2014 has not been an exemplary year for the human race. The reasons are almost too many to list: Ebola, Ukraine, Syria, ISIL, Boko Haram, the sinking of the Sewol, Malaysia Air (the one that crashed and the one that was shot down), the school shooting in Pakistan, etc. Things haven’t been great on the domestic front either: Ferguson, the Ray Rice fiasco, the killing of Eric Garner, the CIA torture report… Suffice it to say that Wolf Blitzer hasn’t been at a loss for things on which to report. Lost in all of those stories, though, are some ongoing topics which are just as important and get one percent of the airtime. Without further ado, a few issues which received short shrift in 2014:
It’s been a pretty typical year for gun deaths in the USA; a school shooting here, a military base killing spree there, and thousands of accidental deaths and suicides sprinkled in between. The data is still being counted and the information is still coming in, but when all is said and done, likely a bit more than 30,000 people will have died from guns (in the last year with reliable data, 2011, it was 32,163). This is roughly 20 times the number in the average developed country.
Polls show that 9 of 10 Americans are in favor of universal background checks, which is such a common sense security measure that it is dumbfounding it hasn’t been enacted. But thanks to a vocal minority of supporters, strong lobbying efforts and morally flexible lawmakers, guns remain unregulated by the federal government. This brings me to…
JOKES! We have fun here, don’t we?
It began with Citizens United. In this stirring editorial, the author catalogues the panoply of ways that the Citizens United Supreme Court case in 2010 would diminish the voice of the average American. This year has brought more bad news for non-billionaires. Between the Supreme Court case McCutcheon vs. FEC, which removes the aggregate donation limit for individual donors, and a rider on the recently passed budget bill, which will allow donors to donate eight times as much money to national party committees, wealthy individuals have had their influence in elections dramatically increased in 2014.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that 2014 is on track to be the hottest year on record. There is a higher frequency of extreme weather events than at any time in recent history. The 10 warmest years in human history have all happened since 1998. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that climate change is caused by human activities. And somehow, despite the preponderance of evidence, a bemusingly high number of Americans disagree: in a Pew Research poll taken this past summer, 53 percent of respondents did not believe in man-made global warming. An astonishing 17 percent don’t believe it’s happening at all. And in perhaps the worst climate change news of all here in the U.S. of A, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma—a man who once blamed the climate change “hoax” on Barbra Streisand—is set to chair the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. I hope everyone is prepared to turn their clocks back to 1891.
I could go on. These are three of myriad topics which do not get enough attention from the media.Hopefully in the new year these issues will be addressed. It’s not impossible: if his recent actions are any indication, President Obama has clearly made the environment a top priority for his final two years—a hopeful sign indeed. I am less optimistic about campaign finance reform and stricter gun regulations, but landing on the moon once seemed impossible too.
After working in Washington, D.C., for two years, Andrew Orlebeke (’10) is in graduate school in Seattle, Washington, studying public policy. In addition to public service, he has a passion for traveling and an abiding love of sports.