This article from Foreign Policy considers the downside of negotiating an end to the war in Ukraine:
"'Give diplomacy a chance.' This phrase gets repeated in almost every conflict, and the war in Ukraine is no exception. ... And why not negotiate? Isn’t a diplomatic solution the best—indeed, the only—option for any kind of long-term settlement between Russia and Ukraine? And if so, what could possibly be the harm in exploring those options? Quite a lot, actually: Despite the way it is commonly portrayed, diplomacy is not intrinsically and always good, nor is it cost-free. ... First, the argument that most wars end with diplomacy and so, therefore, will the war in Ukraine is misleading at best. Some wars—such as the U.S. Civil War and World War II—were fought to the bitter end. Others—like the American Revolution, the Spanish-American War, World War I, or the First Gulf War—were won on the battlefield before the sides headed to the negotiating table. Still others—like the Korean War—ended in an armistice, but only after the sides had fought to a standstill. By contrast, attempts at a diplomatic settlement while the military situation remained fluid—as the United States tried during the Vietnam War and, more recently, in Afghanistan—have ended in disaster. Even if most wars ultimately end in diplomatic settlements, that’s not in lieu of victory. ... Diplomacy can moderate human suffering, but only on the margins. Throughout the conflict, Ukraine and Russia have negotiated prisoner swaps and a deal to allow grain exports. This kind of tactical diplomacy on a narrow issue was certainly welcome news for the captured troops and those parts of the world that depend on Ukrainian food exports. But it’s not at all clear how to ramp up from these relatively small diplomatic victories. Russia, for example, won’t abandon its attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure heading into the winter as it attempts to freeze Ukraine into submission, because that’s one of the few tactics Russia has left. ... There are plenty of reasons to believe that Kyiv will be in an even stronger bargaining position as time passes. The Ukrainians are coming off a string of successes—most recently retaking Kherson—so they have operational momentum. While Ukraine has suffered losses, Western military aid continues to flow in. Despite Russia’s missile strikes on civilian infrastructure, Ukrainian morale remains strong. By contrast, Russia is on the back foot. Its military inventories have been decimated, and it is struggling to acquire alternative supplies. Its mobilization effort prompted as many Russian men to flee the country as were eventually mobilized to fight in Ukraine. ... By contrast, a negotiated settlement—even if it successfully freezes a conflict—comes with a host of moral, operational, and strategic risks. It leaves millions of Ukrainians to suffer under Russian occupation. It gives the Russian military a chance to rebuild, retrain, and restart the war at a later date. Above all, a pause gives time for the diverse international coalition supporting Ukraine to fracture, either on its own accord or because of Russian efforts to drive a wedge into the coalition. Eventually, there will come a time for negotiations. That will be when Russia admits it has lost and wants to end the war. Or it will come when Ukraine says that the restoration of its territory isn’t worth the continued pain of the Russian bombardment. So far, neither scenario has come to pass."
The world's tropical glaciers -- in Asia, in Africa, and in South America -- are essential sources of water for billions of people. This article looks at the looming disappearance of Africa's glaciers, due not just to warming but to drought and changing rainfall patterns across East Africa: www.washingtonpost.com/world/interactive/2022/kenya-glaciers-africa-climate-change/
Are humans worth it? The human population of earth has doubled in the last 50 years to 8 billion while wildlife populations have declined 70%. Les Knight argues that humans should voluntarily work towards their own extinction. (This is not an isolated idea: humans working toward the extinction of the species have also popped up as a subplot in the last two science fiction books I have read.) www.nytimes.com/2022/11/23/climate/voluntary-human-extinction.html
Systems thinkers understand that system inputs do not operate in isolation but influence each other in complex ways. This article looks at the interlocking "polycrisis," the term used by Columbia University economic historian Adam Tooze, posed by changes in climate, population shifts, the rise of authoritarian politics, instability in global finance, and international conflict: www.nytimes.com/2022/11/13/opinion/coronavirus-ukraine-climate-inflation.html.
Although nine states have more cattle than people -- South Dakota, for example, has 4x as many cattle as people -- 94% of Americans live in counties in which humans outnumber cattle. The Washington Post's data visualization team produced this map to help answer the question why so many Americans have never seen a cow :-). (Map from www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/10/28/congress-college-majors-economics/.)
My "Philosophically Speaking" class is designed for teens, but the PLATO program affiliated with the University of Washington is offering Zoom philosophy classes for children ages 8-12 this winter. For more information, see www.plato-philosophy.org/philosophy-for-children-and-youth/?program=zoom-philosophy-classes
Private i History Detectives, from the folks at iCivics (founded by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor), encourages elementary school students to develop critical thinking skills while solving history "mysteries": www.icivics.org/products/privatei
Electric vehicles are dependent on a variety of minerals. This article from The Wall Street Journal includes maps that show where cobalt and manganese, as well as lithium and nickel, are mined and refined: www.wsj.com/articles/electric-vehicles-scarce-parts-supply-chain-11668206037
Yesterday, the world population hit 8 billion according to United Nations estimates. Globally, the population is expected to climb to about 10.4 billion around the turn of the century and then taper off. But these new 2.4 billion people will not be evenly distributed around the planet. This article highlights where there are expected to be concentrated population booms, where the population is expected to decline, where the population is aging rapidly, and what it all means: www.washingtonpost.com/world/interactive/2022/world-population-8-billion/
If you've been hiking at or above the tree line in the Sierra Nevadas, Pacific Northwest, or northern Rocky Mountains, you have probably passed a whitebark pine tree; these are often the highest-elevation pine tree found in these areas. But the whitebark pine is being decimated by a nonnative fungus and a native beetle that is benefiting from warming temperatures, contributing to the tree's current consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act. This article from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology discusses the biogeographic interplay between the whitebark pine and Clark's nutcracker, a bird that both depends on the whitebark pine and is critical for the dissemination of whitebark pine seeds: www.allaboutbirds.org/news/can-the-clarks-nutcracker-help-its-bff-the-whitebark-pine-recover-from-disaster
Where are people most likely to be feeling the crypto meltdown? This geo-graphic from Statista looks at cryptocurrency use in a sampling of countries and finds widespread and growing acceptance of cryptocurrencies in India, Brazil, and South Africa: www.statista.com/chart/27070/cryptocurrency-use-selected-countries-over-time/
The current issue of Philosophy Now (UK) is on the relationship between philosophy and God, from the perspective of both humanists and theists, and includes this thought-provoking essay on the rationality of believing in a god who may not share your values:
"While ‘faith’ is commonly defined by atheists as ‘belief without evidence’, in practice, someone having faith in someone or something implies more than mere intellectual assent, either with or without evidence. Few Christians, Muslims, or Jews would claim to ‘have faith in’ Satan, despite many believing that something called Satan exists. So ‘having faith (in)’ suggests an endorsement of and commitment to a person, idea, or institution. Similarly, the act of ‘trusting’ goes beyond simple affirmation of existence. The entrustor chooses to live as if the entrusted will not betray them. For the theist, ‘faith’ and ‘trust’ are virtual synonyms. ... Having faith in an untrustworthy person or thing is not so uncommon: people often choose to put their faith in romantic partners who repeatedly let them down. Nor is it unheard of for voters to have faith in politicians commonly acknowledged to be corrupt, even by them. However, in both cases, the morality and rationality of maintaining these faith positions are easily criticised. Religious faith, on the other hand, is often given a free pass. Critiquing the claims made by religions and objecting to portrayals of God are common; but questioning the rationality of having faith in an untrustworthy God even if that God turns out to be real is less common: 'My God might look like a monster – a violent bully who once demanded racial cleansing and who allows great suffering in the world; but if he or she is real, you had better follow him or her' – or so the argument goes. ... Setting aside the fact that many competing groups claim their God punishes those who are not loyal to their specific religion, a person who decides to follow one particular frightening and morally incomprehensible deity still has little reason to trust that this God would not deceive them about, for instance, their salvation. Why would a God, whose values and ambitions are so different from one’s own, be beyond deception? More generally, an untrustworthy God provides no basis for assuming any level of divine protection. Just as some theists believe life’s hardships could be blessings in disguise, seemingly good events (even salvation experiences) may in fact be part of an evil God’s plan to inflict meaningless suffering, by giving false hope. And thus the betrayer adds emotional manipulation to an already bad situation. Evaluating the behaviour and personality of others is essential for making reasonable decisions about whom to trust. So having faith in a violent, uncaring or dishonest deity while refusing to tolerate these characteristics in politicians, friends, or romantic partners, involves an unreasonable double standard. Of course, few people have faith in deities who they think lie to them or pointlessly punish them. Nevertheless, many trust in a God who could. When considering the reasonableness of particular faith commitments, we should not simply consider their scientific or logical feasibility: a strong correlation between one’s personal moral values and the divine’s is essential to having a rational theistic commitment."
The series of geo-graphics in this article from The New York Times show how international trade with Russia has changed since February: www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/10/30/business/economy/russia-trade-ukraine-war.html
Yes, climate change is making some natural disasters worse, but is it also becoming a tidy way of letting governments off the hook for bad planning? The recent floods in Pakistan are a case in point. An international team of researchers analyzed the flooding in Pakistan and found that rainfall in the southern provinces of Sindh and Balochistan was "about 75% more intense than it would have been had the climate not warmed by 1.2C." But the report also found "The devastating impacts were also driven by the proximity of human settlements, infrastructure (homes, buildings, bridges), and agricultural land to flood plains, inadequate infrastructure, limited ex-ante risk reduction capacity, an outdated river management system, underlying vulnerabilities driven by high poverty rates and socioeconomic factors (e.g. gender, age, income, and education), and ongoing political and economic instability." Although solving climate change will remain out of the purview of any single country, that does not mean governments do not need to address in-country zoning, infrastructure, economic and political issues to mitigate the impacts of climate change. www.worldweatherattribution.org/climate-change-likely-increased-extreme-monsoon-rainfall-flooding-highly-vulnerable-communities-in-pakistan/
California, by itself, is on the verge of becoming the world's 4th biggest economy, expected to pass Germany when the state's new figures come out in 2023. The world's biggest national economies, by GDP, are the U.S., China, and Japan, followed by Germany and the U.K. www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2022-10-24/california-poised-to-overtake-germany-as-world-s-no-4-economy
Corporal punishment in schools is legal in the 19 states shown on this map (the darker the color, the higher the rate of corporal punishment, as reported to the Department of Education). Roughly 75% of all corporal punishment cases occur in four states: Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, and Arkansas, with Mississippi having both the most cases and the highest rate of corporal punishment. (Map from www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/10/14/states-teachers-paddle/.)
A pro-choice Mormon mother of six has a provocatively titled new book out that works to reframe the abortion debate as a men's issue: "'men cause all unwanted pregnancies,' [Gabrielle] Blair asserts. 'An unwanted pregnancy only happens if a man ejaculates irresponsibly—if he deposits his sperm in a vagina when he and his partner are not trying to conceive. It’s not asking a lot for men to avoid this.'" This article from Vogue highlights some of the arguments in Gabrielle Blair's Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion as well as an interview with the author: www.vogue.com/article/ejaculate-responsibly-gabrielle-blair-interview
This geo-graphic shows how COVID changed beer consumption in a sampling of countries, but it also points to significant differences in the cultural context of beer consumption: www.statista.com/chart/27875/drinking-beer-at-home-vs-out
Try this devilishly difficult U.S. geography quiz! On a blank U.S. map, click on where you think the state named is. If you're right, the game continues. If you're wrong, the game ends and you need to start over. (Hint: if you're able to get past about 35%, the going gets easier.) www.sporcle.com/games/mhershfield/us-states-no-outlines-minefield
This topological map from Visual Capitalist shows the number and percentage of each country's population deemed to be at high risk from once-in-a-century flooding, like the floods that inundated more than one-third of Pakistan earlier this fall, killing more than 1,700 people, destroying buildings and crops, and creating lasting crises in food security, education, and waterborne disease. www.visualcapitalist.com/countries-highest-flood-risk/
Cyprus has long been an offshore home for Russian assets. Now, Cyprus is becoming a home for Russians themselves. Because of its membership in the EU and its liberal visa and immigration policies, Cyprus is seeing a major influx of Russian tech workers, in particular. According to some who left Russia, entire IT industries, like game design, have left Russia since February, despite the Russian government's attempts to keep IT workers in the country with discounted mortgages and military deferrals. Russians are not the only ones arriving in Cyprus, though; at least 16,000 Ukrainians have also arrived in Cyprus since February, contributing to domestic political tensions in Cyprus, which is supporting EU sanctions on Russia despite its long reliance on Russian money and Russian tourism. www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/10/23/cyprus-russian-expat-tech-workers/
NASA instrumentation aboard the International Space Station has pinpointed more than 50 methane super-emitters since it was installed in July, including an oilfield in New Mexico, a waste-processing complex in Iran, and massive, previously unidentified plumes associated with oil and gas facilities in Turkmenistan. The instrumentation will be in service for a year and will be tracking airborne dust to help scientists model the potential for airborne dust in different parts of the world "to trap or deflect heat from the sun, thus contributing to warming or cooling of the planet." Identifying methane sources from space, including those in locations that would otherwise be difficult to monitor, was an unexpected side benefit. www.reuters.com/lifestyle/science/nasa-instrument-detects-dozens-methane-super-emitters-space-2022-10-26/
According to a New York Times analysis, more than 370 candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, governor, secretary of state, and attorney general -- the vast majority of Republicans running for those running seats -- have questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election. This topological map provides a look at where election denial has (and has not) come to dominate Republican political discourse. (Map from www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/10/13/us/politics/republican-candidates-2020-election-misinformation.html.)
Elon Musk bought Twitter, in part according to Musk, because of “its potential to be the platform for free speech.” Within hours of the conclusion of the deal, use of the n-word on Twitter jumped nearly 500%, an obvious challenge to moderation rules and Twitter's new limits, if any, on speech. This piece from Philosophy Now (UK) traces "free speech" from John Stuart Mill's On Liberty to the challenges posed by social media, including hate speech and anonymous postings: philosophynow.org/issues/151/Mill_Free_Speech_and_Social_Media
Explorer Classroom offers free webinars for K-8 students with National Geographic Explorers. Upcoming sessions focus on plants, on sustainability, and on ancient Egypt, including a live talk with an archaeologist based in Alexandria, Egypt. For more information or to register, see https://www.nationalgeographic.org/tickets/explorer-classroom/.
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