Log for Global Stuff

This log continues materials collected for the Spring 2003 Global Stewardship Institute and logged under /nigh/log.html. Materials that have to do with GIS accumulate under /gis/log.html. A lot of stuff crosses my path that needs to be tucked away where it can be found again.
27 June 2003
A rant by John Leonard from the world-systems listserv I've been following, a nice piece of stimulus material with which I'm in substantial agreement a lot of the time:
At 14:41 26.6.03 +0800, btws549 wrote:
>One question about all the alleged cowardly behaviours of the Congress and 
>the Media in the states, since the US is the democracy it is, why can't 
>they speak up? Is it because of nationalism, or is it because all the 
>financial strings and political powers are vested in this Presidency?

it comes naturally. consider that the entire history of America, how it has expanded, is by provoking conflict with weaker peoples. America is built on two pillars - ethnic cleansing on the right hand and hypocrisy on the left. As for nationalism, they drill the "pledge of allegiance to the flag" into their 3-year olds. Any other countries do that?

Partly due to their geographic isolation, Americans are tribalistic, meaning they subconciously define themselves as the human race - while overtly believing they are the "nice guys" who support the rest of the world by foreign aid (LOL) and exporting their "civilization." it's a very dangerous mixture of blind self-righteousness and great power.

add corporatism, deep-seated in their psychology and media, and you have a perfect basis for fascism, militarism, and imperialism, as long as the regime bears the colors and trappings of "freedom" (LOL) and "democracy."

America Inc. knows how to package fascism. dissent is allowed on the fringes, giving parochial cretins cause to crow against critics, "you couldn't get away with that kind of freedom of speech anywhere else." Ergo, it's ok to bomb the hell out of the rest of the world to liberate it.

these monolingual stay-at-homes haven't a clue that most of the world has more functional freedom of speech than they do. example: corporatized american businessmen are allowed to discuss only 3 topics at lunch: work, sports and weather. At a French business lunch one can and does talk about anything: religion, politics, culture. america's slavery is outwardly voluntary conformism, invisible, not politically mandated. speech is as standardized as the products. a table of yankee tourists overheard in a cafe in europe. what were they talking about, the sights and history surrounding the glass bubble of their macdonalds? no. the great theme (yawn) was the marketing battles of pepsi and coke. like little kids reciting commercial jingles, corporatism is so deep in their heads that this was the only topic they came up with. with hobbled brains, who needs chains.

since americans operate their cage themselves, they can pretend it's not a cage. that much more difficult to try to get them out.

>Nationalism is quite a hard argument to subsantiate, as the corporatist 
>culture with the migrant society in the US would make it difficult to 
>really develop such strong nationalist characteristics. Political power in 
>the Executive can, in theory, be curbed by the Congress, despite its 
>limitations. But what we're seeing are the most outright violations ever 
>known, at least to me, by any American administration, and the Congress is 
>so helpless about it! Vested interests in going along the lines of the 
>administration? Or just plain cowardice in challenging a wartime President?
>Main question is, are they really cowed in because of these, or are there 
>any other reasons? I find it hard to understand their behaviour.
Another bit that is in this save-it-for-clarity category, from a post by Shelton Gunaratne:
A.Gunder Frank's project to RE-ORIENT modern history by looking at the far-from-equilibrium world system as a dissipative structure that draws in energy and matter (capital?) from the environment and disposes of entropy (waste products) into the periphery.

Found an interesting WAIS Forum on Global Issues at Stanford, while looking for stuff on music and globalization. Posting on music and Islam, for example.

1 July
ArcGlobe for ArcGIS 9

The ArcGIS 3D Analyst extension at ArcGIS 9 will include a number of improvements for 3D GIS and add the capability to visualize multiscale global data in 3D using a new application, ArcGlobe. ArcGlobe allows users to view and analyze very large amounts of GIS data seamlessly and with extremely fast display speeds. Featuring an advanced indexing mechanism, ArcGlobe allows the user to pan and zoom with no perceivable hesitation on many gigabytes of data at once.

2 July
It's pieces like this that challenge us to come up with coherent responses in "Global Issues". The bald assertions that 'Islamism' is the 'enemy', and that Pax Americana is the means to 'defend' the 'liberal international order'... these all need consideration. Do we just accept this version of the paradigm (because it seems to be the current winner, or because There Is No Alternative), or do we question its basics? In any case, this piece needs to be read along with The Pentagon's New Map: Toward a Global Cavalry Overseas Rebasing and Defense Transformation By Thomas Donnelly, Vance Serchuk (NATIONAL SECURITY OUTLOOK AEI Online (Washington) Publication Date: July 1, 2003)

Indeed, in this war, the center of strategic gravity, the schwerpunkt, cannot be found in any particular country. There is no capital of "Islamism," the anti-American, anti-modern political movement that is our enemy. Rather, this radically violent and nihilistic ideology is spawned across the Greater Middle East by authoritarian regimes that externalize their own domestic, political failures; it is sheltered in myriad failed or failing states, with porous borders, weak governments, and endemic corruption. Its operatives can even be found lurking in the collapsed corners of modern, prosperous nation-states--for instance, the Muslim-majority slums of Western Europe. To the extent a common thread runs through these far-flung places, it is their rejection of the liberal, global order; in the words of Thomas Barnett, a Defense Department analyst, "Disconnectedness defines danger."[1] But despite this distance, both physical and psychological, the enemy revealed on September 11 the ability to "project power" into the American homeland.

As the leader and guarantor of the current liberal international order, it falls to the United States to organize and sustain the defense of the Pax Americana against this threat, to inspire and institutionalize the tools of power needed for a large, diffuse, and potentially long struggle. This is the purpose of military transformation: not simply to contain the enemy--who is, in fact, quite weak, if dispersed--but to close with him, disrupt his plans, preempt his attacks, and destroy him.

3 July
Reading Richards, John F. The unending frontier : an environmental history of the early modern world (Berkeley : University of California Press, c2003) GF13 .R53 2003.

We desperately need a shared global identity that derives from knowledge and wisdom about a common human past... (xiii)

(identifies four historical processes, replicated in various places in the 1500-1800 period) (1) untensified human land use along settlement frontiers ['empty' lands, pioneering ecologies; declining biodiversity]; (2) biological invasions; (3) intensified commercial [for world markets] hunting [and fishing]; (4) energy and resource scarcities in core areas. Also notes the development and deployment of "large and efficient state and private organizations"

Another I need to look at sometime: Lewis, Martin W. The myth of continents : a critique of metageography Berkeley : University of California Press, c1997. G71.5 .L48 1997.

We need to deal [more] effectively with the disconnect between the model of the "liberal global order" alluded to above, which is tacitly accepted as reality (either in the context of TINA, or as a recognition of the Real World of the early 21st century) by many Americans, and the framework that says things like

The majority of people around the world are experiencing oppressive and destructive forces which manifest themselves in starvation, income polarization, joblessness, stress, violence..." (Köhler and Chaves 2003, xi -- that's Globalization : critical perspectives / Gernot Köhler and Emilio José Chaves (editors) Huntington, N.Y. : Nova Science Publishers, c2003. HF1359 .G586 2003)
The crux is surely capitalism, and especially (1) the inherent necessity for expansive growth and (2) economic definition of the Bottom Line in decision-making. Our students need to know that both versions of reality exist. They can perhaps both be TRUE, but then one has to ally with one side or the other, especially in the context of Stewardship. It's not a matter of debate, it seems to me: it's how one sees the world, what one chooses to look at and give space to. I have no doubt where my sentiments lie, but I'm not entirely comfortable with the consequent necessity to defend the 'progressive' version against the other.

The nation-state as a unit shares some of the same difficulties: yes, the units are real actors (and real entities for the collection of data), but in many areas what's really interesting is the supernational or subnational --the nation-states have standing because of political conventions and precedent... and because there are conventional measures like GNP and GDP that abstract the realities of economic activity.

...in a world controlled by transnationals, and by governments that are their tools, the tendency is to favor an increasing core-periphery exploitation, core-periphery distance, planetary concentration of wealth at the core side, and misery at the periphery side... the core is doing it in the name of market, efficiency, growth, freedom, humanitarianism and democracy. Call it market-techno-fascism, or 'neoliberal-democracy'...(Chaves 2003:341)

From a Globe and Mail story "Girls warned to cut back on meat, whole milk", a pointer to Dioxins and Dioxin-like Compounds in the Food Supply: Strategies to Decrease Exposure from the Institute of Medicine... the full text of the report is available online from NAP. There's lots of detail on origins and other important stuff.

28 July
On Incuriosity

from Adrienne Norwood:

This morning I found a quote that reminded me of our Global Stewardship class:

"I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way." Franklin P. Adams (1881 - 1960)

30 July
from John Burdett's Bangkok 8:

We are doing American Grim, a genre with which I am unfamiliar. There is an implication, apparently, that the sterner you make your mood the more likely you are to solve the problem. But what problem? It takes me quite a while to realize that behind the facade of Grim we are acting out a pantomime with which I am thoroughly familiar. The laws of bureaucracy are much like the laws of physics it seems, they are identical in every corner of the earth. I see it now: I am here in the ambassador's splendid office for the sake of form. There will be a minute recording the fact that the ambassador herself and her deputy personally interviewed Detective Jitpleecheep, following the alarming news of Warren's disappearance. Having satisfied themselves that no act of terrorism seemed to be implied, they had no choice but to allow the local police to investigate in their own way... (306)
and another bit:
See, I'm a child of the sixties. A black man in those far-off days had to make a decision early on in life: sport, religion, jazz or crime..." (150-151)
and another:
There will be a massive shift of power from West to East in the middle of the twenty-first century, caused not by war or economics but by a subtle alteration of consciousness. The new age of biotechnology will require a highly developed intuition which operates outside of logic, and anyway the internal destruction of Western society will have reached such a pass that most of your resources will be concentrated on managing loonies. There will be TV news pictures of people fleeing from supermarkets and pressing their hands to their heads, unable to take the banality anymore. The peoples of Southeast Asia, who have never been poisoned by logical thought, will find themselves in the driver's seat. It will be like old times, if your time line stretches back a few thousand years. (153)

31 July
To not lose sight of:

Richards, John F
The unending frontier : an environmental history of the early modern world
Berkeley : University of California Press, c2003
GF13 .R53 2003
Also: In the 8 July PNAS are several articles on Sustainability that are worth spending time on --as much, I conclude, for what they don't say as for what they do. What's missing to my eye is any reference to (1) the Dark Side of capitalism [and its necessity for growth/expansion, driven by 'market' forces], and (2) the Imperial U.S. Still, these could be a very useful set of readings in GS, as part of defining whence we think Stewards ought to be heading.
Sustainability science: The emerging research program William C. Clark and Nancy M. Dickson

A similar articles search gets several others, NB especially the Kates/Parrish and Turner et al.