Here in Oregon, we're worried about our futures, both near- and far-term. Our schools and infrastructure just aren't what they used to be, our safety net is badly torn, and things are going to get worse before they get better. Among our many problems is the highest hunger rate in the nation, which is disgraceful.
But just as I begin to obsess about the state of our state, I pick up the Tuesday New York Times and read with even more profound sadness what Nicholas Kristof (an Oregon native) tells us about the troubles on the other side of the globe:
What breaks your heart is the sight of healthy parents cradling skeletal children. Petros Loka, for example, is a young man with the hint of a potbelly — yet he was at an Ethiopian clinic with his 7-year-old son, David, who was admitted at 31 pounds and looked like a ghost. Trying to puzzle out how this could happen, I asked how the family ate.
"The man eats first, and then the children and the wife eat together," Mr. Loka explained. Others confirm that across rural Ethiopia, the father eats first and the mother and children get leftovers — with the smallest kids mostly squeezed out. To address that problem, we need not just more food but, above all, education, so that, as in Ethiopia's cities, families eat together and understand the need to look out for their youngest members.
Moreover, even in a good year five million Ethiopians need food aid, and Georgia Shaver, head of the World Food Program in Ethiopia, says that "normal" may need to be redefined as 10 million in need. So the problem goes beyond the weather and includes insecure land tenure, the 29 million Africans with AIDS or H.I.V., and the lack of irrigation.
I talked to members of one family who were hungry because their crops had failed from the drought, just 100 yards from a lake. Why hadn't they irrigated? The risk of being stomped by hippos was one factor, but another was that carrying water is women's work and tending the fields is men's work, and this cultural impasse left them stymied — and starving.
So hurray, we passed Measure 26-48. But pardon me if I don't party too hard about it.