The Institute for Economics & Peace (Australia) recently released its 2021 Global Peace Index. Although the death toll from terrorism declined for the 6th straight year, civil unrest rose by 10% from March 2020 to March 2021, with 14,871 violent demonstrations, protests and riots, including more than 5,000 related to COVID. Although the Middle East and North Africa remains the least peaceful region in the world, it saw the biggest regional increase in peacefulness in 2020-21. North America, by contrast, saw the most deterioration in peace. The institute found that the global economic impact of violence was $14.96 trillion in 2020-21, equivalent to 11.6% of global GDP. www.economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/GPI-2021-web.pdf
Urban areas around the world have distinct microbial communities. Scientists just analyzed more than 4,700 samples collected from the mass transit systems of 60 cities around the world and found that cities' microbial communities are quite distinct, influenced by climate, population density, soils, proximity to the equator, altitude, proximity to the coast, and local human microbiota. The resulting microbial atlas includes 10,928 viruses, 1,302 bacteria, and 2 archaea not previously found in reference sets and "highlights potential public health and forensic applications, and provides a culture-independent view of AMR [antimicrobial resistance] burden in cities." www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(21)00585-7
Want to check the COVID vaccination rates for your county or for a location to which you might be traveling? This interactive map shows various metrics measuring COVID cases, deaths, and vaccinations by county in the U.S. www.tmj4.com/news/coronavirus/coronavirus-map
Does art communicate? (My "Philosophically Speaking" students would generally say, "yes.") And, in a related vein, what is to be done about art that has come to be recognized as socially or politically problematic? This article by a philosophy fellow at Cambridge who is also a working artist takes up these questions.
"In 2014, Brett Bailey’s Exhibit B (2012) was shut down at the Barbican in London after protests caused ‘security concerns’. The installation, based on 19th- and early 20th-century ‘human zoos’, showed Black people on display, chained and restrained. Even though the artist – a white South African man – intended the work to expose historic racist and imperialist violence, protesters implored the gallery to censor it: ‘Caged Black People Is Not Art’ read one banner. And in 2019, an exhibition of Gauguin’s portraits opened at the National Gallery in London with a public debate to address ethical concerns about the artist and his work. Paul Gauguin was a sexual predator, and when in the South Pacific – where he created some of his best-known paintings – he used his colonial and patriarchal privilege to sexually abuse girls as young as 13, knowingly infecting them with syphilis. ... These cases, among many more, show that, far from being innocuous objects hidden away in museums and white cubes, artworks are historically informed objects that do things and say things. Artworks are created by people in particular times, responding to specific events and ideals. In The Transfiguration of the Commonplace (1981), the philosopher Arthur Danto observed this with his thought experiment: a series of indiscernible red canvases could conceivably constitute completely different artworks, depending on their title, context of presentation, and so on. There is more to a painting or sculpture than its aesthetic forms of colour, line and shape. External properties, such as the artist’s identity and relevant events during the work’s creation, must be considered to fully understand the work. ... Crucially, artworks are communicative objects, the messages of which are partly determined by the surrounding context and are sometimes different to what the artist had in mind. ...
"So, should we forever hide away Gauguin’s paintings? Quietly remove all Confederate and slave trader monuments? ... One familiar objection, expressed by museum professionals such as Vicente Todolí, former director of Tate Modern in London, is that censorship would mean losing great art. ... Given that aesthetic experiences are considered valuable, this loss would apparently be regrettable. ... A different kind of concern about censoring harmful art is that doing so might sweep under the carpet problematic canons and past atrocities. Such erasure could even result in a widespread amnesia (at least within dominant groups), where many won’t adequately confront our true history. Removing statues and paintings without anyone noticing might not properly engage with the problem in the first place; it could even be tantamount to dismissing the magnitude of the atrocities honoured by the monuments, or the immoral messages expressed by the paintings. ... Instead of censorship, some have opted for an alternative response to hate speech. We can challenge, refute or even undo the harms of hate speech with more speech. ... First, manipulation of an artwork and its curated space. ... Second, transparent curation. ... Curation tells stories about the work on display, and curators have a responsibility to give accurate and true narratives surrounding the art. Facts shouldn’t be suppressed to furnish more convenient narratives obscuring truth. ... Outright censorship is rife with problems generally, let alone art censorship, which is far more complex than straightforward speech. So we need to find new ways of signalling our disquiet, disgust and outrage at art that perpetuates social injustice."
On the one hand, the number of Chinese millionaires increased by 22% between 2019 and 2020 according to Credit Suisse. But according to an AfrAsia Bank report, China also lost more millionaires than any other country in 2019, with 16,000 high net worth individuals (defined as having assets of $1-10 million) emigrating from China that year. Turkey, however, saw the greatest proportion of its high net worth individuals leave in 2019 (8%). Where did they go? Australia was the top destination for HNWIs in 2019, followed by the U.S. www.statista.com/chart/25007/hnwi-emigration-by-country
Fiction can be a great way to introduce geography and develop a sense of place. This site provides suggested kids' literature (and some nonfiction) set in all 50 states. wrappedinfoil.com/
Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier has been in the news recently because analysis of satellite data revealed that from 2017 to 2020 the glacier increased the speed at which it moved toward the ocean by 12% and the glacier lost one-fifth of its area. Pine Island Glacier, part of the increasingly unstable West Antarctic Ice Sheet, contains approximately 180 trillion tons of ice and, according to researchers at the University of Washington, could be gone in the next decade or two. Pine Island Glacier and the neighboring Thwaites Glacier are already responsible for much of Antarctica’s contribution to sea-level rise. ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/304/mcs/media/images/56493000/gif/_56493507_a304x171.gif
Supply-chain issues continue to plague the global economy. Nowhere have these issues been felt more keenly than in countries dependent on trade to feed themselves. Singapore, for example, imports more than 90% of its food. With just about 275 square miles of land area, less than 1% of which is devoted to agriculture, Singapore depends on daily shipments of fresh fruits and vegetables from Malaysia, Thailand, China, Indonesia, and elsewhere. During 2020, COVID restrictions accelerated Singapore's stake in vertical farming as a means of promoting food self-sufficiency. This article from BigThink is a good background piece on the current science, economics, and outlook for vertical farming: bigthink.com/technology-innovation/vertical-farming
Brazil has been nicknamed the Saudi Arabia of water, but Brazil is currently facing a severe drought, brought on by a combination of La Niña weather patterns in the Pacific and deforestation in both the Amazon rainforest (a major source of the Amazon River) and the less well-known Atlantic Forest (a major source of the Paraná River). Low water levels are reducing hydroelectric power output (the source of two-thirds of Brazil's electricity), reducing or halting river transportation, threatening crops, increasing fire risk, and squeezing drinking water supplies. This is Brazil's third "once in a century" drought in the past 20 years. www.batimes.com.ar/news/economy/historic-drought-threatens-brazils-economy.phtml
This cool interactive map of the contiguous U.S. allows you to place a raindrop anywhere and see where it ends up, including a detailed look at its course and the terrain through which it travels. river-runner.samlearner.com/
Expressing views in any public forum has become professionally (and sometimes literally) hazardous for a growing range of people, including philosophers. Hence, a new journal founded by philosophers Peter Singer, Jeff McMahan, and Francesa Minerva: the Journal of Controversial Ideas is intended to be an "open access, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal specifically created to promote free inquiry on controversial topics. ... The journal offers authors the option to publish their articles under a pseudonym, in order to protect themselves from threats to their careers or physical safety. We hope that this will also encourage readers to attend to the arguments and evidence in an essay rather than to who wrote it. Pseudonymous authors may choose to claim the authorship of their work at a later time, or to reveal it only to selected people (such as employers or prospective employers), or to keep their identity undisclosed indefinitely. Standard submissions using the authors’ actual names are also encouraged. ... [The journal] aim[s] to publish papers that are likely to advance knowledge and promote free inquiry and rational argumentation. The main criterion for acceptance will be the quality of the arguments given." www.journalofcontroversialideas.org/
This map, based on satellite imagery, shows the geography of recent Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. The more urban northern part of Gaza, in and around Gaza City, shows the most destruction of buildings (389 building destroyed or severely damaged, in red, and 157 moderately damaged buildings, in orange). The more rural southern part of Gaza mostly shows impact craters in fields near the border with Israel, in gray. (Map from www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/06/11/gaza-damage-map-rebuilding-israel/.)
Even if kids can't get to a national park this summer, they can still do Junior Ranger programs from home. The National Park Service has nearly a dozen thematic Junior Ranger programs that can be completed from anywhere. Topics include paleontology, the night sky, caves, space flights, aquatic ecosystems, railroads, archaeology, and more. The content-rich Junior Ranger booklets are free to download and include activities, experiments, links to related national parks, and more. www.nps.gov/kids/junior-rangers.htm
Vice President Kamala Harris's recent trip to Guatemala to discuss illegal immigration reflects Guatemala's status as the #1 source country for people apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol trying to gain illegal entrance to the United States. This map shows the top 10 source countries in FY2019, which is the most recent annual data released by the U.S. Border Patrol showing citizenship. The top two countries, by far, are Guatemala and Honduras which, together, accounted for more than 60% of all apprehensions.
If you explored the debt payment suspension map I posted on May 27, you may have noticed China is holding a lot of debt in the developing world. But China is also facing a major default crisis at home: "Even by the standards of a record-breaking global credit binge, China’s corporate bond tab stands out: $1.3 trillion of domestic debt payable in the next 12 months. That’s 30% more than what U.S. companies owe ... [and] it’s all coming due at a time when Chinese borrowers are defaulting on onshore debt at an unprecedented pace. ... The country’s onshore defaults have swelled from negligible levels in 2016 to exceed 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) for four straight years. That milestone was reached again last month, putting defaults on track for another record annual high." www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-05-23/china-braces-for-1-3-trillion-maturity-wall-as-defaults-surge
The National Geographic Society has (finally) declared the waters around Antarctica to be the world's fifth ocean. The Southern Ocean, defined as the waters in the Southern Hemisphere south of 60 degrees latitude which roughly corresponds to the ocean encircled by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, can now join the other four oceans -- Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic -- on the geography bee :-). National Geographic is late to the party: scientists, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (which is responsible for uniform geographic name usage across the federal government) have recognized the Southern Ocean since the 1990s. www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/theres-a-new-ocean-now-can-you-name-all-five-southern-ocean
Happy Flag Day! The Brennan Center for Justice reports that between Jan. 1 and May 14 of this year, 14 states enacted new laws designed to expand access to the vote and 14 states enacted new laws to restrict access to the vote. In addition to providing maps for each development, this Brennan Center summary has explanations of the new state laws and notes where state legislature are still moving on voting bills. www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-may-2021
This article from Philosophy Now (UK) examines how artificial womb technology is likely to change the ethical issues surrounding abortion:
"Presently, most research on artificial womb technology is funded to tackle health complications caused by premature birth. But artificial womb technology may one day make gestation outside of human bodies possible. ... The notion of gestation within artificial wombs has been termed ‘ectogenesis’, from the Greek ecto (‘outer/outside’) and genesis (‘coming to life’). There are two possible routes of ectogenesis, which would lead to two different challenges for the abortion debate. Partial ectogenesis would involve the transfer of the foetus from a human uterus to an artificial womb at some point in a pregnancy. Full ectogenesis would instead involve the creation of the embryo in vitro and its direct placement in an artificial womb, therefore bypassing a human uterus completely. Research has been promising enough in recent years to expect partial ectogenesis in the relatively near future. Full ectogenesis, by contrast, may be possible only in the unforeseeable or far future. But both types of ectogenesis raise interesting issues worth talking about today. ...
"Some claim that partial ectogenesis could resolve the abortion debate. Supporters of this view argue that once artificial gestation becomes technologically possible, the only morally acceptable way to meet abortion requests would be to extract the foetus from the pregnant woman and continue its gestation ex utero regardless of preference(s) of the potential parent(s). However, not everyone would agree that this is a morally satisfactory solution to the abortion issue, on account of the potential parent’s bodily autonomy. For instance, just as we might view a forced abortion as morally abhorrent, under the assumption that people ought not to be forced to have something done to their body that they do not want done, forced extractions would be equally subject to the charge of interfering with bodily autonomy. Thus, although the possibility to resort to artificial womb technology would be a significant addition to the choices offered to people considering an abortion, some may argue that this procedure – like any medical procedure – ought not to be imposed on them. Even in the case that partial ectogenesis is voluntarily carried out, an interesting dispute arises on whether to class a foetus as born once out of the human womb, as premature babies currently are or whether it’s born only once the gestation (human or artificial) is complete.
"Full ectogenesis would have more radical implications on the abortion debate. This is because the focus would shift away from the issue of the right to bodily autonomy - which has thus far been the basis of many abortion laws - entirely onto the even more ethically controversial right to the death of the foetus. Full ectogenesis challenges proponents of abortion rights to justify why termination of a foetus would be ethically permissible if the usual routes cited by pro-choice advocates – such as bodily autonomy – are no longer relevant. ... Although some believe that full ectogenesis would make termination of a foetus ethically unacceptable, others would argue that the boundary of reproductive choice for potential parents also includes the right to terminate the foetus even in this case. It may be therefore that a more comprehensive view of the ‘right to choose’ is called for. We might need to broaden peoples’ rights over their reproductive future in a way that includes the right for every individual to decide whether to become a parent. Such a right would capture the right to decide whether to become a parent at a particular time, with a particular partner, to a particular potential child. This right may be based on one’s rights to control one’s genetic material, or to privacy, for instance. ... Whose decision should be prioritized in case of disagreement? What ethical models would we use to adjudicate contrasting preferences? Up until what point in gestation should the parents be able to decide whether to terminate the foetus? As our reproductive possibilities and procedures change over time, we must be ready to address these kinds of questions."
The left-wing candidate in Peru's hotly contested election this week, Pedro Castillo, is from Chota Province, an area in the Andes Mountains nearly 1,000 km north of the capital of Lima. Despite its distance from the Atlantic Ocean, Chota is both mountainous and part of the watershed of the Amazon River. Chota Province is shown in red on this map; the inset on the lower left shows the province's location within Peru: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a3/Location_of_the_province_Chota_in_Cajamarca.svg/375px-Location_of_the_province_Chota_in_Cajamarca.svg.png
This free typing game from the Mr. Nussbaum Fun + Learning site combines typing and tornadoes! The faster one types various tornado-related words, the more powerful a "tornado" one can spawn. The game, designed for elementary and middle school students, also includes links to other information and activities about tornadoes. Prefer destroying alien spaceships to learning about tornadoes? The Mr. Nussbaum site also has a typing game that provides practice typing (and spelling) words from various vocabulary lists, including one you create yourself, to stop an alien invasion. Tornadoes: mrnussbaum.com/tornadomaker Alien invasion: mrnussbaum.com/spellerz-customizable-online-spelling-and-typing-game
The Canadian city of Kamloops, British Columbia, has been in the news recently as the site of a controversial and now-closed school for indigenous children originally run by a Catholic missionary order. Many Americans, to the extent they are familiar with British Columbia at all, may have visited areas in and near Vancouver without appreciating the size and diversity of the province. Kamloops, for instance, lies between Canada's Coast Mountains to the west and the Rockies to the east, which combine to provide Kamloops with rivers, foothills suitable for hiking and vineyards, and a warm, dry, sunny climate.
Cryptocurrency, like bitcoin, was designed to be free from state control. So how did the FBI manage to break into the "wallet" of the Colonial Pipeline hackers to retrieve most of the cyber ransom paid in bitcoin? This column from Bloomberg is a good primer on cryptocurrency security and what seems to have transpired: www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-06-08/colonial-hackers-led-the-fbi-down-a-hot-wallet-trail-to-bitcoin-ransom
Interested in resuming international travel? This article from The New York Times travel section details what the current rules are for Americans traveling to other countries. At least for now, the article appears to be updated regularly as new information becomes available. www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-travel-restrictions.html
One of the sticking points in the infrastructure bill before Congress is spending nearly $100 billion to encourage companies to build out affordable broadband internet networks. This map shows the severity of the broadband problem in rural America: in the counties shown in blue, fewer than 15% of households are using the internet at speeds of at least 25 Mbps (the minimum speed to be considered broadband). Mousing over the map in the article reveals that even in many counties shown in gray, substantially fewer than 40% of households have broadband. www.theverge.com/22418074/broadband-gap-america-map-county-microsoft-data
If you're looking for some summer reading, this article offers a variety of unusual suggestions for novels, many in translation, that pose a range of philosophical questions. If you scroll to the bottom of the article, there is also a link to "great philosophy books for beginners." (Not my list necessarily, but a list :-).) bookriot.com/best-philosophical-fiction/
Blog sharing news about geography, philosophy, world affairs, and outside-the-box learning
This blog also appears on Facebook: