Editorial: A new year

New Year's Eve, as we imagine it, as many experience it, is a time of hope. A time of optimism and promise. Out with the old, the saying goes, and in with the new.

Such notions, with or without a champagne toast, are hard to square with the destruction in Southeast Asia caused by the Dec. 26 tsunami. As this issue goes to press, the death toll is roughly 150,000 and likely to climb. Millions more are homeless. Entire towns are obliterated. And much of the destruction occurred in some of the countries least able to cope with what may turn out to be the most expensive natural disaster in history.

The numbers are impossible to process. The scope of the tragedy is so broad, the devastation so massive, that one is numbed trying to take it all in. At the same time there is an deluge of information from numerous sources. The event takes place at a time where an intersection between technology and media can make a profound impression. Among the most dramatic images of the disaster is a pair of satellite photographs taken over western Sumatra. The first image was of the island prior to the tsunami, the second was taken a few days after. Maybe 20 percent of the island was still visible in the shot.

As much of the world begins the year with at least the notion of possibilities, the catastrophe in southeast Asia requires reflection and offers perspective. There is much to be grateful for. We have it easy in comparison. And if such phrases are simple platitudes, it's still worth a moment to acknowledge them.

And, after that moment, it is time to do something positive. Any number of charitable organizations are doing good work responding to the disaster: OXFAM, the International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, CARE, Mercy Corp, to name a few. A great deal of research about those and similar organizations can be done very quickly on the Web; donations can be done online as well. Financial contributions are crucial in a race to provide such basic necessities as safe drinking water and medicine to a region that took the brunt of nature's indiscriminate force.

Southeast Asia is far away, to be sure; it's an exotic land to many, a tropical paradise that exists in the realm of fantasy and imagination. The intent here is not to be preachy. The hope is to encourage a contribution if you are in a position to do so (and, of course, not everyone is).

But millions of real people need our help, and they need it very quickly.[[In-content Ad]]