Global Issues (INTS 2302)
The topic of the class is Global Issues, that is, issues that are global in scope, interconnected, and pose fundamental dilemmas for humanity as a whole. This course will focus on three crucial global issues: energy, poverty, and the environment. The objective for the class is three-fold: to learn the fundamental facts for understanding these selected issues, to understand the ethical ramification of the issues, and to form our own judgments on these issues. It is my conviction that a true engagement with the course material is achieved through action, and will have a host of “hands-on” activities corresponding to our course agenda.
First, we will explore the issue of energy, beginning with oil, the tottering but still unquestionable “king” of our energy world. We will broaden our investigation by examining other conventional energy sources: natural gas, coal, nuclear energy, etc. We will also investigate the prospects for switching to unconventional and “new” energy sources of the future: hydrogen, solar energy, etc. Armed with our understanding of energy realities of our contemporary world we will debate different scenarios for the global energy futures, examine the question of energy conservation on our campus, in Little Rock and in Arkansas, and examine the interconnection between poverty and access to energy. Paul Roberts’ book The End of Oil will be our guide for this part of the course which will end with a reflection essay, and group “energy-action” projects. After the projects are created and presented, we will vote on them and adopt one of them as ours for implementation.
Following Jeffrey Sachs’ celebrate book The End of Poverty we will explore the issue of poverty and economic development in the modern world. We will begin with the fundamental question: why some countries fail to thrive and some people live in abject poverty, while others succeed? We will examine both the economic theory and specific cases of developmental success and failure. This investigation will lead to examine Jeffrey Sachs’ ideas of “clinical economics,” and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, inspired by Sachs. We will use his “clinical economics” to prepare our own developmental project for selected country/countries. We will also attend a two-day program at the Heifer Ranch, where, under simulated conditions we will “experience” different facets of global poverty. An in-class mid-term examination and a reflection essay will cap this part of the course.
Following Jared Diamond and his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, we will begin by looking at issues of environmental management in Montana – seemingly one the US’s most pristine states, in fact beset by a host of environmental problem. This case-study will lead us, with a help of a guest speakers, to examine the environmental shape of our own “natural” state of Arkansas. We will also ask a question: what to do with our knowledge of environmental issues and dilemmas in our state.
Simultaneously, with the help of Jared Diamond, we will pursue a course of inquiry investigating cases of environmental collapse and success of present and past societies. We will being by investigating the historical cases of total or nearly total collapse of small closed environmental systems of selected Pacific islands: the Easter Island, the Henderson, Mangareva and Pitcairn – and compare them to the success of such places as New Guinea Highlands, Tikopia and Tokugawa, Japan. We will move on to an investigation of contemporary cases of collapse of Rwanda and Haiti – two modern “Malthusian” catastrophes. Dominican Republic, which shares the Island of Hispaniola with Haiti, will provide us with a contemporary case of success. Further broadening our scope, we will look at less clear cut and fundamentally important cases of China and Australia, where the environmental future is yet to be decided. These last two cases will draw us to the question of our global environmental future: our choices, policies and certitudes. Armed with our understanding of the local and global issues we will debate and engage in agreed-upon plans of action which will linked to our energy action projects and constitute the practical component of the last part of the course. A short-questions-based final examination and a reflection essay will cover this last part of our course.