Undergraduate Essay 5: Social Issues and Concerns
Copyright (c) Shaun R. Fawcett
Question: "Discuss some of the main issues that concern you at the local, national, or international level, and explain their impact on you and your future."
"You're seeing the glass as half-empty again" my dad would invariably say to me as soon as I would launch into one of my frequent tirades about some new social injustice I had just discovered in my high school World Issues class. "Don't forget to look at the other side of the equation", he would admonish me.
Even now as I look back at one of those discussions that occurred just six months ago, I realize how my thinking has changed. I think I'm starting to see the big picture more than I used to. I'm starting to realize that many issues are very easy to react to at the basic gut level, but when one looks at them more carefully the picture is frequently much more complex and the "right" answer is not always so cut-and-dried anymore.
Mind you, this doesn't apply to everything. Some things are just plain wrong. War for example. Both sides may have a legitimate case but murdering each others' citizens can never be justified. Sexual abuse of children is another. This is sick and inexcusable under any circumstances. Essentially, I believe that all forms of violence against the human race are fundamentally wrong.
While working on a couple of projects in my final year of high school I had a chance to do some literature research into a number of these issues. What I found was very interesting. I came to realize that there are many social issues and conditions that aren't quite as straightforward as the ones I mentioned above.
For example, most people are not aware that by far the largest killer of human beings on this planet is indoor air pollution, estimated to kill 2.8 million people every year, mostly in the developing world. That's right, I said million. Yet, when we read our newspapers and listen to our politicians we never hear about this problem. Instead, they go on-and-on about things like mad cow disease and the West Nile virus. Yes, it is unfortunate that some people are dying of these. However, the fact is that these two conditions together have killed fewer than one thousand people worldwide, ever. Compare this with 2.8 million human beings killed annually by indoor air pollution that is directly related to ignorance and living in poverty.
Global warming is another issue that I think is very important but one that is also being distorted and blown way out of proportion by the media and special interest groups. The fact is, that even the scientists can't agree on exactly what is going to happen in the future, and their estimates are wildly different. So, I can understand the reluctance of the U.S. government and some others to resist immediate implementation of the Kyoto protocol. Instead, they believe in a phased adoption of the Kyoto measures because immediate implementation would cost billions of dollars and throw the economies of the major developed countries into chaos. This would benefit no one, and would cause more pain and suffering than the short-term effects of global warming.
There are a number of other global issues that also interest me, including: human poverty and starvation, environmental issues in general, and biodiversity.
An aspect of all of this that really interests me goes back to my dad's analogy about the glass. Is it half-full or half-empty? Why do the media, politicians, and special interest groups tend to jump on the bandwagon of negativity on just about every major social issue? Is this healthy? Maybe if we're always preparing for the worst case scenario all the time, we can't go wrong. But then, what about our tendency to focus on the wrong things due to all of the hype surrounding the "designer" issues of the day?
These kinds of questions fascinate me. I guess that explains why I was drawn to apply for admission into a political science program majoring in world issues. After that, I think I would like to enroll in a masters program in journalism in which I could focus on covering issues related to the developing world and the future of the human race. I would like to be able to add some balance to that coverage.
Word Count = 698 words