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CO2 on the Rise, When Will Leaders React?

The rise in global carbon emissions between 1850-2009. (Data from Boden et al. 2012)

 In our world, there has never been a greater threat to humanity since the emergence of climate change. Last week, the UN Meteorological Organization released a report that CO2 levels on our planet are rising at an uncontrollable rate. If that’s not concerning enough, most of the major greenhouse gases emitted into our atmosphere reached an all-time high level in the year 2013.

Eventually, these gases will become more catastrophic and inflict widespread devastation to the point where the planet can no longer cope. In fact, the rise of these gases on earth are the leading cause of climate change, resulting in changes in the earth’s atmosphere and temperature as well as widespread drought, flooding, and devastating storms. And while one may think that CO2 only affects the atmosphere, that’s wrong too! Higher CO2 levels drastically change our oceans and raise the acidity of the water. With a greater output in the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, our planet will not have the ability to convert these gases back into the air that we breathe. Although invisible, the effects from these gases will eventually force animals to migrate or go extinct, increase the probability of war, cause drought and famine, and ultimately threaten our very existence as a species.

Why Wait? Multilateralism and the Islamic State

ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State, Syria, Iraq,

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is continuing to gain both territory and vital resources in their quest of religious cleansing and spreading the control of their caliphate. Consequently, pressure is mounting on President Obama and the rest of the world’s leaders to step up and extinguish the violence in the area. The US has successfully conducted airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq. However, it is clear that it is going to take an international coalition to eliminate the threat that they pose.

US military forces have been unable to enter Syrian sovereignty due to the bloody civil war that continues to rage on, having already killed 100,000 people. Furthermore, the situation is escalated by Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad’s close ties with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Putin has vehemently warned against any US invasion into Syrian territory in part because Russia exports arms and resources to Al-Assad’s forces. Currently ISIS’ stronghold is located in Raqqa, Syria. Therefore, for any substantial work to be done, a coalition force must be able to conduct operations within Syrian territory.

September 11, 2001: The Day the World Shifted

World Trade Center tribute in lights

This piece was originally published on September 11, 2011. It has been reposted to reflect on the tragic events and impacts of 9/11 and on our international strategy going forward.

Ten years ago, while driving to work, I watched in horror as smoke and flames billowed from the Pentagon from across the Potomac River. Later, huddled in a basement office, our small staff overcame its fear that this was "the beginning of the end" and got to work.

The message sent that day to our members began, "The world has shifted."  Like the first few moments after an earthquake, we didn't know how bad the damage was, but we knew the world would never be the same again. I wrote then:

"Right now, I am as fearful of the knee jerk reaction that our nation could embark upon, as I am by the damage that those forces behind these attacks can inflict.

We who work for a more peaceful and just world must be the voice that says more than 'strike back.'  We must talk about what we can do to stop this from happening again.... Military might is not enough to halt a determined foe that is willing to sacrifice their lives for what they believe in and use all means available to lash out.  The United States should seek to find those behind this attack and bring them to justice.  But at the same time it should evaluate what damage it has done by hamstringing the growth of a democratic system of international governance that will allow members of every society to feel that they are stakeholder, rather than downtrodden serfs, in our global village.

I ask all of you in the days ahead to be the courageous voice of sanity and reason and help turn this tragedy into the beginning of a healing rather than the beginning of the end."

Open Letter #5 To My Grandson Jake

Donna and her grandson Jake

Letters to Jake Series, Letter #5

Dear Jake,

Our recent visit to the Natural History Museum was so much fun. Papa and I were very glad that you insisted on seeing the movie in the “Origin of Man” exhibit. “We Are All One Species” was a fascinating movie for children and adults alike. It was interesting to learn that the other human species died out 17,000 years ago, at about the same time that our species, Homo sapiens, migrated across the entire planet. It was good to see the images of men and women as a rainbow of one species from light- to dark-skinned and everything in between. Our differences are very minor compared to the commonalities that unite us.

United Federation of Nations

This is at the heart of my desire to create a United Federation of Nations, to unite all human beings across the earth into a global community. I don’t want to eliminate the nations. Indeed, I want to be a proud American who can also say I’m a proud citizen of the world. I want the nations to deal with national issues and a federation of nations to deal with global issues that affect all Homo sapiens, like the environment, the oceans, war, and the world’s food supply and health threats.

Breaking new ground: the global call for a World Parliament Now!

Democracy across borders

Over the past decade the world has faced various global problems, many of which have not been adequately dealt with by governments and international institutions. These have ranged from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, terrorism, wars, extreme poverty, unresolved environmental negotiations or gross human rights violations to unfair trade and investment practices.

These unresolved problems have raised the fundamental question of whether individual countries and international institutions are adequate platforms to resolve the plethora of challenges that the world currently faces. It also raises the concern that there is a need to find solutions beyond the United Nations and which entail a process that fully and effectively involves global citizens.

As such, there is undoubtedly a need for a world parliament. This need emanates from the notion that global problems require global solutions.

Further, the creation of a world parliament is the most pragmatic approach that can be taken to resolve global problems. Presently, many international instutions have faced heavy criticism for furthering their own agendas, which do not allign with those of the citizens from the member states represented. The concept of a global parliament has the potential to expand the accountability space of these institutions and to introduce a model that better democratises global decision making by not only providing a platform for, but also encouraging active participation.

The idea of a world parliament is a fairly novel one which holds the vast potential to shift the way global issues are presently handled. Today more than ever, there is a need to involve the ‘global citizen’ in global affairs and decision making, especially as the past decade has revealed a gap that the current international institutions have not been able to fill.

NATO’s Premier Geopolitical Challenge: Eastern Ukraine

Ukraine, Ukraine Crisis, Russia, Putin, Poroshenko, Crimea, NATO

        

Eastern Ukraine has been at the forefront of the news for several months now, and if the events of the last few weeks are any indication, things will continue to escalate. The conflict was heated and popular enough when the downing of MH-17 brought the situation to the world’s doorstep. Furthermore, Russia’s involvement in Ukraine threatens to rehash old cold war mantras, to the dismay of the world’s observing players.

The PR teams of both the Russian and Ukrainian governments are doing their best to spin the violent events of the last few weeks to garner positive attention to their respective causes. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko actively search for a solution to this debacle. It’s plausible that, for the situation to de-escalate, an international organization will have to intervene diplomatically with the aid of a humanitarian watch group to help sort out the facts.

Russian forces recently made their way across the Ukrainian-Russian border, and it is difficult to comprehend their intentions based on the news that is circulating. Russian officials have said that the contingent was made up of humanitarian trucks supplying cities in the region that have lost electricity and access to running water. Ukrainian officials have said that these “humanitarian” convoys have been supplying the pro-Russian separatists with supplies such as weapons and ammunition.

Rice, Rice Baby

The Ice Bucket Challenge – a fundraising and awareness campaign for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or "Lou Gehrig's Disease” – has gained widespread popularity in the last month, with everyone from celebrities to fugitives posting videos of their participation. This campaign has not come without its controversies, however, with many all over the world criticizing the challenge. In my home state of California, which is in a state of emergency because of the current drought, the ice bucket challenge has left many conflicted as we struggle to save water. Residents of the drought-stricken Henan province in China have reacted similarly, staging a protest urging, “Henan, please say no to the Ice Bucket Challenge.”

The Future of Multilateral Engagement: Treaties or Gentlemen’s Agreements?

This post was originally published on March 26, 2014. It has been reposted in light of the recent news that the Obama Administration is pursuing a climate agreement in lieu of a treaty for the 2015 UN summit meeting in Paris. 

In an increasingly globalized world, multilateral engagement is becoming even more critical for the planet’s survival. No longer can a nation act unilaterally without being left behind. In light of this, a debate has emerged about what is the best way to engage on the international level: through treaties or agreements?

In a 2013 article posted by Foreign Affairs, David Kaye argues that treaties create reliable expectations and impose consequences for violators that agreements do not. Kaye points out that because a systematic rejection of treaties has developed in the US, treaty commitment and full US participation is no longer expected, hindering the government's ability to engage in global policy making. While treaty opponents decry them as a threat to U.S. sovereignty, treaties actually create more stable and transparent relationships than gentlemen’s agreements, he says.

Continuing the Fight Against North Korean Atrocities

Propaganda portrait of Kim Il-sung

We all have some idea of how bad things are in North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). We’re also aware that outside efforts to remedy the situation haven't really panned out. But turning our backs on the suffering civilians is not an option. So where do we go from here?

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect published a policy brief last week offering some possible answers to this question.

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a doctrine that obligates countries to safeguard their populations from mass atrocities, including genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. If a State is unable to fulfill this responsibility, it falls to other countries to provide diplomatic and humanitarian assistance. If the State is unwilling to do so, the international community is compelled to intervene.  

DPRK clearly falls into the latter category, as its millions of citizens are victimized by the brutal regime every day. The Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry (CoI) has found systematic human rights violations, particularly in the form of political prison camps. Hundreds of thousands of inmates in these camps are subjected to starvation, forced labor, execution without trial, torture, rape, forced abortion, and infanticide. Meanwhile, millions of other citizens live in abject poverty, suffering from hunger and malnutrition while the State uses food as a means of control.

Speaking Out Against Rape Culture

If you would talk to your daughter about safety, talk to your son about consent.

 When you dress like that, you are asking to be raped.

For every man in jail for rape, there should be a woman in the cell next to his.

It wasn’t uncommon to hear my prep school teachers utter sentences like these. Though their statements outraged me, I never took them to be indicative of society as a whole; surely no one outside of my backward little Northern Virginia community would actually blame a victim for her own assault. After graduating, however, I would come to realize how wrong I was about that.

 In later years, I learned not only of the prevalence of rape across the globe, but the cultural acceptance of it. In Afghanistan, for example, sexual violence is a widespread and underreported problem. It often comes in the context of forced and child marriage, domestic abuse, and police brutality. Because of the high value placed on girls’ virginity, rape victims who come forward are often shamed and may even be imprisoned for “moral crimes.”

Here in the US, rape culture is illustrated by the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses and the failure of administrations to take appropriate action. Another major indicator is the Steubenville rape case, in which the respective offenders were sentenced to a mere one and two years in detention, while those in mainstream and social media alike mourned the loss of the boys' "promising futures" and attributed the crime to the victim's intoxication.