The 24-hour news cycle has beset the consciousness of most Americans making us more callous by the day. A natural catastrophe on the eight o’clock news is followed by a major political blunder by noon and a callous terrorist attack by five. Who can keep up? Who can translate profound feelings of horror to sympathy every three hours - every day - every week - every month - all year?
We have begun to look away from the news and block unpleasant information from our consciousness. Who can blame us? It’s a matter of psychic survival.
Most of us no longer think about the poor people of Flint, Michigan. We can hardly remember back to April 2014 when the city fathers switched Flint’s source of tap water from a Detroit regional water system to the Flint River but, to save money, opted not to treat the water. Thirty days later, E. coli and other bacteria were found in the tap water. By August, residents were told to boil their water, and it wasn’t until the following February that dangerous lead levels were detected. Seven months later, Virginia Tech researchers tested hundreds of homes and found “serious levels of lead in city water.” That same month, the Hurley Medical Center in Michigan also noted a doubling of children with elevated blood lead levels. Finally, on December 14, 2015, Mayor Karen Weaver announced a state of emergency in Flint. The city switched back to the Detroit area water system, but one year later Flint residents were still relying on bottled water for consumption. Three and a half years since Flint residents began complaining about the smell and color of their water, the pipes have not been replaced. The old pipes are still leeching lead into the clean water that is now coming from the Detroit Water system.
How could a decent, developed country allow one of its cities of 100,000 people to go without clean drinking water for two and half years? How could the President of the United States and the Governor of Michigan take so long to respond when children were being poisoned by the lead leeching into Flint’s water system? Why did the media stop talking about Flint when they knew the problem had not been solved? Why didn’t we, as a people, respond in horror and outrage as the news of this continued poisoning leaked out and demand the resignation of any authority who didn’t take immediate action? We need to look deeply into our hearts and ask why we let these people suffer so long.
The nonprofit world, as it has in so many other incidents of pain and human suffering, did step in immediately and take the reluctant government’s rightful place in Flint.
- The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation’s early and generous response to the Flint water crisis was a commitment of up to $100 million over five years.
- Another key source of Flint funding is the Flint Child Health and Development Fund established by the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. The fund will support health and medical services for residents over the next twenty years with a goal of $50 million in the next three years and has already raised $9.2 million.
- Mona Hanna-Attisha of the Hurley Medical Center, a prominent advocate for the concerns of children’s health from the beginning of the crisis, is the lead donor to the fund. “The creation of this fund,” she said, “will further ensure that our children are afforded the resources and interventions to overcome this population-wide exposure to lead.”
- The Kellogg Foundation has committed $7.1 million to support the advocacy organization Flint Rising, the Genesee County Health Department, and the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.
- Tom Gores, the owner of the Detroit Pistons and a Flint native, has established a new foundation, Flint Now, that will provide long-term programs focused on economic development, nutrition, and health care for residents of the city.
- Bridge Magazine has estimated that “$13.2 million has arrived in individual donations from families, churches, clubs, and companies.”
Thank You All
The nonprofit community is one of the foundations of our society. Without your concern, sacrifice, and generosity we would lack the measure of kindness it takes to call ourselves a civilization.
(It must be noted that the United States Senate did finally approve $170 million to replace the pipes in Flint.)