5 random things we spend our money on that make global aid look like pocket change.

$2 billion actually isn't that much when you put it in perspective.

The amount we all spent on airline baggage fees last year is more than the amount needed to save the lives of 2 million little kids.

Isn't that pretty wild to think about?  

Together we spent $3.1 billion on baggage fees in 2016 — on top of our actual tickets — so that U.S.-based airlines could transport our crap (what an industry!). That's a billion more dollars than what's needed to stay on track with our global nutrition targets.  


If governments, organizations, and donors around the world spent an additional $2 billion annually over the next 10 years, we could save 2.2 million lives — and reduce stunting in 50 million children. 50 MILLION children!

Image via iStock.

Right now, malnutrition is killing 3 million children a year, contributing to 45% of all deaths of kids under 5, and costing our world billions of dollars in lost productivity.

Did I mention it's completely preventable?

In 2012, the World Health Assembly (WHA), composed of 194 member states, endorsed its first-ever plan to drastically improve nutrition in children in developing countries by 2025. They are focusing on six main targets: stunting, exclusive breastfeeding, wasting, anemia, low birthweight, and overweight. It's smart and awesome.

What's not awesome, though, is that they're not on track to hit any of those nutrition goals. Country governments and donors are spending $3.9 billion total on nutrition-specific programs, according to the World Bank. But that's not enough to close the gap and stay on track. If they were to come together and spend an additional $2.2 billion, they could get back on it.

Now, $2 billion a year sounds like quite a bit of money — until you put some things into perspective.

Here are five random expenditures that show why investing $2.2 billion in our future generations should be a no-brainer:

1. Americans spent close to a billion dollars on UNUSED gift cards in 2015.

Image via iStock.

More specifically, that's $973 million that's just sort-of ... THERE. It's just hanging out in a digital retail cloud somewhere, waiting to be used on apparel or appliances that, ironically, may actually remain unused.

2. Even more staggering: Americans spent $119 billion on gambling losses in 2013.

Image via iStock.

Not wins. Not even break-evens. LOSSES. I mean, if we could somehow pool just a fraction of that to create the most charitable pot the world has ever seen, wouldn't that be a win-win for everyone?

3. We're apparently a thirsty country — Americans spend $105.9 billion a year on beer.

Image via iStock.

Granted, there's no denying that people love their beer. But what if, like, instead of buying the usual "one for the road," we turned the equivalent into "one for a good cause"?

4. Americans spend over $10 billion on credit card late fees.

Image via iStock.

Yes, it can be cool to be fashionably late. But it's probably not $10 billion cool.

5. Americans spend over $42 billion at dollar stores.

Image via iStock.

If anything, this puts the whole "What if everyone just gave a dollar to help out?" argument in perspective.

Obviously, it's not the same to compare what Americans spent at dollar stores to what governments spend on nutrition programs in developing countries.

But it does help paint a clear picture of how much progress we can make in the world with relatively small amounts of funding.

Image via iStock.

Americans think we spend an average of 26% of our U.S. budget on foreign assistance. But that number is actually less than 1%.

People have varying thoughts on the United States' role in foreign aid, but many times it's because they overestimate what we're actually contributing. When you think about it, investments in nutrition are so minimal, it's almost mind-boggling. Only about 1% percent of the U.S. budget goes to global programs that save lives (and the same is true for many countries). And these programs eventually actually save money because of increased global productivity and fewer health care costs.

Even spending less than 1% of our nearly $4 trillion federal budget, we've done so much good.

We've helped over 8 million people receive life-saving HIV treatment, reached 1 billion people with agricultural programs in the past 20 years, reduced death caused by malaria in children by 51% and reduced maternal mortality by over 50% worldwide. That all helps to keep the world healthier and our country safer. And those figures barely even scrape the surface of our progress.

Imagine if the U.S. stepped up to prioritize nutrition and invested just a little bit more. Our future could look a whole lot different.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

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The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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