January 19, 2010

Haiti Loves Cell Phones

Posted in Just Darn Clever at 9:39 am by Andrew

A few thoughts on the Haiti tragedy:

San Francisco Perspective. If you’re looking for a way to help your kids grasp the magnitude of last week’s earthquake, consider this: The Haiti quake measured a  7.0; the 1989 San Francisco quake was 6.9 — essentially identical earthquakes. The death toll in Haiti is pushing 200,000. San Francisco’s death toll — 63.

That disparity and the many causes/implications there of are staggering. This is an opportunity to talk with your kids about the impacts of poverty…the benefits of a structured government…the role of building codes and inspectors…purpose of taxes…the evils of corruption…and the need for a world view.

Honestly, kids who are exposed to such conversations and concepts become the adults who can think with depth and creativity. The other kids will join the mass of dolts and lummoxes.

Media Coverage. I’ve heard several commentators and media outlets compliment themselves for their outstanding coverage of the relief efforts. I agree that the broadcast media are doing well. But that’s in relation to their generally poor coverage of everything else.

The role of media is to report news. Problem is, media  outlets wildly outnumber newsworthy events. As a result, they’re forced to fill their time with “analysis” — otherwise known as “poorly educated vapid opinion.”

So now we have an event that truly is news. The situation is very fluid in Haiti, and we need updates on the rescue effort, airport operations, looting, the wounded, death toll, costs, Haitian leadership, global leadership, and so on.

In short, news media are finally doing their job. And when we start hearing reports about “what should have been done differently”…we’ll know things have plateaued in Haiti.

Cell Phone Nation. For perhaps the first time in a decade, the existence of cell phones has had a positive effect rather than sapping society of decorum and common sense. The ability to text HAITI to 90999 and donate $10 to the Red Cross has been incredibly successful. According to the Red Cross, as of yesterday the texting program has raised $20 million. At $10/pop, that’s 2 million donations. Amazing.

And it’s safe to assume the majority of those texters are under the age of 30, a demographic that isn’t typically at the top end of charitable giving. So much of that $20 million represents “new money” in the disaster relief arena. Sure, some of these texters probably don’t even realize the $10 will show up on their bill…maybe they think it’s some form of text magic…or more than likely, they have no clue how it works. Ignorance and a cell phone is charitable bliss.

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