Is there anything more important to us than the air we take into our lungs every few seconds? The water that keeps us and all living things going? The soil that roots our food and our communities? Or the weather patterns that knit these elements all together?
What happens when these things begin to deteriorate — or rapidly change their behavior?
That is why I’m in Kenya with Cal DeWitt — well known Christian environmental scientist and teacher — and a group of eight others from the US and Canada: scientists, teachers, activists, and a film-maker.
The very real needs of Americans pale in comparison to the needs foreign aid addresses. Poor families around the world are right now starving to death. If we cut American aid, we can be sure that millions will die. At a time when our politicians are considering how to cut as much as $1,500 billion from the federal budget we shouldn't try to cut the $33 billion we spend annually to assist the victims of malaria, famine, or natural disasters.
When I first visited Ethiopia at the height of the 1984 famine, I watched as twenty-four people died of starvation in less than fifteen minutes, right in front of my eyes. Barely five years into my career as a Congressman, nothing my staff told me beforehand could have prepared me for what I saw on that trip.
Gasping at awful photographs of unspeakable human suffering is one thing; bearing firsthand witness to human suffering is another thing entirely. Glancing at a picture of a starving child in the newspaper, you can always turn away, but when you're staring into the eyes of a mother who has just lost that child, it's a completely different story. There's no looking the other way.
That's why I often describe those first Ethiopia experiences as my "converting ground" on issues of global hunger. What happened in Ethiopia changed me, and changed how an entire generation looks at hunger.
It's also why I'm currently back on the Horn of Africa, reporting on the ground from the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya, less than fifty miles from the Somali border. And I am appealing to my affluent brothers and sisters in the United Stated and around the world not to look away. We need your help.