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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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”

Germinal Gender Narrative: Teaching the Media to Relay the Message

Article published in Issue 8 of the Gender & Media Diversity Centre’s Southern Africa Media Diversity Journal, March 2010

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The FIFA World Cup is coming to South Africa this year, the first global event of its kind hosted by an African nation. That means 2010 will bring many aspects of life in South Africa into view for people around the world. There are competing theories about whom such grandiose event-stagings benefit: credible arguments can be made for the view that the Olympic Games or the FIFA World Cup infuse an established order with new money, media focus and influence, while others see such events as necessarily elevating civic virtues by forcing an established order to exhibit them. The 2010 World Cup can put all issues relating to women’s rights and possibilities in the forefront of global perceptions of South Africa.

South Africa has the legal framework, the people, the initiative, in short: the means, of making great strides forward for women, but also conditions that pose a constant threat to women’s health, physical safety and possibility for ascending through the established order to maximize their potential, in the workplace, the political sphere or even the realm of personal realisation. South Africa’s commitment to reaching the Millennium Development Goals [MDG] on gender issues should be moved forward as the world turns its gaze on the situation South African women face in living their daily lives.

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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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Non-profit Private-run Health Plan Must Never Deny Coverage

Democrats in the United States Senate, in hopes of reaching a compromise on health reform legislation, are reported to be considering a plan that would scrap the so-called “public option” for low-cost, full-coverage health insurance, in favor of a non-profit plan that would be run by the private insurers themselves, but regulated through the Office of Personnel Management. Calls to Sen. Reid and Sen.

Lieberman’s offices suggest the plan is little more than a framework proposal and is not yet written into any specific legislative language. Sen. Reid (D-NV) offers no comment on whether he favors this plan, and Sen. Lieberman (I-CT) continues to refuse to say whether he will support healthcare reform legislation, even with this compromise included. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is said to be considering the plan, her support being necessary to get at least one Republican vote.

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Malaria Kills Millions Every Year in Africa

Malaria is one of the 21st century’s great plagues. It is responsible for anywhere from 1 to 3 million deaths per year, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Efforts to eradicate the disease are mounting: in the year 2000, just 3% of children under 5, in sub-Saharan Africa, slept with mosquito nets; by 2008, that figure had risen to 56%. Aid groups now project that aggressive preventive measures can protect 100% of the population by the end of 2010 and reduce the number of deaths to near zero by 2015.

Doing so requires an aggressive and coordinated effort by governments across the region, in concert with world health experts, the UN’s WHO, aid organizations and local communities. Malaria, originally named “the bad air” because it was thought to be airborne, is actually a water and blood-borne disease, transmitted by a particular variety of mosquito. The scarcity of safe drinking water across much of the region leads to ill-advised practices like leaving whatever standing water one can find at hand for human consumption.

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Medvedev Calls for Sweeping Democratic Change in Russia

Medvedev Calls for Sweeping Democratic Change in Russia

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has called for sweeping political and economic reforms, designed to make Russia a modern, advanced democratic society. In his state of the nation address, Pres. Medvedev said Russia needs to evolve from being a “primitive” economy based on raw materials and natural resources to an advanced economy based on unique innovative human knowledge.

He also said the new Russia needs to be one of “intelligent, free and responsible people”, not one where political bosses dictate policy. He said Russia’s very survival required overcoming a “humiliating dependence on oil and gas”, leaving behind the authoritarian infrastructure of Soviet-era industry and power.

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Berlin Commemorates Fall of Berlin Wall, 20 Years Later

The Berlin Wall separated East and West Berlin, ensuring that capitalist and democratic West Berlin remained surrounded on all sides by the communist German Democratic Republic, where a permanent state of martial law kept millions prisoner for decades. West Germany was forced to move its seat of government to Bonn, to protect against a potential hostile siege from the East German regime, strongly backed by the Soviet Union. But on 9 November 1989, a spreading movement of ground-up resistance and reform climaxed in what seemed like the sudden unraveling of an empire that covered half the continent.

The people of Berlin, on both sides of the wall, converged on the wall along the barrier between East and West Berlin —the wall had come to surround all of West Berlin— and began tearing the wall apart piece by piece. Emotional scenes of families reunited after decades of forced separation quickly spread around the world, and the bloodless revolution against totalitarian communism spread across Europe. Many who had lived in East Berlin, including foreigners who had the privilege of being able to pass through the wall to West Berlin, would later learn how closely and persistently their actions had been monitored by the Stasi, the GDR’s secret police and security forces.

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House Passes Health Bill 220 to 215

At 10:59 pm Saturday evening, a 15-minute vote was called. Members of the House were then to vote yea or nay by electronic device. By 11:01 pm, the vote was 197 to 184 and moving quickly. The vote tally will not be final until the Speaker drops the gavel to close the vote. By 11:03 pm, 36 Democrats had voted against the measure, making the special Saturday vote a case of high legislative drama.

At 11:05, there remained fully 10 Democrats not having cast their vote, with rumors that one or two Republicans might also “defect” and join the Democratic majority in voting for passage. At 11:07 pm EST, the tally of yea votes reached 218, the threshold necessary to pass the comprehensive healthcare reform bill. The voting would remain open for 15 minutes, allowing for the possibility of a change in one or more votes.

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