The Second Decade of the 21st Century

a survey of the driving factors that will shape the future

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, we find ourselves part of a global human civilization undergoing major change at an unprecedented rate, and how we adjust to those changes will determine what quality of life and how much real democracy there is, even who lives and who dies, across the global village.

For decades, postmodern philosophical theory has examined the problem of atomization of the fabric of human society, but new trends suggest there is concurrent with spreading individualism a swell of interdependence among individuals, communities and nation-states. 2010 promises to be a year of historical landmarks, with important breakthroughs in ecological science, collaborative diplomacy and key international negotiations on economics, arms reduction, democratization and security.

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World Food Supply Under Threat from Environmental Factors

The global food supply is facing major security challenges, as warming global average temperatures and the destabilization of climate patterns and natural services undermine dependable agricultural cycles and threaten resources. The food supply is the most direct and visible connection between the breakdown of global climate systems and human health and wellbeing, but not the only link. The possible collapse of a major part of the human food supply means the collapse of agriculture, i.e. the breakdown of the human habitat.

Habitat is something we tend to associate with non-human animal life. Most species are evolved to function in highly specialized habitats, and complications common in neighboring natural environments can pose a direct threat to the fragile natural systems on whose balance a sustainable habitat depends. Human beings, however, like mountain lions, ants and a number of bird species, have shown near universal adaptability in terms of diverse range of climates. But the human habitat is more than temperature and precipitation: it’s sustainable agriculture.

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Writing & Naming: the Medicine of Acquiring Knowledge

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Through the work of writing, I have learned first and foremost that nothing is what it tells us it is, because there is always another level, another way to play at naming, with reality, to bend untruths to be more true, as medicine, as savior, as demon filtered for taste, as a ritual mark of remembrance of tensile perceptual realities, disputed, fought for and reclaimed. There is a line after which language becomes less a tool for understanding and more a mechanism for undermining it, but that line is constantly in motion, and in language, as in physics, we now understand “reversibility generally does not exist”, as per Poincaré.

Writing teaches a person about language, in a very deep and sensory way, but language also teaches a person about existence in the human sense, existing as a human being, as an individual who is capable of not only perceiving and manifesting, but also articulating an identity. That, to some extent, is our most recurring, most insistent, most necessary and yet problematic, reason for engaging in serious explorations of language usage: how to articulate the untestable reality that is the human self.

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The Illusion of the Definite & Invasive ‘Other’

Seven lies that inform the push for an English-only United States

Is the United States an “English-speaking nation”, or a place where all cultures are welcome to converge, mix and evolve? To answer this question, we must consider that there is a natural human tendency to fear what is perceived as the definite and invasive “other”, that which is different and which we feel can be categorized in a way that fits our worries.

The human space is fluid, adaptable, sensitive to evolving circumstance. This is why democracy is the only legitimate form of government. The identity of groups, or for that matter of individuals is not implacable, nor is it absolutely relative. It follows the vicissitudes of the human health and mind, and requires sincere dialogue with the other in order to reach its fullest potential. The push to establish a single national language can only be sustained on the basis of a number of false premises.

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Arizona Immigrant ID Law Ignores Constitutional Protections

The governor of Arizona has signed into law a measure that would allow police to demand proof of legal residency in cases where they believe an individual might be an undocumented immigrant. The same law would also require people to carry proof of legal residency. It is unclear how the law would be enforced without racial profiling and whether or not US citizens would be subject to legal penalties if caught not carrying proof of citizenship.

The law ignores the Constitutional ban on “unreasonable search” and protecting personal documents. It also seeks to establish state-level control over an area of law that is the domain of the federal government. There is, for instance, no Arizona customs service or national border service. The border is a federal category, and immigration is controlled, by law, by various federal agencies and the jurisprudence of federal law. There is language in the law that is reportedly designed to prevent the federal government from interfering with state enforcement.

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In Defense of the Book, in All its Forms

Today is the Day of the Book, in part spurred by the urge to recognize two of the great progenitors of modern literature, William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, who both died on 23 April 1616, at least according to the official history. Their work and the various arts that go into making books, as such, are celebrated around the world as staples of modern global civilization and the human element of culture.

But the book is more than those sweeping historical energies; it is a concrete, observable register of intent and of meaning, which carries evidence of our humanity forward and informs and improves future worlds. The book, bound pages imprinted with text in one form or another, is one of the oldest continuously used and still highly relevant technologies, and for good reason.

Paper is both a simple and a complicated tool, requiring large amounts of industry and energy to produce, yet is produced in massive quantities and seems endlessly available. Staining it in a way that allows a visual rendering of a given code (a language and its preferred alphabet) allows us to create a record of ideas and thought patterns that holds up remarkably well against time and can be accessed with no technology aside from our own senses and knowledge of the code in question. Continue reading “In Defense of the Book, in All its Forms”

Gender Links Roundtable on Governance Calls for Resource-building

On the second morning of the 54th Commission on the Status of Women, Gender Links and the African Woman and Child Feature Service —through the Gender and Media Diversity Centre— hosted a roundtable dialogue involving Marren Akatsa-Bukachi of the Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI), Francisco Cos-Montiel of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Revai Makanje of Hivos, Norah Matovu-Winyi of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network, and Jennifer Lewis of Gender Links as facilitator, with Mwendabai Yeta Mkhize and myself providing event support and reporting.

The discussion opened with comments on statistical analysis of proress toward the goal of achieving 50/50 parity. With a 7% improvement since Beijing, the discussion moved quickly toward the question of how to accelerate the rise of women in decision-making and leadership roles.

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CSW54: New Media, Social Action & Women’s Economic Security

Motivating social action through social media was the subject of one of the morning sessions on Day 1 of the 12-day 54th annual Commission on the Status of Women, at the UN headquarters in New York. A panel of pioneering and accomplished women, from diverse fields of research, activism, and enterprise, offered a far-reaching exploration of the ways in which new media can help to effect change and improve the situation of women, around the world. Outreach, social networking, and informational access, were integral to the morning session’s discussion.

As social networking technologies have evolved, they have become not just user-friendly in the extreme, but have created a global forum through which individuals and communities, organizations and governments, can work to build connectivity among people, and share information in a way that promotes opportunity, liberty and stability for women in even remote corners of the world. Social networking tools decentralize the flow of information, allowing for a more flexible, dynamic application of global communications platforms, handing the control of access and information to the people who seek or require it.

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Medicine, Water, Blood, Food & Shelter Urgently Needed in Haiti

The disaster response for the Haitian earthquake has been swift and coordinated, channeling massive international resources to the affected area. But the logistics of deploying the resources, personnel and technology needed to deliver comprehensive disaster assistance, are beyond complicated, with roads and transport overwhelmed, and means of contacting the wounded almost non-existent.

The relief effort needs to deliver as much fresh medicine —already in chronic shortage in Haiti before the quake—, clean drinking water, safe blood for transfusions, food aid and temporary shelter, to the victims of the quake, as soon as possible. The logistical complications are extreme, as no stable means exists of locating and reaching each of the victims. Time is, however, of the essence, because quick delivery of medical assistance can help prevent non-lethal injuries from becoming fatal.

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