For a world so obviously dismissive of disability, it is seemingly perplexing that it is subconsciously intent on growing our community numbers. The number of disabled people worldwide currently stands at one billion, and according to the World Report on Disability, the number of people with disabilities is increasing. But why? And how? How is it in a world of incredible technological innovation and constant growth in medical ideas that this is happening? The answer is found in the awful bi-products of base human nature and its war against the environment.
The world is going to be ruled by disability within my lifetime, fact. Across the world, right now thanks to the various industries of war and climate change, the number of various disabilities, both physical and hidden are rising exponentially. This is a reality that the power players, the Governments, and the industries are all shying away from, desperate not to see the consequences of their combined greed and fury. The narrow view is that the consequence of growing worldwide disability numbers either by direct or indirect action of their drive to destroy and consume, is a non-reality, a problem that does not exist. Well, exist it does and it is reaching a point where all the aforementioned guilty parties will have to be held accountable for their actions. As our numbers grow, the increased volume of shattered innocents will be obvious as a social model disability world finally collapses under the weight of sheer numbers, and a global health network implodes, with both of them currently and woefully unprepared.
In the past decade alone, millions of children have died in wars around the world, and at least 6 million have been made disabled. I am not just talking about physical disability, but the brutal and lifelong disability of mental health. These are children changed forever by people making decisions thousands of miles away. This sudden change in a young life, made in a war not of their doing, in a country no doubt without adequate health care and no disability support means that these young lives are literally changed forever in a blink of an eye. Every missile or bullet fired, every land mine stepped on is someone, who if they survive, has to live with a disability. That may be the harsh reality, but every person disabled by conflict adds to our global community, adds to a demand for change, adds to the growing demand to end conflicts by just starting to do the very thing that power-mad zealots always have to do in the end, sit around a table and talk.
War makes disability through sudden violence, but the ever-growing, globally polluted environment is making a new generation disabled through the slow absorption of toxins, poisoned air, and more. In 2019 a study showed that children suffering from intellectual disability are 33% more likely to live in areas exposed to high levels of diesel particulate matter. Let’s also not forget that trillions of tonnes of chemically active material are discharged into the environment by mining, mineral processing, farming, construction, and energy production. These same said chemicals which are ingested have incredibly powerful long-term and awful negative effects, including increased risk of cancers, disturbances of the hormone and nervous system, and cause increased birth defects like cleft lip, abnormal hearts, and brain damage. In short, the drive to consume and treat the earth as a giant dessert bowl by man is creating disability en mass and shrugging off the consequences of its actions.
Like war, pollution is mostly created by a few, mainly the oil, chemical, and clothing industries. Failed Government regulations, corporate greed, and the desire to make money regardless of the fallout are creating a generation of millions of people coping with a sudden disability through no fault of their own. There is a lack of moral culpability which is powered through bloated capitalism and destruction.
I live with my own disability and my daughter uses a wheelchair. To me, she is perfect and glorious, a gift from the universe, but she was born disabled not of war or pollution, her disability was a chance reaction, a mystery, where destruction and nature defilement were not an issue. Children and families linked to us by factors of man’s short-sightedness are innocent parties shocked and scarred into a new existence by someone else’s hand.
What to do then? Well, there must come action at national, regional, and international levels. Foreign aid budgets must be increased and ring-fenced, much like care homes in the UK during Covid were NOT. It’s no good creating an issue, a humanitarian crisis, and having no responsibility if you are the ones who fired that first shot or decreed to poison that river. Calling lives shattered and left to their own devices collateral, is simply not ethical and moral. In the case of pollution, there must be cast iron measures taken against those guilty of environmental poisoning. Children disabled by oil companies and so forth must be given assurances that proven causes of their disability from industry will see those industries pay and pay big, even if the CEO has to take a hit on their 9 million a year salary.
As for military responsibility, well it is ironic that the civilian population, in general, is protected from dangers arising from military operations under humanitarian law. Groups among the population, such as children, women, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and displaced people, have specific needs and are entitled to special attention, but history and conflict have proved this to be unworkable. I am certain that in the bloated and sickeningly grotesque huge military budgets that abound there can be found money to repatriate where possible people disabled by war, or indeed fund massive infrastructure in war zones. After all, if military hardware used in war has your flag or country of origin on it, those people affected for life should be your eternal responsibility by law and by right.
If all this is all a pipe dream, a pathetic hope of a better world, if I’m writing this because I feel so powerless or angry because innocence is a constant casualty, then so be it. I live with disability and care and I am proud of our community and the actions we take to better our lives. However, if corporations, laws and global industry will not take responsibility for their actions, then Governments will have to drastically invest to terraform cities and health services globally to cope with this new influx of mass disability of their own making. Perhaps then they will see the responsibility that comes with power, perhaps these human catastrophes will sadly usher in the equal society we hope for.
We are supposed to be an intelligent species, we need to be less obsessed with causes of pain and more concerned with healing and treating those we choose to wound. We need to be more concerned with healing and treating our environments like a friend, and their surrounding communities with respect and humanity. In short, we need to grow up, stop the damage and heal.
Disability is for life, and it’s a beautiful life, filled with the greatest people with brilliant, fulfilling, and brilliant lives. Disability is strong, wanting, and an incredible community. However, it should not be the result of greed, guns, and global warming.