic. It's harder to fight against hunger, disease, social conflict and war. It's hard to accept what's right, especially when we are wrong.
My priority is the welfare of human beings. And thank God, there are many people who are fighting for these causes. Organizations like UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, and Kony 2012 are all trying to help stop hunger, alleviate disease, and eradicate war in their own way.
So this Earth Day, I'd rather work with one of these organizations and know that I've made a difference in a human life.