Every day there’s a new tragedy. At home. Abroad. In the digital age our ability to access news about the world can become a barrier to action.

Media saturation leaves many feeling overwhelmed, unsure of how to help, or which cause is in the most dire need. If you’re ravaged by the details of each day’s news, and crave the larger picture, check this list of the five most pressing issues of our time.

1. Climate change

There is now little dispute over the fact that the earth is growing warmer. What’s more, scientific consensus dictates that human impact is a major contributing factor.

Global warming destroys habitats for all varieties of life, breaks down ecosystems and systems of agriculture, produces extreme weather, and studies show these conditions will only worsen with time.

If making small changes at home — using energy-saving light bulbs, canvas shopping bags, walking, biking, and car pooling — isn’t enough, make contact with one of the many organizations in your area that are hard at work promoting change and awareness about the issue.

2. Overpopulation

In China last week, it was announced that an 8-year-old girl became the country’s youngest cancer patient. Unsurprisingly, doctors are blaming air pollution. (Remember those horrible pictures of the smog in Shanghai and Bejing?)

But while smog is a factor in climate change, it’s also a symptom of the problem of overpopulation. The facts are simple: There are not sufficient global resources to continue to sustain the current population growth rate. China, for example, is already home to more than 1.2 billion people, and smog is just one of many serious social consequences of such a high numbers.

Sure, it might seem like having a small family or adopting is the only way to fight against overpopulation, but the impacts of this problem are many and the effects are vast. Helping to spread medical care to disadvantaged populations is a great place to start.

3. Weapons of mass destruction

Not the kind that were supposedly hiding in Sadaam Hussein’s boudoir, but the real kind, the kind that are becoming ubiquitous in many nations. WMDs — chemical, biological, and nuclear — are fast becoming the greatest threats to security and peace that the world has seen.

Preventing the proliferation of such weapons might seem like an issue only governments can tackle, but protesting, lobbying for more stringent international sanctions, and educating people about the realities of WMDs are all excellent ways to get involved.

4. Income disparity and poverty

The trouble with poverty is well known. From disease to infant deaths, poverty is one of the most deadly problems the world faces. Now, in many developed nations, the problem of extreme income disparity has become equally dire.

In a world where more and more lines are drawn between the haves and have-nots, even national unity and domestic peace are at risk. Working at home as a homeless advocate, and supporting the efforts of groups that attempt to decriminalize poverty is an excellent way to close the income gap.

5. The flu

When Dutch scientists mutated the already deadly H5N1 strain of avian (or bird) flu so it could be transmitted with ease via cough or sneeze, the whole world was taken aback. This annual disease we’ve all become so accustomed to inoculating ourselves against is really a highly dangerous killer.

Much research must be done to ensure a flu pandemic doesn’t seriously grip the world’s population. If you’re looking for a cause that needs financial donations, rather than donations of time or services, consider vaccine research.


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