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December 11, 1984 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-12-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

4

OPINION
Page 4 Tuesday, December 11, 1984 The Michigan Dai(y
Acts of charity can fill empty stomachs

4

By Sandra Steingraber
Eclipsed in the news media first by
the elections, then by the death of a
Polish priest, and now by an airplane
hijacking, the African famine drags on,
no longer a "news event" but claiming
more victims every day than were lost
in the massive Union Carbide accident
in India last week. Less than two mon-
ths after the initial BBC broadcast
brought starving Ethiopians into our
living rooms and elicited an outpouring
of concern, the famine has drifted to the
back pages, the problem still as severe
and complex but no longer a "news event."
Thus, I have been heartened to see
the growing attention that world hunger
has been receiving on campus lately.
Especially important is Daily colum-
nist Brian Leiter's recognition that our
government has been negligent in
responding to world hunger, a societal
problem for which free market greed is
largely responsible, "Real solutions lie
far beyond charity" (Daily, December
5). However, the focus on famine as a
political problem has led many to the
erroneous conclusion that acts of
charity by the private sector are futile.
While it is certainly true that
charity-in the absence of the
necessary changes in our government's
political priorities-can only treat the
symptoms of the problem, the evidence
dons not support the conclusion that
short-term charity is-as Leiter
says-"quite harmful."
IN FACT, the world's worst famines
have occurred in nations that have
closed themselves off from inter-
national aid and charitable assistance.

The famines which killed and crippled
millions of Chinese during the Cultural
Revolution can be partly attributed to
that nation's political isolation and
refusal to accept help from nations with
"ideologically inferior" governments.
In contrast, India, a relatively open
society, has successfully averted such
massive calamities by alerting
charitable organizations during food
crises and facilitating relief operations.
Ethiopia, the country Leiter cites, can
be compared to China of the 1960s. The
Ethiopian government-not wanting to
spoil its anniversary party-has done
everything possible to hide from the
world the hunger of its people even
though it has known for two years that
the famine was growing out of control.
The Relief and Rehabilitation Com-
mittee (RRC), a branch of the
Ethiopian government ostensibly
responsible for monitoring food shor-
tages, did not appeal to relief
organizations for aid until last May.
Moreover, it deliberately and grossly
underestimated the number of starving
in its reports. The fact that the head of
the RRC is a party member and a
military officer does not improve its
credibility. So, by the time the need for
help was made public and charitable ef-
forts mobilized, it was too late for hun-
dreds of thousands. Thus, Ethiopia is
not an example of the failures of
charity, as Leiter implies. In fact, one
could argue that if charitable efforts
had been allowed to begin two years
ago, 900,000 dead Ethiopians (that's
nine University football stadiums full of
people) might still be alive.
As Leiter points out, we need to

recognize that charity cannot solve the
problem of famine. Equally important,
however, is the realization that charity
can buy time until a cure can be found.
To recommend, as Leiter does, that the
energy and time spent on charity
should all be transferred to devising
long-term solutions is tantamount to
leaving an accident victim bleeding on
the pavement while the medical
profession develops a program of
physical therapy. Clearly, stabilizing
the victim's vital signs is the first
necessary step. And-when allowed to
act-relief agencies can effectively

choices as Leiter assumes. Money and
effort devoted to one does not have to
hinder the other. Jennifer Bowen's
thoughtful letter, "Only individuals
make the difference," (Daily, Decem-
ber 7) pointed out that many relief
organizations are dedicated to both
feeding the hungry now and planning
for tomorrow's crop. I would like to add
that a lack of charity now may make
long-term solutions to hunger more dif-
ficult. Children who are adequately
nourished for even a short period of
time cannot produce all the brain cells
they need to become mentally fun-

'To recommend. . . that the energy and time spent
on charity should all be transferred to devising
long-term solutions is tantamount to leaving an ac-
cident victim bleeding on the pavement while the
medical profession develops a program of physical
therapy. Clearly, stabilizing the victim s vital
signs is the first necessary step.'

fam-sponsored fast is indeed a modest
and disappointing sum. However, this
contribution needs to be placed in the
context of what it can accomplish. As
stressed in the conclusion of my article,
"Kifu qun: Evil days in Africa," (Daily
Weekend magazine, November 30) un-
processed food is cheap. Four-
thousand-five-hundred dollars can feed
90 children for an entire year. Depen-
ding on whether you tend to view par-
tially filled cups as half empty or half
full, you will perceive this accomplish-
ment as either insignificant or salient. I
prefer to believe that preventing the
physical and mental crippling of that
many children for that length of time
significantly reduces the amount of
human suffering in the universe.
To assert, as Leiter does, that charity
is ineffective because it "returns year
after year doing the same fundraising
for the same problem" is a little like
claiming that penicillin must not work
because lots of people in the world still
die of disease. Saving even a few lives is
not something we have the opportunity
to do everyday; those who participated
in the fast should not consider their
small efforts futile.
UNFORTUNATELY, most of those
who signed away their meals bought
food elsewhere and thus helped raise
funds but not their own consciousness.
The fatigue, the irritability, and the
lack of concentration that build as you
try to accomplish a normal day's work
without food can sensitize you for the
rest of your life to the plight of the
chronically hungry. I urge the Commit-

tee Concerned with World Hunger to
make this purpose clear to next year's
participants. The restructuring of
political priorities needed to solve the
problem of hunger can only come about
when we, who live surrounded by food,
understand what it is we are helping
people out of.
Brian Leiter is right to call for a
change in political will on the part of
our federal government. But until that
happens, sincere charitable efforts on
the part of informed individuals can ex-
tend lives, alleviate suffering, and offer
hope. Yes, it. is easy to give away a
meal and delude yourself into thinking
that you've done something more
significant than offer temporary
respite to a hungry person. But it is far
easier to give up nothing at all in the
cynical belief that such small efforts
are futile.
Please give generously. Discuss the
problem of world hunger with your
family and friends over Christmas
break. Urge your Congressmen to sup-
port the African Recovery Act now
pending in the House.
An ancient Ethiopian proverb states,
"When spider webs unite, they can tie
up a lion." We must believe this is
possible.

administer this kind of first aid. For
example, in the government-controlled
areas of Ethiopia, where relief agencies
have been allowed in, the daily death
rate from disease and starvation has
dropped dramatically. However, in the
rebel-held areas of rural Tigray, which
are officially off-limits, the death rate
has increased from 450/day last month to
1,400/ day now.
CHARITY and long-term develop-
ment are not mutually exclusive

ctional adults. If we ignore appeals
for charity because we think it only a
temporary measure, a whole
generation of children may grow up so
physically and mentally stunted that
they will not be able to implement the
long-term changes we finally devise to
make them self-sufficient.
But on to Leiter's major point that bit
contributions by college students giving
up a single dorm meal constitute a
"sick joke". The $4,500 raised in the Ox-

Steingraber is a graduate student
in biology.

C -

LETTERS TO THE DAILY

ebt a n Mihigan
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Aid peace. Ask for protestors'

release

Vol. XCV, No. 79

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
Responsi*b1iity for Bhopal

THE TRAGEDY in Bhopal is the
latest reminder of technology's
awesome power to destroy. Whatever
the reasons for the accident at the In-
dian Union Carbide plant, the awful
fact remains that thousands have died.
Unchecked, technologies can and will
go awry. The corporations that operate
such plants and the governments that
regulate them must take respon-
sibility.
Over 2,000 have already died in
Bhopal, 50,000 have flooded hospitals
and makeshift clinics, and hundreds
continue to die every day. The lethal
gas which leaked from the plant has
grim consequences for those who
breathe it. Methyl isocyanate attacks
the lungs filling them with fluid until
the victim literally drowns. As
disastrous as the accident has been,
however, it is unfortunately not the fir-
st of its kind.
In 1976, a dioxin cloud poisoned an
entire Italian town. Last month in
Mexico City, 400 people died in a gas
line explosion. Large scale industrial
accidents are far too frequent. The Ox-
ford Committee on Famine Relief has
estimated that each year 22,500 people
die from exposure to pesticides alone.
Technology's toll in lives and environ-
mental damage is unacceptably great,
especially in the Third World.
Blame for the disaster in Bhopal has
been assigned to poorly trained

workers, and the Soviet Union even
proclaimed that capitalist greed was
the direct cause. Both are simplistic
reactions to the disaste that ignore the
fundamental problem: inadequate in-
dustrial safeguards. If a plant cannot
be operated safely, it should not be
operated.
American companies overseas are
not held to the same safeguards
required in the United States. Many
Third World governments do not
require strict environmental or health
standards, often resulting in lax
precautions. At a Union Carbide plant
in Indonesia half of the workers recen-
tly were found to have kidney damage
due to mercury exposure. American
companies exporting industrial
operations should be required to export
strict environmental standards.
Part of the problem has been a lack
of willingness in Washington to enforce
safeguards on American operations.
overseas. In 1981, the Reagan ad-
ministration cancelled an executive
order issued by President Carter to
impose stricter requirements on U.S.
companies exporting hazardous sub-
stances. Someone must take respon-
sibility. If American plants overseas
and the governments where they are
located will not insure adequate
safety measures, then the United
States should step in. The risks are too
great to stand idly by.

To the Daily:
This letter concerns the 13
people (including five University
students) arrested at Walled
Lake on Dec. 3 for protesting the
production of cruise missile
engines at Williams Inter-
national.
Because some have expressed
concern over the fact that many
people would be left unemployed
should Williams either close or
move elsewhere, we would like to
emphasize that the Dec. 3 action.;
was not only a sit-in for peace but
also a call to economic conver-
sion. Military production is
detrimental to our economic well-
being. Studies by state Rep.
David Hollister prove a direct
correlation between increased
military spending and rising
unemployment in Michigan.
They also reveal that defense
related production creates far
fewer jobs than any other major
industry. Other studies show that
military research and produc-
tion, by diverting funds from
civilian production, threaten our
future economic com-
petitiveness.
The engine produced at
Williams does contribute to first
strike capability. As University
Physics Prof. Daniel Axelrod, a
court-certified expert on nuclear
weapons, has explained, the
cruise in combination with the
more rapid, highly accurate Per-
shing II missile, makes possible a
U.S. one-two first strike strategy.
In addition, the cruise missile's
small size and mobility makes a
verifiable nuclear freeze im-
possible and nuclear arms talks
impractical.
Should Williams decide to take
its business elsewhere, we trust
our brothers and sisters all over
the state and across the country
will continue to oppose produc-
tion of first strike weaponry. It is
possible for Williams to stay in
business. Until 1975, they were
involved in peaceful production
and presently 20 percent of their
contracts are non-military. We
have urged them to return to pre-
1975 values, and they have per-
sisted in refusing to discuss this
possibility.
We have been criticized for our
trespassing on private property
and interfering with business.
But Williams is not just any
business, and on its private
property it spends our tax dollars
to build weapons of inordinate
destruction. It is our respon-
sibility as citizens to prevent use
of our tax dollars for such pur-
poses, and trespass laws should

Some have also questioned
whether civil disobedience is the
appropriate response to the
nuclear arms race. In 1982 the
State of Michigan and eight other
states voted overwhelmingly for
a nuclear freeze. There has been
no government response. The
recent civil disobedience of
several of our own congressper-
sons suggests that efforts to act
within the normal political arena
are not always sufficient. And we
would not have our present civil
rights laws if Martin Luther
King had only taken his views to
Congress and if he had always
respected the laws of property.
Civil disobedience is consistent
with America s strong
democratic tradition, under
which initially small numbers of

people have courageously taken
the first steps leading to our in-
dependence, our abolition of
slavery, and our consolidating of
civil rights. Life is not served by
the production of weapons each
one of which is 16 times more
destructive than the bomb drop-
ped at Hiroshima; liberty is not
assured by our being held
hostage to nuclear threats; and
the pursuit of happiness is not
achieved when growing numbers
of our youth testify to their fear of
a nuclear holocaust, and when
that fear contributes to a drastic
increase in the suicide rates
among our teenagers.
Finally, it must not be forgot-
ten that the 13 arrested for pur-
suing the path of lasting peace
have been handed an indefinite,

i.e. a life, sentence, to be served
either in Oakland County Jail or
with the Salvation Army. (The
terms of the Salvation Army sen-
tence are 8 hours a day, 7 days a
week-for the rest of their lives.)
Clearly, the Williams 13 are
prisoners of conscience, and will
remain so until all of us, in our
letters and phone calls, demand
their release, and demand, as
well, the termination of cruise
missile engine production at
Williams International.
-Randi Metsch
Eric Goldstein
December 10
Metsch and Goldstein are
members of the Ann Arbor
Peace Community.

)

a

Remove campus Pentagon

projects

0

To the Daily:
Thank you for bringing atten-
tion to the deadly connections
between the Pentagon and the
University. The editorial "An
outdated relationship with the
Pentagon" (Daily, December 6),
is correct in warning of an in-
crease in Department of Defense
sponsored research at the
University due to Reagan ad-
ministration policies. However,
while the editorial opposed a
return to the blatant applied
weapons research of the '70s, it
failed to point out current Depar-
tment of Defense funded resear-
ch projects at the University
which are clearly inappropriate.
One such project was protested
last May and 11 students were
arrested for blockading a
laboratory. The project in
question, "Analytical Studies on
High-Powered Diodes" involves
the design, building, and testing
of solid state diodes and tran-
BLOOM COUNTY

sistors. This Department of
Defense funded projects
provides the basic electronic
equipment for use in Phoenix
missile guidance systems, as well
as in other equipment, such as
high speed and computercom-
munications systems.
Another deadly project on
"Basic-Scale OceanrAcoustic
Tomography" will be evaluated
by the Research Policies Com-
mittee on Dec. 14. This project
was rejected by a student mem-
ber of the Classified Research
Review Panel (a panel which
reviews projects *to determine
whether they fall within the 1972
Classified Research Guidelines)
because it would ultimately be
used by the Navy for anti-sub-
marine warfare and would give a
destabilizing first-strike
capability. Such research
violates the Classified Research
Guidelines which prohibit

research a specific purpose of
which is to destroy human life or to
incapacitate human beings.
The Research Policies Com-
mittee has shown that it is willing
to carefully consider this project
and its possible applications as.
voting was postponed last month
so that more information could be
presented. Although this commit-
tee has never rejected a
classified research project, we
sincerely hope to see the
Classified Research Guidelines
enforced, and this "Basin-Scale
Ocean Acoustic Tomography"
project rejected.
The University community
must work as a whole to maintain
peaceful educational research
and advancements in technology
for people-not for their destruc-
tion.
-Andrea Walsh
Jeff Meckler
December 7
by Berke- Breathed

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