This might be might last football related post, what with the World Cup coming to a close and host country Brazil departing ignominiously from the competition by a margin of 7 to 1 in the semifinal against Germany. I've got a few football/Brazil related links for this week. I'm sitting on a goodly number of climate change and conservation related themes that I'll come back to in coming weeks.
I'm also aiming to write about restive criticism of President Obama's foreign policy, both by the usual suspects as well as some more unlikely folks like Peter Beinart. I'll leave that to a later post. In the meantime, what does Brazil's loss mean for Dilma Rousseff's re-election prospects? Why is that almost all the Brazil fans at the games appear to be white? Brazil's got a ton of water but Sao Paulo doesn't, what gives? At the end of the day, this is just a game, and with the deterioration of the situation in Israel, among other calamities, there are certainly some bigger issues looming.
Over the July 4th weekend, UT System Chancellor Cigarroa demanded that UT President Bill Powers resign or be fired by July 10th. Bill Powers refused but offered a timetable to step-down. Supporters of the embattled president have launched a petition drive that now has nearly 8500 signatures. At stake is the future of higher education in the state of Texas and whether or not Texas values tier 1 research institutions.
I'm back from Brazil and resurfacing with many story ideas from my recent adventures. In the meantime, if you are like me, you have soccer on the brain and are getting your head around yesterday's winning loss to Germany by the U.S. team.
I'll make a tangential attempt to make a linkage to international politics, which is rather easy when you see the scope of money involved in building the stadiums in Brazil, the threats of player work stoppages, particularly by African teams, for failure to pay appearance fees, and the outlandish price of Neymar's new shoes for Nike. Here is what I've been reading that connects soccer to international politics:
Two weeks ago as part of our class, we visited Brasilia's landfill site, known as Lixão, which again underscored some of the incredible contradictions in the country. It is a vast site, with six open dumping sites, this is one of the largest landfills in all of Latin America. Controversy surrounds this landfill, as it is slated to be closed and moved some 45km away. The government is shutting down landfills like this one in favor of lined landfills with water protection systems. They have already closed Rio's massive dump in 2012. Brasilia's landfill harkens back to an earlier age, when unlined landfills with no specially designed containment ponds existed. However, this landfill won't shut quietly.
So, at this point, I've been all over Brazil, though that's like saying I've toured the United States in five weeks. That said, I've been in five or six cities all over the country (I'll load a better map soon), and the internet speed has invariably been crap, even in pretty expensive hotels. I'm not sure what that tells you about the country's fortunes in the 21st century, but it does mean access to information and commerce in Brazil is limited, let alone the ability for people to watch streaming video of Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black or local soccer. It also makes it so much harder for Brazilian voices to get their stories heard outside of official media.
Here are some stories we've been reading about Brazil:
- Street artist captures iconic image of impending World Cup (see mural above)
- Rio residents ambivalent about the World Cup
Datafolha poll of people in Sao Paulo: 76% of people say Brazil is not prepared to host the World Cup. 22% say ready or partially ready.
— Gabriel Elizondo (@elizondogabriel) May 22, 2014
A long overdue post from Brazil. I've been here about two weeks, first in Rio and have just concluded the second week in the Amazonian city of Belém. I hope to come back with more substantive thoughts about the country's direction, but here are some preliminary thoughts. The Brazilians we met were somewhat ambivalent about the World Cup. Many of them expressed the concern that this was a lot of money that the country could have used to address its myriad social needs.
When I think about whether Brazil can be a major player internationally, even more important than it is now, I've generally been struck by the contrasts, between the rich cosmopolitan parts of Rio and the rougher, grittier favelas that intersperse the city. Similar contrasts abound between the Rio's relatively nice beach neighborhoods (like Ipanema) and Belém. Belém looks like it has seen better days since the time when it was a major port city exporter of rubber. The agencies and individuals we met with here have treated us with great kindness and generosity, but the city itself has aging infrastructure, cracked sidewalks, inadequate sewerage, and a fair amount of garbage.
Johannes gave a spirited and optimistic take on Earth Day, which was Tuesday April 22nd. I think as an advocacy strategy that an optimistic call to arms strikes the right tone. One of the core findings from some framing studies carried out in the early 2000s suggested that overwhelmingly negative messages on issues like climate change leave people feeling fatalistic. This fatalism was on display this week when I advertised a yearlong MA class I'm teaching next year on global wildlife conservation. I only had 3 students sign up in an open registration where my class was up head to head with four others. One of my colleagues asked one of the students with an environmental bent why she didn't sign up, and her response was that it was hopeless, that saving rhinos or elephants was like the war on drugs. I can't tell you how disappointing and dispiriting that is, all the more odd because she identified climate change and water scarcity her preferred issue (talk about a hard issue to solve!).
Don't Give in to Fatalism
In terms of the global wildlife crisis, my answer is that we can't afford to give in to fatalism. I refuse to admit that allowing poachers to kill the remaining rhinos and elephants is inevitable. There have been major poaching crises before, and though, as Elizabeth Kolbert's new book argues, we are in the midst of an era of human-induced mass extinction, political activity and study of the issues we care about is pointless if the world cannot be changed. I'm not blind to the challenges, but I wouldn't be in this business if positive change weren't possible. So, to that student, I say take my class and do one better, get involved. The environment is due for a mass movement again. Here are my set of links of stories that ought to get us off the couch. The news isn't good, but it's no time to throw in the towel.
The IPCC released the Working Group III summary report for policymakers on Sunday. I wrote about the Working Group II report on impacts on The Monkey Cage. Working Group III covers climate mitigation, that is the challenges of reducing greenhouse gases. Tonight, I read through the report and tweeted my sense of the main findings in an 11 part series that I embed below. My short take: there is not nearly enough in the 33 page document on barriers to implementation and international cooperation. I'm really looking forward to the release of the longer chapters. In the meantime, I encourage interested readers to take a look at five sectoral reports from my research group on the Major Economies and Climate Change.
This is a guest post by Idean Salehyan.
There has been a lot of hand-wringing and debate lately as to whether or not academics are engaged enough with important policy questions (See Nicholas Kristof’s article in the New York Times and just a few responses, here and here). As this conversation was circling around the blogosphere, there was an impressive initiative to poll International Relations (IR) scholars about their views and predictions regarding foreign affairs. Such surveys have the potential to make a big splash inside and outside of academia.
For several years, scholars at the College of William and Mary have conducted the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) survey, which gauges IR scholars’ views of the discipline, including department and journal rankings, epistemology, and so on. This endeavor was largely inward-looking. Yet for the first time, the folks at TRIP conducted a “snap poll” of IR scholars to measure the collective wisdom of the field regarding current international events. The results of the first snap poll were recently released at Foreign Policy. It included questions on Syria, the crisis in Ukraine, and the U.S. Defense Budget. Key findings include that IR scholars do not think that Syria will comply on time (if at all) with plans to eliminate its chemical weapons; very few correctly predicted that Russia would send troops to Ukraine; and most do not believe that proposed cuts to the U.S. military budget will negatively effect national security. Additional polls are being planned, providing an extremely important tool for engaging policy makers and the general public.