All posts by Dr. Rosalind Warner

Continuing College Professor at Okanagan College, all views are my own, not those of Okanagan College. My background includes graduate work in Political Science at York University’s Centre for International and Security Studies, a one-year travel-study tour around the world focused on issues of peace and conflict resolution, and almost 20 years of teaching subjects from International Development to Canadian government. I have researched and published on topics like ecological modernization, global environmental governance issues, protected areas governance in North America, environmental discourses, and environment and trade in Canadian foreign policy. I am also energized by educational technologies and the latest news and information about teaching and learning in higher education.

Finding the Good: Sharing International Development Ideas and Practice in the Current Era

20180609_073819On June 8th and 9th 2018, researchers, students, community members and practitioners gathered at Okanagan College to explore ways of articulating and sharing ethical international development ideas and practices. 50 attendees from across North America joined with leaders locally at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus for an intensive 2-day conference and dialogue on equality, inclusion, and human dignity. Scholars and practitioners interacted in engaging sessions on gender, local governance, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Keynote speaker Chloe Schwenke, former Director of the Global Program on Violence, Rights, and Inclusion at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), shared her experiences advocating for a human rights framework for development in the Obama Administration. A second Keynote with Michael Simpson, Executive Director of the BC Council for International Cooperation, built on the themes of leadership and change in a ‘Talkshow’ style interview that engaged the audience in generating new avenues of inquiry.

In addition to providing a summary resource to share the highlights from the two day Conference, the purpose of these Proceedings is to contribute toward a network in which dialogue between scholarly insights and practical development work can improve the participation of people experiencing poverty, social marginalization, discrimination, and oppression both at home and abroad.

For more information and to view the Proceedings, visit the Conference webpage.

Click here for the Conference Proceedings.

 

 

 

Trump and the US(S) Titanic (Talk)

Enjoy my talk on March 11th at Okanagan College in Penticton!  Since the mid-20th century observers have been debating the rise, peak and decline of the United States as the world’s leading superpower. In this session, we will go beyond Trumpism to look at the deeper underlying economic, political and social factors that have led up to the current era of US leadership (or lack of), and ask what might be the impact of these changes on the rest of the world, especially Canada. Is the US in decline? What might that ‘look like’ in the years to come? How bad (or good) can it get?

References

Beckley, M. (2017). The Emerging Military Balance in East Asia: How China’s Neighbors Can Check Chinese Naval Expansion. International Security, 42(2), 78–119. https://doi.org/10.1162/ISEC_a_00294
Beckley, M. (2012). China’s Century? Why America’s Edge Will Endure. International Security, 36(3), 41–78. https://doi.org/10.1162/ISEC_a_00066
Borger, J. (2014). Risk of nuclear accidents is rising, says report on near-misses | World news | The Guardian. Retrieved March 8, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/29/nuclear-accident-near-misses-report
Devlin, K. (2018). Foreign affairs experts, U.S. public agree: America is less respected globally | Pew Research Center. Retrieved March 8, 2019, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/12/17/international-relations-experts-and-u-s-public-agree-america-is-less-respected-globally/?amp=1&__twitter_impression=true
ERlanger, S., & Bennhold, K. (2019). Rift Between Trump and Europe Is Now Open and Angry – The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/17/world/europe/trump-international-relations-munich.html
Faturechi, R., Rose, M., & Miller, T. C. (2019). Years of Warnings, Then Death and Disaster: How the Navy Failed Its Sailors. ProPublica.
Friedberg, A. L. (2018). Competing with China. Survival, 60(3), 7–64. https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2018.1470755
Gold, H. (2019). The U.S. Is Getting Closer to a Recession, Data Show – Barron’s. Retrieved March 8, 2019, from https://www.barrons.com/amp/articles/the-u-s-is-in-the-late-stages-of-expansion-data-show-51549642305
Jacques, M. (2012). When China Rules the World. Penguin.
Klein, E. (2011). Ezra Klein – The U.S. Government: An insurance conglomerate protected by a large, standing army. Retrieved March 8, 2019, from http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2011/02/the_us_government_an_insurance.html
Long, H. (2019). A record 7 million Americans are 3 months behind on their car payments, a red flag for the economy – The Washington Post. Retrieved March 8, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/02/12/record-million-americans-are-months-behind-their-car-payments-red-flag-economy/?utm_source=reddit.com&utm_term=.1fc9b4020266
Mahbubani Kishore. (2009). The New Asian Hemisphere.
Nougayrede, N. (2019). Why Trump and his team want to wipe out the EU | Natalie Nougayrède | Opinion | The Guardian. Retrieved March 8, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/feb/18/trump-pompeo-bolton-eu-eastern-european-states
Quackenbush, C. (2019). U.S. Slips Out of Top 20 in Global Corruption Index | Time. Retrieved March 8, 2019, from http://time.com/5515195/united-states-slips-corruption-index/
Reuters. (2019). $1.5 trillion U.S. tax cut has no major impact on business capex plans: survey | Reuters. Retrieved March 8, 2019, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy-investment-idUSKCN1PM0B0
Sammon, A. (2019). Elwood, Illinois (Pop. 2,200), Has Become a Vital Hub of America’s Consumer Economy. And It’s Hell. | The New Republic. Retrieved March 8, 2019, from https://newrepublic.com/article/152836/elwood-illinois-pop-2200-become-vital-hub-americas-consumer-economy-its-hell
Schweber, N., & Miller, T. C. (2019). In Navy Disasters, Neglect, Mistakes, and 17 Lost Sailors. ProPublica.
Shifrinson, J. (2018). The rise of China, balance of power theory and US national security: Reasons for optimism? Journal of Strategic Studies, 1–42. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2018.1558056
Tanzi, A. (2019). U.S. Student Debt in `Serious Delinquency’ Tops $166 Billion – Bloomberg. Retrieved March 8, 2019, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-16/u-s-student-debt-in-serious-delinquency-tops-166-billion
Wright, T. J. (n.d.). All measures short of war : the contest for the twenty-first century and the future of American power.
Zakaria, F. (2009). The post-American world.

The Need for Compassionate Law

As 2018 comes to an end and the world looks to an increasingly uncertain future, it is worthwhile to reflect on the importance of compassion in public life.  On the one hand, it seems it should not be necessary to remind ourselves of the need for compassion, while on the other hand, there has never been a time when it is more vital to think about it.

When I speak of compassion I consider it to be similar to the emotion of empathy, which means the ability to identify closely with the feelings of another.  However, empathy is an emotion, while compassion is emotion plus action.  Empathy is personal, individual, and private.  When one experiences empathy, it is not necessarily expressed.  Many of us feel empathy for the plight of refugees, but few of us take any action based on those feelings.  Compassion is both an expression and an action, something that is a unique responsibility of the powerful.  It is the world’s 1% who, due to their elite position, have the most ability to exercise compassion.  Consequently, the world’s 1% (and if you live in a relatively wealthy developed country, you are part of this elite) uniquely bear the moral responsibility to exercise compassion.  The exercise and practice of compassion as an action is much rarer than the feeling of empathy, partly because wealth and inequality suppress the expression of compassion.  As the world becomes wealthier and more unequal, generosity declines.

Even more unusual is the embedding of compassion into the practices of a society, in other words, through its laws and institutions.  Are institutions capable of compassion?  Indeed they must be, because if social structures can be violent and oppressive, then it stands to reason that the opposite must also be possible:  institutions and laws can be written in compassionate ways, with compassionate ends.  It is the public exercise of compassion with which I am most concerned with, because it raises the potential for people to write compassionate institutions and laws.  Compassionate laws are necessary because, as suggested, individual empathy can fail – it is temporary, personal, individual and private.

Compassionate laws make it possible for persons to express and act on their feelings of empathy, because they can see that those feelings are socially elevated.  The Dali Lama talks about something similar in the Education of the Heart. Compassionate law can help to educate and give permission for people to act on their empathy.  To say that law can be compassionate goes beyond a ‘minimalist’ vision of law – that law is only there to level the playing field and justice means equal treatment under the law.   Even if law were able to do this leveling, an element of compassion is also essential to the achievement of equal treatment, since law must be attentive to justice.  In this sense, human rights law is essentially compassionate in its purpose. Based on observation of the current state of law in the US, it is clearly not able to even achieve the minimal goal of equal treatment or fairness.  The gap between law and justice can be reduced with adequate attention to the need for compassionate law.

The kind of compassion I’m thinking about should also be distinguished from altruism, although compassion relies on altruism, they are not identical.  Altruism, which is a kind of selflessness, or non-self interested attitude of generosity and giving, is a vital component of compassion, because altruistic motives reduce the temptation to use demonstrations of compassion for self-promotion.  Compassionate law is one very effective way to express altruism.  Indeed, compassionate law resists self-interested motives by moving altruism from the private to the public sphere and thereby removing the personal motives that might affect compassionate and just outcomes.

The enactment of compassionate law recognizes the innate inequality of human relationships, and works to proactively overcome those inequalities.

Recently, some thinking on giving and charity has been diverted from these concepts of compassion by a concern with effectiveness.  Rather than asking how can giving be more compassionate, the question becomes: how can giving be most effective?   As one proponent argues: “Instead of doing charity in a way that makes people feel good, effective altruists rely on rigorous, evidence-based analysis to decide how to donate money, where to donate, and which careers are most ethical.” I would argue that this is a diversion.  Effective altruists argue using a utilitarian measure:  what is good for the most number of people must be the best and most effective form of giving.  Using this algorithm, how might one decide between funding one individual’s education and funding a food program for thousands?  Probably many more people can be helped with the food program, but over the course of a lifetime what effect might a highly educated individual have, especially if they were able to achieve a position in which they could institute more compassionate laws?  The effort to reduce giving to an algorithm sacrifices the element of compassion and arguably undermines the goal of achieving more effective giving.  It’s not that effective altruism is wrong, it just kind of misses the point.  What is really changed, even if a larger number of people are helped by a given action?  There is a risk in reinforcing the status quo and ensuring that giving will continue to be necessary far into the future, violating the goal of achieving truly altruistic giving.

Compassionate laws are necessary because individual empathy can fail – it is temporary, personal, individual and private.

The enactment of compassionate law can, over time and with much learning, come closer to achieving lasting and effective results because it builds-in the principle of altruism by removing self-promotion from the equation.  In addition, compassionate law recognizes the innate inequality of human relationships, and works to proactively overcome those inequalities.  The human tendency to self-aggrandizement and acquisitiveness is worsened by inequality.  Inequality erodes people’s ability to be altruistic and even their ability to empathize.  Compassion is needed in a highly unequal world because it is effective, and it is effective because it is authoritative and self-reflexive.  The exercise of compassion invites reflection upon one’s own position and relatively good fortune.  The proponents of effective altruism are right that relying on natural generosity and emotion is insufficient to make for effective giving, but they are wrong to abandon the idea of compassion, which is needed now more than at any other time of history.  This season of giving, consider ways that you might contribute to the establishment of compassionate law, or if this is too ambitious, think about how you can help others express and act on their feelings of empathy, working together with others.  For starters, you might consider sharing this post!

 

Mars is the Planet We Want

The atmosphere on Mars is composed of 96% carbon dioxide, with an average temperature of minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Only 16 of the 39 total Mars missions have been successful.  Mars is about as far from habitable as we can imagine any environment.  Pretty inhospitable, right?  So what is it about Mars that captures the imagination of the public?

As our own planet degrades, are we simply casting around for any alternative, no matter how challenging or unlikely? Afloat on a sinking lifeboat, are we (and by ‘we’ I mean the world’s 2% who have any hope of escaping) planning on being castaways for generations into the future?   I think not.  I think Mars has appeal for other reasons, and these date back to the era of colonialism in the late 19th century.

Colonialism was the ultimate escape from the uncomfortable truths of home, it glorified a narrative of supremacy and heroism.

From the 1870s to the 1890s European powers fought, pillaged, destroyed, and exploited the peoples and territories variously under their control around the world.  Africa in particular was an object of focus, a field of colonial competition and experimentation.  Although the forces at work driving colonialism were at least partially strategic, they were also cultural, gaining importance due to broad social trends that gave meaning and legitimacy to an otherwise obviously violent project.  At least part of the drive to dominate was an awareness of the losses at home, the shortage of resources and the decline of life quality that had accompanied industrialism.  Colonialism was the ultimate escape from the uncomfortable truths of home, it glorified a narrative of supremacy and heroism.

The natural world played an important part in this project.  Colonialism was celebrated in the drawing rooms and smoking rooms of English nobility, adorned with the heads of hunting trophies, some beautiful, some made fearsome to elevate the social status of the hunter.   The larger and more dangerous the prey, the more remote and unforgiving the location, the more revered was the hunter who made the shot.  Check this piece by Maximilian Werner to see how this biosocial dynamic, including its gender dimension, still holds sway. The exercise of domination over nature embedded a narrative of triumph over adversity, struggle and reward, similar to the social Darwinist theories of racial superiority which were also gaining traction as more remote peoples and lands came under colonial control.

As England degraded physically and the environment became more and more polluted by coal smoke, with forests long since cut down and cities overrun with poor migrating for work in the industrial centres, a movement arose to preserve and protect the countryside and the rural way of life.  Romantics painted a rosy picture of the village, with quaint gardens and carefully tended homes, and mourned the loss of Hobbiton (OK, that came later, but you catch my drift).

20181109_130452For the colonial mindset, nature could be only two things:  it was either a garden, or a wilderness.  The garden metaphor viewed the colonies as representative of the quiet English countryside, well tended and cared for, planted and grown with care using the knowledge of scientific methods to regulate the relationships between species.  Ecological science, and particularly amateur collectors, made a strong impression by carefully gathering, cataloguing and classifying every new species and specimen ‘discovered’ in the remotest outposts of empire.  The endless frontiers would provide valuable information from which to garner wisdom about what had gone wrong in England, and the urge to recreate the Garden of Eden (to somehow earn a ‘do-over’) was strong.

The incorrigibility of Mars is no barrier, in fact it is the fuel for a profound sense of longing and loneliness.  Mars is the frontier we’ve already destroyed on Earth, the potential garden which we’ve already mismanaged.

On the other hand, the wilderness represented those areas yet to be tamed.  Large areas of Africa were virtually uninhabitable due to disease,  climatic hardships, wild animals, and dangerous and resentful local populations.   The causes of these hardships were unknown, but not unknowable.  Setbacks were common, and did incur some measure of humility and respect for the mystery of nature and the depth of the challenge of controlling what were essentially uncontrollable forces.  In the Western part of North America, wilderness was much less threatening, and its imminent loss inspired a sense of strong protection, even reverence, for the ‘natural cathedral’.  In Africa, the drive to protect wilderness took the form of hunting reserves where wild animals were protected and cultivated.  In North America, it took the form of the creation of national parks with mountain vistas which would be destinations for leisure and health as well as hunting.

peasants-in-herb-gardenSo how does the present-day vision of Mars come into this?  The colonial imagination of the garden or the wilderness is still present in Western, now in many senses, global culture.   Mars is the new canvas for the population to project its longings and dreams, and accuracy is still no part of the picture at all, just as it was with Africa.  The incorrigibility of Mars is no barrier, in fact it is the fuel for a profound sense of longing and loneliness.  Mars is the frontier we’ve already destroyed on Earth, the potential garden which we’ve already mismanaged.

In an Anthropocene epoch, when nothing on Earth is outside of human influence or touch, our own planet disappoints.  As the quintessential mysterious unknown, great status and wealth is to be gained by the race to conquer Mars, regardless of whether it turns out well.  Just as the drive to dominate ultimately undermined colonialism itself, so may the urge to colonize Mars destroy not only Mars, but also end up undermining efforts to protect what is left of the only home we’ve ever known.  One can argue this point, and perhaps I might be too pessimistic.  Might Mars end up being a wellspring of information that might be leveraged to save ourselves and our own planet?  Can we learn the real lessons of the wilderness and the garden?  I fear instead that we are not departing from the past but recreating it, not because poor Mars might end up being another junkyard (although it’s on the way already) but because we have yet to demonstrate the moral fortitude to be able to see ourselves in Mars.

The New World of Untruth

Alternative facts, misdirection, and outright propaganda seem to dominate the news media landscape today in a way that is quite different from the past.  How can viewers and listeners navigate the flood of untruths? Can democracy survive the viral uptake of social media memes and myths?

Bibliography

2018 Edelman Trust Barometer. (2017). Retrieved from https://cms.edelman.com/sites/default/files/2018-01/2018 Edelman Trust Barometer Executive Summary.pdf

Art of the lie – Post-truth politics. (September 10 2016). https://www.economist.com/leaders/2016/09/10/art-of-the-lie?cid1=cust/ednew/n/bl/n/2016098n/owned/n/n/nwl/n/n/NA/n

Benkler, Y., Faris, R., Roberts, H., & Zuckerman, E. (March 3 2017). Study: Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda – Columbia Journalism Review.  http://www.cjr.org/analysis/breitbart-media-trump-harvard-study.php

Coaston, J. (August 2 2018). #QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy theory, explained – Vox. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/8/1/17253444/qanon-trump-conspiracy-theory-reddit

Coles, T. J. (October 8 2018). Fake News and Weaponized Bots: How Algorithms Inflate Profiles, Spread Disinfo and Disrupt Democracy. https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/10/08/fake-news-and-weaponized-bots-how-algorithms-inflate-profiles-spread-disinfo-and-disrupt-democracy/

Devega, C. (July 16 2018). Donald Trump’s “chaos magic”: Author Gary Lachman on the far right’s links to occult philosophy | Salon.com. https://www.salon.com/2018/07/16/donald-trumps-chaos-magic-author-gary-lachman-on-the-far-rights-links-to-occult-philosophy/

Edwards, S., & Livingston, S. (April 3 2018). Fake news is about to get a lot worse. That will make it easier to violate human rights — and get away with it.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/04/03/fake-news-is-about-to-get-a-lot-worse-that-will-make-it-easier-to-violate-human-rights-and-get-away-with-it/?noredirect=on

Gonzalez, R. J. (March 23 2018). The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections. https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/03/23/the-mind-benders-how-to-harvest-facebook-data-brainwash-voters-and-swing-elections/

Gutting, G. (June 29 2011). The Social Side of Reasoning – The New York Times.  https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/29/argument-truth-and-the-social-side-of-reasoning/

Illing, S. (October 9 2018). Hashtag wars: how Facebook, Twitter, and social media changed how we fight wars – Vox. https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/world/2018/10/8/17884154/social-media-cyberwar-isis-taylor-swift-peter-singer

Jenkins, H. (July 23 2009). How Dumbledore’s Army Is Transforming Our World: An Interview with the HP Alliance’s Andrew Slack (Part One) — Henry Jenkins. http://henryjenkins.org/blog/2009/07/how_dumbledores_army_is_transf.html

Morgan, J. (March 31 2017). Sockpuppets, Secessionists, and Breitbart – Data for Democracy – Medium. https://medium.com/data-for-democracy/sockpuppets-secessionists-and-breitbart-7171b1134cd5

Shao, C., Ciampaglia, G. L., Varol, O., Yang, K., Flammini, A., & Menczer, F. (May 24 2017). The spread of low-credibility content by social bots. http://arxiv.org/abs/1707.07592

Weisburd, A., Watts, C., & Berger, J. (November 6 2016). Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy. https://warontherocks.com/2016/11/trolling-for-trump-how-russia-is-trying-to-destroy-our-democracy/

Yglesias, M. (May 30 2017). The Bullshitter-in-Chief – Vox. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/5/30/15631710/trump-bullshit

On Climate Debates: A Political Science Viewpoint

Climate Debates and the Nature of Expertise

I can only imagine how dizzying it must be to try to make sense of climate science as a non-climate scientist.   My background and training doesn’t really equip me to engage in a discussion about the accuracy of climate models, the relative importance of various gas emissions in affecting degrees of heating, or the significance of sea ice extent in the summer in the Arctic.   In fact, my engagement as a political scientist in these debates would be highly counterproductive to the discussion and would contribute zero to the stock of climate knowledge as it pertains to the prognosis for the earth.

The Nature of Science and the Science of Nature

One of the mistakes we often make is confusing scientific debates with political ones.  This is what fed the ‘climategate’ debacle and what continues to make any whiff of scientific controversy pure oxygen for climate skeptics.  However, criticisms of scientists (as opposed to science) mistake the forest for the trees. Scientists are not ‘debating’ the climate so much as they are refining the cumulative knowledge that is their scientific purview, a body of knowledge which is the culmination of centuries of practice, experimentation, rigid application of standards, and a continual cycle of testing and iteration that has stood the test of time.   One might also add the contribution of the body of indigenous knowledge that arises from centuries of close experience with changing ecosystems.  This knowledge has provided a proven basis for human survival and thriving through millennia of climate changes.

One of the mistakes we often make is confusing scientific debates with political ones.

These methods of knowledge production have produced our most reliable and predictable technologies, things that we use every day without questioning or even knowing anything about their scientific basis.   When we check our phones for the correct time or our GPS to figure out how to get to Auntie’s house for dinner, we don’t interrogate the motivations that drive scientists to do their thing, we just make use of it. We’ve forgotten that accurate clocks and navigation systems are the products of the same efforts and methods that produce climate knowledge.

What Role for Political Science?

So, where does that leave me?   Shifting the lens means looking at how people learn, where their confidence in their knowledge comes from, and assessing their claims on the basis of mutual respect for each others’ life experience and formal and informal learning.

Assessing claims over time gives better confidence in their robustness, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to truth.  Knowledge is socially produced, and so helping to understand how and why social innovation happens is one way that political scientists can contribute to our understanding of climate change.

This is the purview of political science – at the core we political scientists are about improving our knowledge about how people learn,  how they come to their beliefs, and how decisions result from that interaction.

What Political Science Might Say

Here’s what political scientists might conclude about the current debates over climate change:

  1. Climate change is a complex of human and nature interactions, incorporating both ecosystem and social system changes.   Ask a biologist – life has shaped the planet as much as the planet has shaped life.
  2. Debates about the causes of climate change say more about the ability of powerful voices to shape discourse than they do about the science or the state of human knowledge.  Check the historical and current role of the fossil fuel industry in shaping discourses.
  3. Humans deploy information as a tool to resolve psychological and social problems, such as cognitive dissonance or hypocrisy.
  4. Humans deploy information as a tool to foment problems because it brings them social benefits such as inclusion and acceptance into a group they aspire to.  This observation applies to scientists as well as everyone else, but scientific testing is explicitly designed to moderate and reduce the impact of this human tendency on the knowledge produced.
  5. Human social reactions to emerging threats vary hugely based on their perceptions, but depend inordinately on social relationships. Human social innovations in response to climate change may be classified into two broad forms:  social control or mobilization.
  6. Those closest to the object of knowledge (ie scientists, marginalized peoples in developing countries, indigenous peoples and their leadership) will be most widely questioned as dissonance grows, they will also be the most likely to try to mobilize their knowledge
  7. Those furthest from the object of knowledge (non-scientists, the wealthy and geographically mobile) will be just as likely to experience dissonance but will prefer social control strategies over mobilization
  8. Human inequality encourages suspicion of the motives of others, which in turn leads to widespread mistrust of knowledge claims of any basis.  This is supported by both observational and experimental evidence.
  9. Mobilization does not require special knowledge or access, nor does it require knowledge to be certain or definitive
  10. Social benefits and costs will not be distributed evenly, leading to further pressures on decision making, as sorting these out distracts from collective action
  11. Cognitive dissonance and time pressures leads human decision making groups to narrow the range of choices available in ways that make decisions ultimately less adaptive and optimal.

Knowledge is socially produced, and so understanding how and why social innovation happens is one way that political scientists can contribute to our understanding of climate change.

What to Do?

Some of these observations are more pessimistic, and some are more optimistic, when it comes to the prospects for taking climate action.  On the pessimistic side, widespread and deep questioning of the basis of human knowledge is most counterproductive when humans most need to grow their knowledge in order to act effectively. On the other hand, the prospects for collective mobilization may grow over time as climate change impacts become more widely felt.

We are in a novel historical moment which challenges the full range of human ingenuity.  Whether mobilization or social control will win out is an open question.  I’d speculate that social innovations tend to be more adaptive in a stable climate than they are in a rapidly-changing climate.  I know which I’d prefer, but history (if it continues at all) will be the ultimate judge.

Is the World Getting Better or Worse (Talk)?

This presentation takes a practical look at recent trends in the world and analyze whether the world is getting better or worse. We will look at trends in democracy, human rights and freedoms, economic growth and inequality, environmental degradation and climate change, human health, population, and governance, among others.

Canada’s Role in a Changing World

The liberal international order (LIO) has been in place for half of Canada’s 150-year existence and Canada has been an integral part of it from the beginning. As one of the founding members of this order Canada has a stake and a role in preserving international law, peace, prosperity and human rights. However, the LIO is under stress. What will be Canada’s response to a new era of diverse challenges? From the U.S. effort to abandon NAFTA to the challenges of terrorism and environmental breakdown, Canada’s capacities are being put to the test. This session will open a conversation about Canada’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in a world of rapid and unexpected change.