Today is Agent Orange Day, a day to honor the millions of people in Vietnam who are still living with the harmful effects of Agent Orange. It’s unbelievable that something that happened over 35 years ago can have an impact on children born today. While there are several organizations working to clean up the environment and provide healthcare and education to people who have been affected, much more needs to be done.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, this is a somewhat buried issue. Most people in the U.S. are entirely unaware that Agent Orange is still a problem. It seems like such a relic of the past; it’s hard to imagine that it’s still relevant. In fact, Vogue recently titled one of their trend reports “Agent Orange,” and went in detail about all the hot shades of orange that are in for the Fall. Obviously, the editors didn’t realize that this was still a gravely persistent issue; otherwise they would’ve realized what a tasteless move it was to greenlight that column title.

As part of an effort to highlight the hard work being done to address this humanitarian problem – and inspire people to get involved – my org recently launched a facebook profile pic app to encourage people to adopt the Agent Orange Day badge and change their profile pics. I was inspired by this idea when during Iran’s Green Revolution many people around the world tinted their profile pics green to show their solidarity and support for the Iranian people.

Some have criticized this method, considering it very surfacey and ineffective. I beg to differ, however. For the people of Iran, who surely feel very alone in their struggle for freedom, it was encouraging and uplifting to see people showing their support in the most simple yet meaningful way. Further, the proliferation of green-tinted profile pics inevitably became a spark for greater awareness – that something was going on in Iran and it was important enough for hundreds of thousands of people to change their profile pictures.

Compared to traditional social justice tactics, I can see why this might seem somewhat insignificant. But the reality of our world is that these technologies are available to us, and that we cannot miss the opportunity of using them to get a message out – especially if it is for people who have been stripped of their voices. Further, people today are inundated with information from many different channels, so it will take a range of tactics to lift hidden issues out into broad daylight.

Today, over 200 people changed their profile pics on facebook in honor of Agent Orange Day. While this is just a small step, I can’t help but think of the hundreds of thousands of people who saw that badge and were compelled to click on the image to find out what the deal was. The more people who know about this issue, the more interest there will be to help the problem. It will take many of these small steps, but I really do believe that today we got one step closer to making Agent Orange history.

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