Mankind has managed to walk the Earth for at least 200,000 years without irrevocably fouling its nest. It has done so through repeated revolutions and wars, untold disease and pestilence, and a variety of natural disasters. Now, for the first time, we may be on the verge of rendering the planet itself uninhabitable. Or perhaps not, depending on your point of view. The broadest consensus suggests that mankind is poised on a climatic cliff, with indicators of major disruption to our biosphere reaching levels never before seen either in recorded history or buried in the deepest strata of the earth beneath our feet. This is the issue that we set out to explore in the Summer edition of World Policy Journal—how near the precipice are we, and what may lie over the edge, or beneath the morass into which we may be sinking.
With a host of climate-driven natural disasters in recent months, and among the worst winters in years in the northern hemisphere, there is an increasing perception that climate change is a critical reality faced by a growing mass of the world’s population. Accordingly, we chose to ask our panel of global experts, weighing in from Zimbabwe to Turkey, Australia to Canada, who in their country has the most at stake in the face of our changing environment.
Following increased air pollution and health risks, a global movement away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy is underway. Lester R. Brown explores how the transition will reshape our relationship with nature and how different actors in society—including us—can help facilitate this process.
The Millennium Development Goal 7C aimed to halve the proportion of the population without access to clean drinking water. However, as the population increases and the effects of climate change take hold, many nations are falling short of fulfilling this goal, though several are succeeding. In this Anatomy, World Policy Journal explores water scarcity in Yemen, Mauritania, and Niger, as well as countries that have honed advanced water management techniques, like Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Jordan.
The melting of the Arctic ice is creating new opportunities for trade and resource extraction and leading to increased territorial claims and military presence by the eight Arctic states. Meanwhile, the existence of an Arctic Council, which provides a means for cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the states, makes the prospect of an armed conflict in the region unlikely. World Policy Journal examines the extent of the militarization of the region, deployed as both a technique of surveillance and a means of protection.
The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the globe. And according to Subhankar Banerjee, those who inhabit the area are witnessing the effects firsthand. Indigenous peoples and wildlife across the Arctic are experiencing a barrage of climactic shifts, from thinning ice and melting permafrost, to undergrowth density and autumn rain, which are altering migration patterns, fisheries, and food sources upon which these populations depend.
The Nicaraguan government has launched the biggest civilian engineering project in the world, the construction of the Nicaraguan Canal along the San Juan River. The grand project that began with a carte blanche endorsement for HKND, a Chinese firm in charge of the construction, is expected to cause relocation of endangered species, loss of fresh water for civilian use, and seizure of indigenous land. In the face of these dire consequences and an uncertain prospect for economic benefits, Ted Andersen calls for a careful assessment of the project’s impacts on the environment.
World Policy Journal is publishing its first work of fiction in the form of a remarkable short story by Shanghai-born Qiu Xiaolong. Through the use of fictional characters, Xiaolong reflects on the impact of pollution on the quality of air and life in China today. Loosely based on the travails of Chai Jing and her documentary on pollution that the Beijing government banned from the Internet, the story follows Inspector Chen of the Shanghai Police Bureau, who, through handy detective work, explores the nuances of environmental politics in China.
The modern world’s addiction to fossil fuels has proven detrimental to the ecosystem. Renewable energy sources have provided alternatives, but high prices and technological difficulties pose great challenges to a complete conversion to such alternative energy in the near future. With a compelling and carefully reasoned argument, Israeli scientists David Andelman and Guy Deutscher suggest that nuclear power is the only viable near-term alternative. Explaining the science of nuclear energy, the two professors analyze the approach we can take to achieve a more energy efficient future.
Since 1879, the incandescent light bulb has served as the primary source of light. Efficient at producing light, the bulb is highly wasteful in energy output. In search of an energy saving method to produce light, scientists developed the process of electroluminescence and light-emitting diodes. However only two of the three colors—red and green—needed to produce white light were developed, until Japanese scientists, led by Hiroshi Amano, discovered the process to make blue light. World Policy Journal sits down with the Nobel Prize Laureate to discuss his epic breakthrough and his future project, which could earn him a second international prize.
We are delighted to welcome back Eliza Griswold, our poet in residence. In her poem “Ovid on Climate Change,” Griswold vividly captures the consequences of mankind’s blind rush toward development.
In the time of the Persian Empire, zurkhanehs were dedicated places to train men as warriors and to instill in them a sense of national pride in anticipation of upcoming battles. Today, no more than 500 of these traditional training rooms remain in Iran, fewer than 20 in Tehran. Local athletes have taken action to preserve this heritage and to pass it onto future generations. Managing to penetrate this tight-knit community, Jeremy Suyker has turned his stunning photography toward demystifying these age-old places of interaction.
The Internet has provided Indian women an arena to make themselves heard and to engage in critical dialogues. However, in a society where gender equality has yet to be achieved and where legal protective measures lag behind fast-developing technology, it is quite common for the women who are active online to receive abusive messages and personal attacks. Ravi Krishnani points out that while legal systems for protecting women’s voice should be strengthened, only society’s recognition of women’s rights and dignity will enable a truly free exchange of ideas online.
The right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party’s landslide victory in the 2014 elections has precipitated a revival of Hindu nationalism in the world’s largest democracy. In the aftermath of the elections, Hindu extremists have directed hostilities toward Indian Christians and Muslims, among other minorities. Though Hindu extremism is not new, this wave of resurgent nationalism seems different. Jas Singh suggests the BJP and its affiliates could bring about drastic changes in a country that has long claimed to be pluralistic and inclusive.
Turkey and the Czech Republic have long histories with their respective Jewish populations. Their approaches toward Jewish culture and portrayals of Jewish people in the media, however, have shaped disparate public perceptions of Jews. Aliza Goldberg compares how the two countries have formulated relations with their Jewish populations and suggests that the Czech case can stand as an example for other European countries to follow.
Poised at the nexus of West and Central Africa, Cameroon serves as an economic and cultural bridge between the two regions. The deepwater port of Douala, a transit point for 90 percent of all goods destined for Central Africa, sits on the Cameroon coast. However, there are several major issues facing the West African nation. Thierry Vircoulon explores Cameroon’s role in the regional security system and how piracy off Cameroon’s coast and the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria may pose new problems for the country’s leadership.
With 74 million additions to the global population each year, there are growing concerns about whether our planet can continue to feed and sustain all of its people. In his Coda column, World Policy Journal editor and publisher David A. Andelman traces the changing landscape for global population and food production, suggesting the world needs innovative means of cooperation measures to anticipate and prevent the looming global food crisis.