• The Ethical Challenge of New Technologies

    On October 5, 2016 the Pell Center hosted an audience full of eager students and community members in the beautiful ballroom of the Young Building for a thought-provoking lecture on the complex ethical future of the world as emerging technologies continue to yield unexpected consequences. The talk featured Naval War College Provost Lewis M. Duncan. As a member of the Board of Directors for the Advancement of Science in Space, Duncan is well-versed on the impact of the hard sciences on human reality. His career as a professional in the research of 100516srup-4380experimental space physics has afforded him a firsthand look at the mind-boggling exponential growth

    of technology within the last 40 years. As a self-proclaimed “pathological optimist,” Duncan’s lecture presented the technological future of the world with hope and excitement while simultaneously hinting at the consequences of some unforeseen problems that are inevitable within the next 50-100 years. Through an overview of six developing technological categories, Duncan encouraged the audience to look ahead and to consider a world of endless possibilities.

    To top off the talk, Duncan began with a brief history of human-kind, discussing our development as a species within the last 13,000 years. He demonstrated through an analogy how patterns in human development and innovation have always been exponential. Duncan describes technological development like the common brain-teaser which asks participants to determine when a fish bowl that fills with marbles by powers of two becomes half-full. Duncan describes the technological development process from far away, showing how the bowl fills seemingly all at once as it is at one moment half-full and then, as the marbles double upon themselves, completely full in the following moment. In this way, he explains that it is a mistake to view technology along straight lines. Duncan asserts that, “technology is catalytic…it builds on itself” and that necessity may not be the mother of invention any longer. Today’s technology is more decisive and divisive because scientific capability and competition encourages change instead of necessity.100516srup-4371

    According to Duncan, this is the case with the technology of the future. The beginnings of a technological revolution are already visible in six developmental categories: materials, nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, Neuroscience, robotics and artificial intelligence. Duncan says, “The world is changing faster than we are prepared for.”

    Duncan predicts that in the not-so-distant future, we will have the ability to stop cellular aging and death. Technological innovations will be giving human beings a run for their money. He says that sometime in the next 10-15 years, computers will be able to pass the Turing test. Meaning that, computers will be indistinguishable from human beings based on a process developed by scientist, Alan Turing, which measures intelligent behavior in computing machines. By the year 2040, computers will no longer need to be handheld. They will be so essential to the function of society that they will become embedded in our environment with the human brain functioning as more of a “peripheral device.” Finally, in 2050, Duncan predicts that machines will reach a state of singularity, “they will no longer need us and will race past us in human intelligence.” Duncan describes this point in human history as being similarly important to the moment when biological life first appeared on Earth.

    100516srup-4397This level of innovation seems amazing because it is likely that these machines will eliminate or reverse many of the world’s trickiest human problems like death, starvation and climate change. However, in the process, it will create a number of complex ethical questions. If we are all able to live forever, how will the world’s resources sustain us all? Will we be allowed to have children? If intelligent machines are able to replace every human job, how will we spend our time? Will there be a war in which the machines we created wipe out the human population? Will computers have culture?

    Duncan leaves these questions with the audience, forcing us all to see beyond our myopia. The future is coming and it is coming quickly, we will need to reinvent ourselves in order to keep up.

    – Hannah Lussier

  • Close up of a political map of Brazil focused on Rio de Janeiro with a blue push pin.

    No Fun and Games for Rio

    On October 2, 2009 celebrations erupted on Rio de Janeiro’s famed Copacabana beach as the International Olympic Committee confirmed the city’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. For Brazil, having the privilege to host the most high profile sporting event in the world was the final endorsement the country needed to prove its hard-fought rise to the top. At the time, the Brazilian economy was booming under its highly popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the state was heralded as a “new player on the global stage” as it became one of the top ten wealthiest nations in the world. Bolstered by oil revenues from the Petrobras company and the public support of 20 million citizens who were pulled from poverty by his extensive welfare reforms, President Lula exclaimed with confidence that, “All those people who thought we had no ability to govern this country will now learn that we can host the Olympics.”

    Time after time, hosting the Olympic Games has been said to improve the economic and infrastructural landscape of its host cities. Often, those cities up for an Olympic bid promote the event to its citizens in recognition of how the area will benefit from the increases in tourism and improvements in infrastructure that are associated with hosting the major sporting event. However, the sad fact is that historically, most host cities almost never profit from the games. In actuality, most do not break even and it has already been projected that Rio will be no exception.

    And since Rio was announced as the host for the 2016 Games, the political and economic landscape in Brazil has changed drastically. President Lula was succeeded by Dilma Roussef who is now facing impeachment charges. The economy is falling into a recession. Mosquitoes are infecting citizens with the dangerous zika virus. Unemployment rates are rising, and civil unrest is becoming more commonplace. Meanwhile, the two things most promised to Rio’s citizens by Olympic advocates seem far out of reach as infrastructure improvements go unfinished and tourists continue to shun tickets due to health and safety concerns.

    At the time of the IOC’s decision, the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras dominated the country’s economy. Experts say that the company once controlled up to 10% of the country’s overall GDP. More recently, however, economists are linking the Petrobras company to a projected 1%  contraction of the Brazilian economy this year. Why? The wild success of the Petrobras company can be attributed to one of the biggest bribery scandals to ever shock the world.

    After a man named Alberto Youssef revealed the scheme to a lawyer during a stint in jail, investigators cautiously looked into the issue that seemed far-fetched at best. Since then, investigators have confirmed Youssef’s accusations, discovering the deep roots of a bribery ring with an estimated total of $3 billion of economic impact since 2004. The list of names provided to police by Youssef included many captains of industry as well as some highly-respected government officials and thus far, police have indicted 117 people, arrested 5 public officials and brought charges against 13 companies. They found that the elaborate scheme involved a cartel of construction and service companies who created an environment of artificial competition and awarded a small group of top Petrobras officials with bribes in order to keep the operation quiet. The bribe money was then further distributed to members of the Brazilian government.

    Once high with pride, the Brazilian people now lament that their country’s economic success was nothing short of fraudulent. The economic recession which has resulted is causing Brazilian nationals to lose their jobs and has put a strain on the ability for the government to pay its police force. In addition, the expense of hosting the Olympic Games has become a burden rather than a blessing. So, at a time when Brazil had most hoped to be sailing along calmly it is facing the rising waters of a perfect storm, and hosting the Olympics has become just another torrent pushing the country further and further backward.

  • Symbol of a woman stepping forward out of a column of men

    Women of the Moment at the Moment

    According to a recent business study by Morgan Stanley Capital International, companies with three or more women in leadership roles enjoyed a greater return on equity per year versus companies with less diversity. The study, and many others like it, shows that a diversification of ideas among groups increases the probability of managing and completing goals successfully. Studies like this one are of great value to our nation’s future because they present a sort of reality check. Being that, increasing diversity can not only be profitable for businesses but can benefit any group in making big decisions. Despite the clear message of this research and its relevance to the composition of our country’s legislature, it is still considered surprising that three strong female figures emerged into the political arena during the election cycle this year.

    First, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is Hillary Clinton, an obvious example of someone who believes in the integral role which women can play in politics. If nominated, she will be the very first woman to serve as the candidate for a major American political party. Next is Ivanka Trump, daughter and campaign surrogate to Donald Trump, who represents a less obvious but still pertinent example of female strength. As a mother, business owner and soon-to-be published author Trump has been a balancing force for her father’s campaign and has gained recognition by the media for her impressive business acumen and poise. Lastly and slightly further outside of the limelight, is senior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren who is a contender to be chosen as Hillary Clinton’s running mate. Warren is a former lawyer as well as an expert on the financial pressures which burden the American middle-class. She has served in her current position since 2012.

    The demonstrated willingness to hear the voices of these three powerful women is one small step forward in America’s efforts to close its startlingly large gender gap. But, the gravity of this gap must be brought into the forefront of American consciousness in order for necessary change to occur. Therefore, in the space below, I have compiled a number of statistics on the status of women in business, politics and education. While reading the following, bear in mind that women in the United States make up 50.8% of the population at 157 million people.

    Since women first began joining the workforce at high rates during the 1970s, women at work have contributed to almost one quarter of the American economy. In the year 2012, 10% more women than men decided to attend college and get a degree after graduating from high school. Therefore, while the number of educated and motivated women in this country seems to continue growing, the number of these women who work in a leadership capacity is almost stagnant. Consider that, in the last decade, the number of women in board positions for Fortune 500 companies has rarely shifted from around 17%. The record figure for the number of women CEOs in Fortune 500 businesses set in 2014 remained the same for the year 2015 at just 5%. The unfortunate reality is that women make up 45% of laborers within these companies but are simply not the ones being promoted. Women face even further injustice at the hands of the wage gap. According to the World Economic Forum, women around the world continue to be paid the same amount today as men were paid for the same work in the year 2006.

    I argue that these gross inequalities are allowed to persist only because Americans are still failing to elect an adequate number of women to political office. Only 20% of House and Senate positions are filled by women and the United States has yet to elect a woman as president since George Washington was inaugurated in 1789. Circling back to the introduction, if Americans were to take note of the data gathered by MSCI and in turn were to elect more women leaders, then the country would likely gain the ability to make more balanced legislative choices. And with Hillary Clinton in a promising position to make history this year, the United States should be prepared to see some important and long overdue changes in its future.

  • Close-up photo of a water droplet impacting the surface of a water bucket.

    Water Privatization: Not Just a Drop in the Bucket

    When thinking about environmental scarcity it is common to think of the depletion of rain forests, the growth in the number of animals on the endangered species list and the deterioration of the ozone layer. However, it is rare, at least in the United States, to consider the scarcity of freshwater resources. The reality is that less than three percent of the world’s water is fresh, and the ability to obtain and afford safe drinking water is a daily problem for at least one billion people around the world. In places like China and India, the population is rapidly increasing while natural water sources are becoming bankrupt due to overuse. The demand for water tripled worldwide between the years 1950 and 1990, and the United Nations expects this demand to exceed supply by more than thirty percent by the year 2040.

    As a result of its high demand, the water supply and water sanitation industries have seen a massive increase in corporate interest in the last twenty years. Investors from companies like Suez and Vivendi Environment are looking to privatize water sources that were once publicly owned in order to turn a profit. In some cases, nations in the Global South have been encouraged by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to privatize their water sources in order to relieve governmental pressures and create revenue. For those nations who chose to accept this course of action, citizens often reacted unfavorably to the switch in light of price hikes and infrastructure changes that disproportionately affected the poorest communities. At this intersection of humanity and capitalism lies the difference between proponents and opponents of privatization.

    The supporters of privatization argue that governments have failed at maintaining the infrastructure required for water safety due to their desire to please constituents by keeping water utility costs low. Finance experts like Johan Bastin view “water [as] the last infrastructure frontier for private investors” and believe that ceding public resources to multinational companies can be helpful for underdeveloped nations because a corporate influence is usually impersonal and requires increased fiscal responsibility as well as efficiency. The ideal is that companies will be able to improve water infrastructure and decrease water utility prices in the long run without having to worry as much about handling an initial consumer backlash. In addition, supporters of privatization point out that national economies are limited to the taxes paid by the public in order to fund public works projects while corporations can utilize investments from outside sources.

    In contrast, the opponents of privatization argue that the claims made above are invalidated by the tendency of corporations to focus on profit rather than on how they are impacting human bodies. Meaning that, once money is being made, corporations will not stop increasing utility costs but will crave a continuous stream of profit on a commodity that is a necessary expense. In this kind of privatized system, opponents argue that citizens are forced to pay more than they should for a good that they have no choice to forgo. Circumstantially, in India, China and Bolivia (who each have years of experience with water privatization) there has been little evidence for improvements in water quality or pricing. Although these are just a few examples, it is clear that privatization is not a universal good but one that works best only in the most idyllic of situations.

    Policy-makers have yet to find a solution to the problem of water access, affordability and sanitation despite the issue’s urgency. However, the absence of a solution does not stem from a lack in effort. For example, the UN recently released a new set of Sustainable Development Goals that contain a target to “achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all” by the year 2030. The target states that the organization has made a commitment to researching and implementing policy which will work towards putting rights to water at the forefront of sustainability efforts. So, in recognition of the combination of depleting resources, financial burdens, ethical concerns, overall population increases and inevitable corporate greed that are always at play in water-related legislation I ask: how will the UN and the world choose to make this goal a reality?

  • A visual representation of the term intersectionality with a wooden sign placed at a crossroads pointing the way towards racism, sexism, ableism, xenophobia and classism.

    Intersectionality and the Presidential Race

    Intersectionality is a term which has existed for roughly 35 years, however, most people in the United States have not engaged with the concept outside of a classroom until recent memory. The term resurfaced recently as a reaction to the Flint Water Crisis and through its engagement in debate by the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. As a result, public discourse questioning the legitimacy of intersectional politics is mounting and has forced many to ask themselves, what is intersectionality?

    The term’s origin can be traced back to a time in the 1980s when black feminists realized that they were facing discrimination based not only on their race but also on their gender. One example of this that still persists today, is that black women were not only paid less than men but were also paid less than white women. Historically, the experiences of women of color have been unique, so when caught between the Civil Rights and Feminist movements, the black feminists rejected being forced to choose only one aspect of their identity. These women desired to be part of a movement which expressed their unique experiences with both sexism and racism. Coined by feminist scholar Kimberle Crenshaw, intersectionality was where they found their voice.

    intersectionalityIntersectionality is an issue of advocacy. It points out that traditional advocacy groups and politicians were presenting a one-sided point of view that ignored the full scope of a constituent’s issues. At its core, intersectionality seeks to represent the voices of those who have been historically underprivileged in a way which encourages societal unity through empathy and understanding. The most important aspect of intersectionality is expressed by its use of the Latin prefix “inter” meaning among or between, because intersectionality describes the ways in which discrimination can operate amongst and between several facets of identity.

    Although still associated with feminism today, intersectionality has evolved as a tool which helps to advocate for not only those oppressed based on their race and gender but also those who experience hate based on their ability, economic class or sexual orientation. It is this type of discrimination which is being acknowledged by the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. On both of their websites, Sanders and Clinton cite issues of racial justice, LGBT equality and women’s rights as ones which they will address if they become president. In addition, both have expressed intersectional perspectives indirectly in their speeches on the Flint Water Crisis and also through the use of their twitter accounts. In a speech in Harlem in February, Hillary Clinton told the crowd that, “We face a complex set of economic, social, and political challenges. They are intersectional, they are reinforcing, and we have got to take them all on.”  In contrast, the three remaining Republican candidates Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Donald Trump have not acknowledged any of these issues as being relevant to their campaigns. In fact, none of the Republican candidates have expressed interest in intersectional politics at all, neither in their speeches nor on their websites.

    Because intersectionality recognizes historically oppressed populations, more often than not, conservatives have argued against the legitimacy of intersectional politics on the grounds that it reinforces societal division. Among opponents it is easy to find articles which maintain that intersectionality creates a culture of victimhood or that it carves up society into disunited interest groups. But despite the movement’s obvious focus on identity, opponents misunderstand history and demonstrate a certain level of ignorance to the reality of institutionalized hate. The truth is that those who have not experienced hate based on their identity have been privileged by a system which benefits them. They have not been victims, so they cannot understand a victim’s point of view. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are reaching out to these groups in a way which demonstrates their recognition of the reality of our nation’s history and their commitment to reversing the effects of years of discrimination through compassion. – Hannah Lussier

  • Photograph of a white water plant tower in Flint, Michigan.

    Flint Water Crisis

    Citizens have been fighting for their right to clean drinking water in Flint, Michigan since officials announced a switch in the source of the city’s water supply in late April of 2014. Residents of Flint immediately detected a difference in their tap water which was odorous, yellow in color and had improper taste. In response to complaints, officials sampled the water and found that it was contaminated by coliform bacteria. They issued multiple boil-water advisories in August and September of 2014, and insisted that the water was otherwise safe to drink. But, as the crisis in Flint has come to light in major media coverage after President Obama’s declaration of a state of emergency on January 16, 2015, many have concluded that the water in Flint was never drinkable in the first place. Thousands of residents among Flint’s majority black population have been experiencing high levels of lead in their tap water since the new source was introduced.

    Flint MIchigan Bottled Water Distribution

    No level of lead contamination is safe but the levels found in Flint are through the roof. Analysis of the crisis is not necessary because the data speaks for itself. In some households, lead levels were found to be high enough to fall into the Environmental Protection Agency’s category for toxic waste. The presence of lead in the water, according to the Lawyer Herald, has resulted in over 8,000 cases of lead poisoning in children under 6 years old as well as many more cases in the rest of the population. Lead poisoning has symptoms like seizures, memory loss, fatigue, high blood pressure, mood disorders and learning difficulty. The water is also the alleged cause of an increase in cases of Legionnaire’s disease which is an illness caused by bacteria that infects the lungs.

    The presence of lead and other contaminants in Flint’s drinking water is an environmental injustice with a history which garners cause for outrage. What is happening in Flint has been happening for almost two years but has only recently reached media consciousness. The lack of attention given to the crisis before this point is a result of the fact that, up until October of 2015, government officials in Flint, as well as representatives of the state of Michigan, denied scientific claims that the water was unsafe.

    The Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, has been the subject of a social media campaign, #arrestgovsnyder, which is seeking justice for those affected by the crisis. The hashtag is representative of the voices of Flint’s people and puts forward a feeling of urgency. The desire for decisive action is so strong that a class action lawsuit against Flint and the State of Michigan has been filed under the sponsorship of 1700 households. According to the Washington Post, questions may soon be answered as the attorney general’s office investigates Snyder and others on possible counts of “gross negligence” which could lead to criminal or civil actions in court. Charges as serious as manslaughter are being considered.

    The attention which is being given to the Flint Water Crisis is necessary because issues in Flint are multi-fold. There are potential social, political and environmental justice implications at play in Flint over a right as fundamental as the access to clean water. What is happening in Flint should serve as an example that the United States is not free and never has been free of human rights violations. Many celebrities and even presidential candidates have weighed in, but what is important is that The Flint Water Crisis continues to provide a platform for voices which are seldom heard. The world needs to know about the people in Flint, MI because the crisis is part of a larger narrative. It begs us to ask ourselves: What is happening in my own backyard? – Hannah Lussier

  • Hayat Alvi and Timothy Hoyt speak onstage during their lecture about United States policy in the Middle East.

    The Legacy: What’s Next for U.S. Policy in the Middle East?

    On December 2, 2015, the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy hosted its final lecture of the fall semester titled “The Legacy: What’s Next for U.S. Policy in the Middle East”. The lecture featured two experts from the U.S. Naval War College, Hayat Alvi and Timothy Hoyt and attracted one of the year’s largest crowds despite rainy weather outside. Moderated by Pell Center Executive Director Jim Ludes, the lecture was presented as an opportunity for the community to engage and further understand the complexities of, arguably, one of the most controversial issues America’s foreign policy makers have ever faced. In a region plagued by civil war, religious extremism and general uncertainty, maintaining U.S. interests while remaining humanitarian has become an increasingly entangling task. The speakers began with a background and relevant history of events in the Middle East since the Arab Spring and then delved deeper in order to discuss the interests of the war’s major players, the disconnects between them, and what we can do as a country moving forward.

    First to speak was Hayat Alvi, professor of the Theater Security and National Security Decision-Making courses at the U.S. Naval War College. Dr. Alvi has been a part of the publication of multiple books on the subject of The Middle East, including a work in progress, Nonviolent Activism in Islam:  The Message of Abul Kalam Azad. In many of the conflicts in the Middle East today, the major players are fundamentally disconnected as a result of their self-interest. Dr. Alvi argues that these disconnects come from confusion surrounding three main themes which have characterized this region since the Arab Spring, of which only one has clear divisions. The first theme is political disillusion, the next is the issue of borders and the last is the Sunni-Shia rivalry. According to Dr. Alvi, political disillusion is a direct result of the dissemination of ideas from the Arab Spring, while the deterioration of borders came afterwards and is more intimately connected to ISIS itself. When combining these two issues alone, it is plain to see that lines have been blurred to the point where it becomes impossible to decipher who is truly fighting whom. But, in reality, these two issues have origins in the relatively clear cut sectarian rivalry between the Sunni and Shia of Saudi Arabia and Iran.

    These themes are what The United States is up against when it comes to the task of creating effective foreign policy because “there is no purely military solution to ISIS”. For the most part, the war is ideological. All of the major players maintain their own interests and are attempting to design tactics which can reestablish order while simultaneously protecting alliances and investments. According to Dr. Alvi, the U.S. legacy of geopolitical entanglements in the Middle East come from things like the proxy battles of the Cold War, the protection of the Suez Canal, the sovereignty of Israel, as well as counterterrorism and democracy promotion. Having been connected to these things in the past, the U.S. has become attached to maintaining their legacy in the future. The major problem here is that the other actors in this region do not hold the same priorities that we hold. Dr. Alvi says that the key disconnects caused by American self interest in favor of total reality are: a plan to remove ISIS that ignores Assad, U.S. weapons falling into the wrong hands, American military presence without combat orders, and a lack of interest in the agendas of other regional influences. Dr. Alvi concludes that the United States may be capable of creating simpler policy conclusions, if it is able to grasp the fact that hanging onto our ideology is a contributing factor to negative outcomes.

    Next, Dr. Alvi passed the discussion to her colleague Timothy Hoyt. Dr. Hoyt is an expert in International Relations, focused upon the topics of international security and military affairs which he teaches in his classes as well as discusses in his published work, including over 50 articles and chapters. Dr. Hoyt continued Dr. Alvi’s analysis by stating that the “fundamental problem that will not go away easily is that almost all of the countries in the region have different priorities than we do”. He continued his discussion with an analysis of the region’s major influencers including Iraq, Turkey, Israel, and Russia. For the most part, Dr. Hoyt decides that among these nations, none are approaching the situation with the same goal in mind, especially from a military standpoint. The United States has a complex military history with nearly all of the countries involved, making progress difficult. Alliances with both Turkey and Israel, as well as a working relationship with Russia have caused a lot of instability. But, if what we desire is the opposite, we must come to a more uniform approach. Hoyt suggests, that we find a way to reduce the effects of the arms race and focus more on ideological warfare. If not, “it is possible that Islam has begun its 30 years war”.

    In closing, Alvi and Hoyt reiterated a common theme which is general uncertainty. The conflict in the Middle East is complex at every level and its principle actors’ motivations are changing every day. So, grappling with policy to meet the region’s needs has become a monumental task with no simple solution. Bringing the title of the night’s discussion into focus, the legacy of this conflict is what has become the most troubling. After all, we can only guess where we are going based on where we have been. – Hannah Lussier

  • Image of the front of the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

    UN at 70: Taking Stock and Future Challenges

    On October 28, 2015, the Pell Center and the Office for International Programs at Salve Regina University presented a lecture featuring two current United Nations employees in order to celebrate the 70th birthday of the organization through a discussion of its future goals and its effectiveness as an agency from its start up to the present day. The lecture attracted a highly engaged crowd which included members of Salve’s own prospective model United Nations. Matthias Klettermayer and Jean Victor Nkolo spoke about the UN’s sustainable development goals for 2030 as well as the history and future of the UN respectively.

    Matthias Klettermayer, the Public Information Officer of the United Nations’ Division for Sustainable Development, began the discussion by presenting the differences between the Millennium Development Goals, developed in 2000, and the Sustainable Development goals which will be in effect from now until 2030. According to Klettermayer, sustainable development is the process of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future. Klettermayer described increases in the scope of issues, the focus on individuals and the participation of non-UN actors as the main differences in the development of today’s SDGs in comparison with the older MDGs. Some of the SDG concerns are environmental, like global warming, while others are more social, like preventing the spread of Ebola, but all have a primary focus on universal improvements in the quality of life for individuals. In contrast, the MDGs have a more specific focus on averages. For example, one MDG focused on reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty by half. Although the goal was achieved, with the number of people in extreme poverty falling from 2 billion people in 1999 to 800 million people in 2015, its effects were not felt universally.

    According to Klettermayer, the Sustainable Development Goals will be a more universal and focused attempt to “leave no one behind”. The seventeen goals, which hope to promote positive changes on issues like gender equality, clean water, climate change, hunger and more, require the full cooperation of all of the UN’s 193 member states in order to have the greatest impact. To simplify the SDGs for a general audience, Klettermayer marketed the goals as pertaining to what he calls the Five Ps: people, prosperity, planet, partnership and peace. In addition, he asked interested audience members to follow @SustDev on Twitter for more information.

    Next, Jean Victor Nkolo, a twenty year employee of the UN who has participated in ten peacekeeping missions throughout his career, took a step back in order to highlight the origin of the UN and its past objectives. In addition, he explained some of the organization’s successes as well as its failures in order to discuss the possible challenges it could face in the future. Nkolo said that, “the way the world looked in 1945 is not the way that the world looks today”, but that the UN has gone largely unchanged within those 70 years. The UN was founded by victors of World War II and other states of merit who desired to end the atrocities of global war and create a more harmonious society. While the main objective of the UN remains, its membership and scope has changed. The UN still extends the power of the veto to its Security Council of permanent members (The United States, France, Russia, China and England) despite the fact that other nations like India and Brazil are becoming increasingly influential as a result of their recent growth and industrialization. Nkolo continued by saying that, it is important to remember that the UN has made a positive overall impact on the modern world despite its overly publicized failures. He believes that the next step for the UN will be deciding how best to reform its most long-standing institutions in order to keep up with modern demands.

    The lecture ended with time for audience questions. Nkolo concluded the lecture by saying that“peace is like raising a child, it takes a village” because “we are all in this, and it does not concern the UN only”. – Hannah Lussier

  • Forge New Pathways through Study Abroad

    Out of the mere 30% of Americans who actually have passports, half of those who travel abroad never make it beyond North America. For a country with a significant portion of the world’s wealth and vast demographic variety, these statistics are fairly unimpressive. They reveal that citizens of the United States have become so comfortable with their environment that they are afraid to leave. If Americans never experience true foreign travel, it is possible that we will fall behind in making the social connections required of employees entering the international workforce.

    Some Americans may argue that going abroad is much more challenging than it is beneficial. Many people face factors like personal expense, while others are wary about cultural obstacles and language barriers. These are all relevant issues that can be intimidating, but confronting these obstacles can encourage personal growth in areas like creativity, compassion and open-mindedness. For example, within the field of applied cognitive psychology, studies have proven that those who go abroad have a higher capacity for creative thinking than peers who have not been abroad. In a world that relies on increasingly globalized methods of commerce, understanding diversity has become a skill that is highly valued by employers. As a result, colleges have begun to include a study abroad experience as a requirement for graduation.

    To some college students, study abroad has a stigma. In nearly every case, it requires students to pay extra out-of-pocket expenses, gain proficiency in another language and leave the country for the first time. All of this can be daunting, but if students know the benefits they can gain from studying abroad the stigma disappears. According to Christine Lee, Tracy Linderholm and David Therriault’s article On the Cognitive Benefits of Cultural Experience: Exploring the Relationship between Studying Abroad and Creative Thinking, “The ability to engage in cognitively complex tasks with regard to cultural information is becoming an increasingly valuable skill to acquire in today’s globally connected society”, therefore, talents gained while studying abroad have extensive practical applications. “Cognitive processes such as extending pre-existing concepts, considering diverse possibilities, synthesizing remote associations, and mentally manipulating ideas have been identified as important features of creative thought” that can be developed while studying abroad. The simple act of consciously exposing your brain to new ideas, new cultural concepts and a new language can cause dramatic differences in cognition. Engaging with novel concepts is a kind of brain exercise that strengthens creativity and helps us to make unforeseen mental connections.

    If you have the opportunity to go abroad, take it! The experience can provide you with skills you might not ever obtain doing something else. So, extend the boundaries of your comfort zone. With proof that there is much more to gain than there is to lose, the decision is simple. – Hannah Lussier