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Annual Editions: Global Issues, Essay Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1508

Essay

In Unit 2, there are a number of interesting articles regarding the problems of the future world and economic development in that world.  The first article is looking at global trends in the year 2025, roughly 15 years after current day.  There are a number of differences between the world 15 years from now and the current world.  One of the main differences is an expanding multi-polar world versus the US concentric world that currently dominates the world of international relations.   Indeed, in 15 years time there will be a number of new powers such as China, India, Brazil- also part of what Jim O’Neil traditionally calls the “BRIC” countries.  The author also notes that the countries will not only have political power, but will also have economic power that will likely far exceed what they have today and that which will challenge the United States.  The author, however, still sees a role for the United States.  The United States, while it might suffer relatively versus resurgent newcomers, will still be a major country in the world economy and continue to exert influence in the world.  Although this was a highly informative article, I believe the author may have gone too far in his prediction of certain events that are on mere extrapolation rather than fact.

Regardless of what the world looks like in the year 2025, one thing is likely to remain the same: climate change, and the debate surrounding the issue, will still be in the spotlight. Indeed, ever since the Rio conference in the early 1990s, environmental issues have took the spotlight on the global scene.  This has not only meant numerous conferences sponsored by the UN and other international organizations, but also numerous countries (such as those in Europe) pushing policy in order to mitigate the potential problems associated with climate change. After the failure in Mexico City to come up with a deal, many analysts (and pundits) posited that a deal was forthcoming in Copenhagen as developed and developing countries alike were interested in coming to one.  But as the author pointed out, a deal didn’t happen for a number of reasons.  One main reason is the schism between developed and developing countries- developed countries do not want to hurt growth prospects, while developed countries realize that most emissions come from a developing country- China.  The author points out also how the economic downturn has adversely affected sentiment in the countries making it more difficult to strike a deal.
The second unit moves away from global analysis to focus on specific regions.  One of the most interesting articles in the unit is “Not your Father’s Latin America.”  Traditionally, analysts have viewed Latin America as one of the basket cases of the world.  Indeed, if there weren’t (illegal) military coups in the country or by another country, there was likely to be economic difficulties across the continent.  Indeed, for most of the past generation Latin America has been marked by those two characteristics.  However, Latin America has seemingly turned a corner.  As the author points out, economic policies in some countries have stabilized with Chile and Brazil leading the way forward; Argentina, Bolivia, and Venezuela may still face troubles, especially with resource nationalism.  In addition to increased economic growth, and again with not every country in mind, political stability has also entered the region, largely the function of having a large anchor, Brazil, that is working to stabilize the region through aid and free trade rather than merely destabilizing the region through military and other procedures.  Overall, while I find the article somewhat convincing describing the change in Latin America between the past and now, I question if the past generation has really past or if the instable Latin America of the past, symbolized in Venezuela and Bolivia, simply stands alongside the new and more stable Latin America.  The main difference there, as the author points out, is that a bellicose Venezuela has been less successful in gaining support for its initiatives.

“A world enslaved” was perhaps the most disturbing piece in all of the readings assigned.  Although one might consider slavery to be a historical phenomenon, a function of greed and unethical behavior of past eras, this story brings one into the incomprehensible present.   According to the author, in a claim mentioned numerous times, there are more slaves now than at any time in human history. Of course, the author is obviously right in the aggregate, largely because the world population has grown roughly 3-4 times since the last time slavery was practiced.  But the author’s claim is much more: in addition to slavery’s ubiquity across the globe, the awareness over the issue has not kept up with the urgency of the issue.  Indeed, although the Bush administration made human trafficking a priority, the number of slaves, particularly youn slaves has continued to rise. One of the main reasons for this is indebtedness: children are sold into slavery as a means to pay off parents’ debt or as a means to increase new debtors.  Indeed, as the author points out, although there has been wide spread indignation at the prospect, there has not been adequate local policies to prevent the practice at its source.  In order to prevent modern slavery, international and local stakeholders will need to work together to prevent it.

The article “The end of Men” provides an interesting perspective on the rise of women and the fall of men, in an unanticipated scenario.

In many ways, the rise of women is a by product of the feminist movement in the 1960s and 1970s that argued women should have greater rights and access to education.  This has also spurred changes in demography across the world- male preference across the world is declining (this is somewhat of a dubious claim as news out of India and China attests to).  The author backs the dominance of women in the modern, postindustrial economy via several examples including the number of women in the workforce, the number of women in college and reading for degrees has surpassed men, and the wage gap is lessening.    The author traces a number of causes for this trend such as secular shift in the number of jobs available in areas traditionally staffed by women at home, versus men who were hard hit by the recession and the decimation of finance and manufacturing jobs.  While the author makes a compelling point backed by evidence, I think it is over done. The author’s thesis has not necessarily picked up on the difference between men and women so much as a radical restructuring of class relations in America and around the world as certain industries are hit harder than others.

In “Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization”, the author argues that although previously thought impossible, countries failure to deal with environmental declines, including water tables and eroding soil, may put it at risk for a collapse due to food shortage.  The author backs up his/her claims with carefully parceled evidence.  In particular, the author looks at the phenomenon of “failed states” particularly in Africa, in order to understand what has contributed to their fall. The author cites lower grain production in countries, coupled with higher demand, meaning that food prices, that already are rising fast- are moving up even faster.  The author ties up grain shortages and other environmental shortages (such as water and soil) as components for the “perfect storm” leading to the round of shortages that was seen throughout Africa in 2009.  In order to deal with these new dynamics, countries are undertaking new tactics.  Countries such as the Philippines and Thailand are using import bans to prevent the outflow of food that could destabilize the populations.  Overall, although the author sometimes takes an alarmist tone in dealing with the issue, the evidence for a revised view of this issue should be considered, particularly in light of the 2009 riots.

In comparison to the intellectual pyrotechnics described in the above story, the story on climate change presents a dispassionate analysis of the facts and possible implications based on the phenomenon.  Indeed, the story contains similar analysis to that carried in the global section on the Copenhagen summit.  The main point is: climate change is a problem; this problem cannot be handled by any one country alone due to the global implications of the problem.  That is, countries must cooperate together in order to ensure that emissions are reduced, either by taxation or other means, that will be useful in helping to solve the problem.  Although these policy measures would be useful in gaining traction with the issue, they certainly might not happen. Developing countries have an interest in pursuing economic growth, which often times means higher levels of pollution and industrial emissions.  Developing countries are also suspicious of developed countries incentives: indeed, although they are now moving to curb emissions world wide, developing countries argue that developed countries essentially caused the problem through pollution since the Industrial Revolution. Thus, developing countries want to have the same latitude to develop their economies as developed economies have had.

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