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Beware awareness fatigue— Global

Preface

Yesterday was Global Handwashing Day.

World awareness days

15 October 2012

Yesterday was Global Handwashing Day. It’s a shame I only became aware of this fact towards the end of the afternoon; I shudder to think of the number of germs I may have spread unknowingly as I went about my business as usual. Thankfully my mild OCD dictates that I wash my hands more often than not when in the vicinity of a tap; or perhaps that’s just common sense.

A small trawl through the internet brought me to a website whereby I could find out exactly what I should be aware of and when – and believe me, there’s a lot. Every day has its own awareness ascribed to it and October has a wide range both nationally and globally. Whole weeks are given over to encephalitis, British wool, backache, eggs, baking, knitting, curry and bruxism (that’s grinding or tooth clenching, which apparently affects 50 per cent of us in the UK).

Generally, animals fare a little less favourably when it comes to our “being aware” of them. That said, in October we have days for moles, badgers, cats and red squirrels, and on 4 October each year it’s World Animal Day – another one that passed me by. I’ve signed up for email alerts just to make me a little more aware. However, counting well over 365 concerns for the entire year, I’m a little worried that awareness mania may soon drive me, for the sake of my sanity and mailbox, to unsubscribe from the mailing list.

As I begin to wonder if my hasty sign-up was a momentary lapse of judgement, I’m alerted by a ping in my inbox telling me that today is World Food Day. This was one of the earlier awareness days, founded in 1945 to coincide with the birth of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. It’s observed in more than 150 countries and will be celebrated in numerous ways and places, including a ceremony at the UN headquarters in New York and a “hunger run” in Rome.

It’s not just a day to consider the possibility of eating less but also a machine used by the FAO to set agendas, promote discussion and exercise change. The theme this year is “Agricultural cooperatives: key to feeding the world”. It’s a grassroots approach to providing sustainable-development solutions rather than emergency supplies; in other words it’s entirely proactive, not just reactive. And in a world where almost 870 million are chronically undernourished, World Food Day is one day of awareness that we should pay attention to – certainly more than baking, badgers and backache, however crippling the latter can be.

The message here is clear. Though National Popcorn Day (19 January) is no doubt yummy and Global Belly Laugh Day (24 January) sounds like a hoot, let’s cut the wheat from the chaff: stop this awareness-day malarkey from getting out of control before the legitimate milestone days get lost in a flurry of bake sales and knitting.

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