My view is that no effort should be considered 'small' when it comes to private aid to victims of a natural disaster. However, with the United States looking at a very difficult winter and spring, I was struck by this comment at The Weather Channel in response to a Nov. 8 AP report there about Lady Gaga's million-dollar pledge:
Whitney Smith - University of Florida: "While some pop stars are donating $1 per ticket sold to his/her concerts and designers are asking you to spend a certain amount to have a portion donated, Gaga is asking for nothing. Just a whole lot of giving. Inspirational. Truly amazing."I'd say so, too. From the AP report:
The New York-born singer posted on her blog Wednesday that she is pledging the money on behalf of her parents and sister. She also said she "would not be the woman or artist that I am today" if it weren't for places like the Lower East Side, Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn.AP also reported yesterday that another big star with roots in New York is pledging aid:
She writes: "Thank you for helping me build my spirit. I will now help you rebuild yours."
Jerry Seinfeld has added a show in Long Island to his new comedy tour and will donate all proceeds from it and two other performances to Superstorm Sandy relief.The problem with efforts such as Seinfeld's and the star-studded benefit concerts on behalf of Sandy victims is the perennial one. Unless everyone involved donates their salaries and the profits from advertising, renting spaces for the concerts, etc., a great deal of the proceeds from the fundraisers goes to covering expenses.
So while every effort helps, I think American stars in the entertainment industries, including professional sports, might want to look at Lady Gaga's pledge as the aid path to emulate for helping Sandy victims.
The bottom line is that FEMA is overstretched, as are all government agencies involved in U.S. disaster relief and rebuilding from disasters. I advised years ago that the USA needs an American version of the World Bank/IDA to aid in developing and reconstructing U.S. regions that are in serious need. Until this advice is implemented it's going to fall more and more to individuals to help American regions devastated by natural and economic disasters.
However, right now Americans have to get through the winter, which is on track to produce heavy snows along the northeast I-95 highway corridor including regions hit hardest by Sandy. Then we have to get through the spring, which could see devastating flooding when the predicted heavy snows from the winter melt. Again, the flooding would include regions devastated by Sandy.
Anyone who has seen The Weather Channel's one-hour cable TV special, Sandy: Anatomy of a Superstorm (first aired Nov. 4) has a good idea of just how devastating the storm was and how wide the range of issues spinning off from the storm's impact.
Speaking of the range, I think one of the most troubling issues presented by the program comes in the last few minutes, when discussion turns to aging satellites that are being decommissioned -- and with no plan to replace them until 2017. Budget shortfalls.
Yet we learn from the program that it was extensive satellite tracking of the storm's growth which made predictions for Sandy's path and severity so incredibly accurate. This saved many lives because it alerted New York and New Jersey officials early in the storm's growth that mandatory evacuations had to be ordered and where to pinpoint the evacuation orders.
As to what we're going to do until 2017 with many of those satellites going out of service -- the Weather Channel didn't know; nobody seems to know at this point. Perhaps Bill and Melinda Gates can rip themselves away from promoting condom use and better toilets in the 'developing' world long enough to throw a few fundraisers for replacing the satellites earlier than 2017.
There are other serious warnings in the Weather Channel special so if you haven't seen it yet, you might want to keep an eye on the cable channel's schedule because the show will probably be rebroadcast many times this month.
All this is saying nothing about the increasingly serious drought in the American Midwest, an issue I'll address in another post, and which has received virtually no attention from private charitable organizations.
UPDATE 1:00 PM
Before I hear from the Gates Foundation, I am aware that their website lists World Vision International, which has been providing aid to Sandy victims, as one of the charitable organizations the foundation has supported at one time or another:
We supported CARE—on behalf of Catholic Relief Services, the International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Oxfam Great Britain, Save the Children US, and World Vision International—in implementing an emergency capacity-building initiative that increases coordination and effectiveness in global emergency response at the country, regional, and headquarters levels.Just to be clear, whatever support the foundation provided or provides to the charity, that is not the same as pledging financial aid to Sandy victims.