To create lasting hurricane relief, think short-term and long-term

Following the devastation from three major hurricanes in the past two months, it isn’t surprising to see a number of relief efforts cropping up around our city.

University of Miami held the Hurricane Irma Relief Day of Service Sept. 22, sending volunteers to various locations in need of cleanup. My group went to a local food stock and spent the day bagging nonperishables for people in need.

Though I will not discredit the positive impact of providing food to hurricane victims, I couldn’t help but cringe when I saw the stack of plastic bags to be filled. With each bag I tied, a twinge of guilt ran through me.

Every plastic bag that feeds a hungry man, woman or child will later be discarded into a waste bin and end up in a landfill, in the ocean or wrapped around a tree branch.

Is this lack of environmental consciousness not what intensifies natural disasters? As impressively supportive and cooperative as our communities prove to be in crisis, we tend to offer temporary solutions that only exacerbate the problems at hand.

We should display the same support and cooperation to prevent the next crisis, but the general public forgets all too quickly the long-term results of environmental neglect, until, of course, the next disaster strikes.

The key word here is cooperation. We will accomplish very little if the environmentalists and nonprofit organizations do not work together. We need to recognize the connection between communities and the world in which they reside.

No one likes disasters, but we cannot expect to prevent them if one group focuses solely on instant, cheap and convenient relief while the other focuses solely on long-term, grand-impact policy implementation. It begins with small improvements that are surprisingly difficult to consider. Though I am certain that with patience, combined brainpower and consideration of diplomatic differences, we are more than capable of finding a means of transporting food that satisfies both immediate community needs and long-term preventative care.

Sophia Constantino is a freshman majoring in journalism.

Featured photo courtesy of pixabay user 9355.