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Friday / July 12.
HomemitwocentsThe Human Planet

The Human Planet

Australian social commentator, optometrist and sporting great, Geoff Lawson provides his unique insight into the world around us – the devastation we have faced around the globe and the generosity from individuals that continues to shine through.

It’s been tough on planet earth recently. Not only are the human inhabitants getting restless as they overthrow despots and dictators, join or defeat terrorists… the natural upheavals of earthquakes, floods, droughts, cyclones, bushfires and blizzards have caused damage and heartache as well.

In 1989 the ultimate symbol of the division and divisiveness of 20th century man – the Berlin wall – fell. The world found a new order, peace perhaps. There was a lull in the battle for the planet, or at least the struggle by the dominant species.

But human evolution is a recent turn of events compared to the life of the earth, and the wandering of super continents. The ancient Polynesians had no knowledge of continental drift, but their homes were small and flimsy, easily destroyed and easily rebuilt.

Many put their lives on the line in their effort to deliver much needed services to millions of vision affected individuals

But ‘modern man’ will never win against the elements. The good people of Christchurch have been dealt a deep, buried and cruel hand. Victims of timing and geology, they had no idea that their homes would be demolished.

The Luck of the Draw

Some may consider it the luck of the draw as to when and where you live.

Australia can boast of most extremes – that’s never been clearer than right now. From shore to shore and even within states, we’ve faced record droughts in south west WA while the rain falls by the bucket load just a few hundred kms up the coast.

Had the Sydney basin tsunami of 600 years ago arrived more recently, it would have destroyed most of the suburbs seaward of Parramatta in Sydney and produced tens of thousands of fatalities.

The Christchurch seismic events were truly catastrophic for not just that city and New Zealand but the impact on this quiet city would no doubt have shaken people around the world. Fortunately, the wonderful south island of New Zealand, bisected as it is by the Pacific fault line is unlucky in situation but bountiful in natural beauty and home to a population of resilient and supportive people.

Generosity Prevails

The Optometry profession too has an outstanding reputation for supporting those in need. Australian optometrists and their international colleagues donate much of their time as well as money, to contribute to the health and well-being of less fortunate people in war torn and developing nations.

Many put their lives on the line in their effort to deliver much needed services to millions of vision affected individuals. Last year, one optometrist from the U.S.A. lost his life. Dr. Tom Little was murdered in August 2010 while working with eye care organisations (IAM & NOOR) in Afghanistan. He left behind his wife and three daughters, all of whom had spent many years living with him in Kabul.

In February, this year, President Obama awarded the late Dr. Tom Little with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Obama called Little “a humanitarian in the truest sense of the word” for the work he did as an optometrist in Afghanistan. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor a civilian can receive and Little was the only one of 15 recipients to receive it posthumously.

President Obama said “Tom Little could have pursued a lucrative career… Instead, he was guided by his faith and he set out to heal the poorest of the poor in Afghanistan.”

The Ophthalmic Training Centre in Afghanistan has now been named the Tom Little Memorial Eye Hospital in memory of the extraordinary work carried out by the American Doctor. And, just as many people of Afghanistan could never have enjoyed renewed sight without the efforts of Dr. Little, the Centre could never have been built without funding from Optometry Giving Sight and the Volunteer Optometry Services to Humanity (VOSH).

As Australians, we can be proud of our reputation for empathy and our generosity towards charities like Optometry Giving Sight. Our nation has contributed cash, goods and manpower to those in need in all corners of the globe. From Pakistan and the wildfires in California, to mining disasters in Chile, tsunami relief in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, and now to our neighbours in Christchurch.

All Australians who donate to charities make a difference – and there are many millions of people who need our help.

‘Survival of the fittest’ may be a maxim of life on earth but survival is much more likely if we stop procrastinating and do something quite simple to help others in less fortunate situations.