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World Social Science Report 2013: Focusing on Changing Global Environments

The latest Social Science Report from UNESCO, released on November 15th, highlights the changing global environment and the impact that environmental changes have on social, economic, and political issues. The report highlights the need for in-depth research on environmental changes from a social science perspective, pointing to three “defining attributes” of modern global issues that particularly require the attentions of social science researchers. These three attributes are “The inseparability of social and environmental systems and problems,” “A human condition without precedent,” and “Urgent and fundamental social transformation.” With the goal of creating a basis for social science research in the field of environmental change, and spurring increased interest in the area among the social science community, the report includes perspectives from 150 authors from a variety of disciplines.

Although social scientists have been studying global environmental change since the 1950s, the field is still mostly dominated by natural science research. Asserting that the complex issue of environmental change requires a cross-discipline approach, the authors of the World Social Science Report call for the integration of global change research from around the world into an international multi-disciplinary research campaign.* The argument is that “global change changes everything.” Humans rely on the natural resources that the Earth provides, and changes in the natural world present very real and pressing challenges for humanity, challenges which require a broad perspective that draws on wisdom from many different disciplines. The most effective way to understand and navigate major global issues like environmental change is through a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to research and development. Hopefully this report will be an effective motivator for members of the social science community to tackle the issues surrounding global environmental change and to reach out to other disciplines to form collaborative partnerships and launch new paths of research on the subject.

* One organization, Future Earth, is attempting this integration through an alliance of international organizations that will endeavor to find solutions to global change issues.

Want to learn more about global environmental change from a social science perspective? Here are some great sources on the topic!

World Social Science Report 2013 – Changing Global Environments – Executive Summary

Future Earth

News Sources on the Report

UN News Center

Reuters

Scholarly Articles

Bradatan, Cristina. (2013). Where do we go from here? Climate change as a human affair. International Sociology. 28, 496.

Ehrlich, Paul R.. (2011). Seeking environmental solutions in the social sciences. Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 67(5), 1-8.

Lahsen, Myanna. (2013). Climategate: the role of the social sciences. Climatic Change, 119(3-4), 547-558.
Moss, R. H., Edmonds, J. A., Hibbard, K. A., Manning, M. R., Rose, S. K., van Vuuren, D. P., & Wilbanks, T. J. (2010). The next generation of scenarios for climate change research and assessment. Nature, 463(7282), 747-756.

Books from UIUC Libraries

Almlund, Pernille., Jespersen, Per Homann, Riis, Søren. (Eds.) (2012). Rethinking climate change research: clean-technology, culture and communication. Farnham, Surrey, England ; Ashgate Pub. Co.

Driessen, P, P. J., Leroy, Pieter, Vierssen, Wilhelmus van. (Eds.) (2010). From climate change to social change :perspectives on science-policy interactions. Utrecht : International Books.

Harper, Charles L. (2012). Environment and society: human perspectives on environmental issues. Boston : Prentice Hall.

Hastrup, Kirsten.Olwig, Karen Fog. (Eds.) (2012). Climate change and human mobility: global challenges to the social sciences. Cambridge. England : Cambridge University Press.

O’Brien, Karen L., St. Clair, Asuncion Lera, Kristoffersen, Berit. (Eds.) (2010). Climate change, ethics and human security. New York : Cambridge University Press.

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NSA Leaks Bring Surveillance, Privacy, Digital Security to the Forefront

The recent public discovery of massive NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens as well as foreign citizens and even foreign leaders has opened up a conversation about human rights, the “surveillance industrial complex,” (Gates, 2012) and the implications of the new age of surveillance on international relations.  In late October, the news that the NSA had been monitoring the personal cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel since 2002 sent shockwaves through the international community and prompted many governments to demand new rules for international intelligence gathering.  But the latest leaks from NSA documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the U.S. is not the only government with large-scale surveillance programs.  Reuters reported on November 2nd that “[s]py agencies across Western Europe are working together on mass surveillance of Internet and phone traffic comparable to programmes run by their U.S. counterpart” (Shirbon, 2013).

Clearly, international political leaders have much to discuss about how digital security and surveillance will be governed in the future. A new study by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs concludes that the surveillance activities that have been undertaken by the NSA, GCHQ, and other European intelligence agencies violate several European Union laws. The study recommends that the full nature of these intelligence programs be exposed for analysis and asserts that “A ‘professional code for the transnational management of data’ within the EU should be set up, including guidelines on how this code would apply to EU partners” The study also argues that “[l]arge-scale EU surveillance programmes also compromise the security and fundamental human rights of citizens and residents in the Union, in particular those related to privacy and effective legal protection” (Bigo et al, 2013).  Undoubtedly, European and U.S. policymakers will be discussing and debating these surveillance activities in the months and years to come, and the stakes will only rise as technology advances and as more of our lives take place and become documented in the digital realm.

Want to learn more about this topic? The sources below will get your started!

Scholarly Articles

Bigo, Didier, Carrera, Sergio, Hernanz, Nicholas, Jeandesboz, Julien, Parkin,Joanna, Ragazzi, Francesco, and Scherrer,   Amandine. (2013). Mass Surveillance of Personal Data by EU Member States and its Compatibility with EU Law. (Report No. 61) Brussels : The Centre for European Policy Studies.

Ball, K.S and D. Murakami Wood. (2013). Editorial. Political Economies of Surveillance. Surveillance & Society 11(1/2): 1-3.

Richards, N. M. (2013). THE DANGERS OF SURVEILLANCE. Harvard Law Review, 126(7), 1934-1965.

Books from the UIUC Library

Assange, Julian., Appelbaum, Jacob, Müller-Maguhn, AndyZimmermann, Jérémi. (2012). Cypherpunks: freedom and the future of the internet. New York : OR Books.

Ball, K.S. and Snider, L. (eds). (2013). The Surveillance Industrial Complex: Towards a Political Economy of Surveillance. London, New York: Routledge.

Gates, K. 2012. The Globalization of Homeland Security, in K.S. Ball, D.H. Haggerty and D. Lyon (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies. London / New York: Routledge, 292-300.

Johnson, Emily M.Rodriguez, Michael J. (Eds.) (2012). Legalities of GPS and cell phone surveillance. New York : Novinka.

Luppicini, Rocci. (Eds.) (2013) Moral, ethical, and social dilemmas in the age of technology theories and practice. Hershey, Pa. : IGI Global.

Pimple, Kenneth D.. (Eds.) (2013). Emerging pervasive information and communication technologies (PICT) :ethical challenges, opportunities and safeguard. Dordrecht : Springer.

Rosen, David,Santesso, Aaron. (2013). The watchman in pieces: surveillance, literature, and liberal personhood. New Haven : Yale University Press.

Trottier, Daniel. (2012). Social media as surveillance: rethinking visibility in a converging world. Surrey,  England:  Ashgate.

News Coverage of NSA Leaks

Reuters

The Guardian

The Huffington Post

Al Jazeera

 

 

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New Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report: Debates and Implications

Climate change is an issue that, perhaps more than any other, exemplifies the complexity of intergovernmental cooperation and international policymaking. For decades, climate change has been debated and discussed in the forum of international politics, most notably since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was negotiated in 1992. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established in 1988, produces reports on the status of climate change based on the latest in peer-reviewed scientific literature on the topic. Since its inception, the IPCC has published four major reports on the status of climate change, each of which have been heavily relied upon by policymakers worldwide in creating environmental policy at the national and international levels.
This week, the IPCC released Working Group I of the Fifth Assessment Report (Working groups II, III, and the Final Synthesis Report will be released in 2014.) The report states that it is “extremely likely” that human activities have been a contributing factor to climate change in the last 60 years. This shows an increase in certainty of human involvement in climate change since the IPCC’s last report in 2007. The report provides projections of future climate change, with four scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions. It also provides a peak “target” level of greenhouse gas emissions, at which climate changes will become irreversible.
Since becoming a topic of international discussion, as well as grounds for national and international environmental policy, the science of climate change has often been mired in public skepticism. The IPCC itself came under attack by skeptics in 2009, when thousands of emails between IPCC scientists were leaked to the public. Critics claimed that the emails showed negligence and even deliberate tampering of climate data. While eight independent committees found no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct in the emails, public distrust of climate science remains an issue and influences environmental policy.
Nevertheless, international leaders are certain to draw upon the findings of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report in negotiating a new treaty to reduce emissions. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General, plans to assemble a panel of world leaders in 2014 to negotiate just such a treaty, and once again the world will watch as climate change becomes a forum for international debate and policymaking.

Official releases on the new study:

Summary of the UN Committee’s finding for policymakers
IPCC Press Release
IPCC “More Info” page about AR5

Press coverage of AR5:

New York Times
Reuters

Official government policies on climate change:

EU Summary of policy on climate change
EPA website on climate change

Selected Books at UIUC Library on Climate Change/Politics:

Boasson, Elin Lerum; Wettestad, Jørgen. (2013) EU Climate Policy: industry, policy interaction and external environment. Farnham, Surrey, England : Ashgate.

Kellow, Aynsley J.Boehmer-Christiansen, Sonja. (Eds.) (2010) The international politics of climate change. Cheltenham, UK : Edward Elgar.

Osofsky, Hari M.; McAllister, Lesley K. (2012) Climate change law and policy. New York : Wolters Kluwer.

Wang, Weiguang; Zheng, Guoguang; Pan, Jiahua. (Eds.) (2012) China’s climate change policies. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; Routledge.

Scholarly articles on politics of climate change:

Andonova, L. B., Betsill, M. M., & Bulkeley, H. (2009). Transnational Climate Governance. Global Environmental Politics, 9(2), 52-73.

Compston, H. (2010). The Politics of Climate Policy: Strategic Options for National Governments. Political Quarterly, 81(1), 107-115.

Davidson, S. (2010). Climategate hits the IPCC. Institute Of Public Affairs Review, 62(1), 26-28.

Ravindranath, N. H. (2010). IPCC: accomplishments, controversies and challenges. Current Science, 99(1), 26-35.

Zajko, M. (2011). The Shifting Politics of Climate Science. Society, 48(6), 457-461.

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Global Issues Surrounding the Syrian Civil War

The conflict in Syria has garnered the attention of the world since its inception in 2011, prompting the international community to address issues of terrorism, chemical weapons, and the growing humanitarian and refugee crisis arising from the struggle. In 2012, the United Nations, the League of Arab States, and the Foreign Ministers of the world’s leading powers agreed to the Geneva Plan, which sought to end the violence in Syria and facilitate a Democratic transition in the country. The plan, however, has thus far failed to be implemented and the conflict has only intensified, with tensions rising in the international community. Tensions have come to a high point in August and September of 2013 as UN weapons inspectors confirmed that chemical weapons were used in an attack near Damascus that killed more than 300 people. UN negotiations to craft a resolution to rid Syria of chemical weapons are the current focal point of disagreements between the United States and Russia. The framework of a deal to eliminate Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons was agreed upon by United States and Russian representatives in the UN on September 14th. However, negotiations are ongoing concerning the details of the deal and how it should be enforced, with the United States threatening the use of force if the chemical weapons are not given up.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis in Syria continues to escalate. The UN refugee agency estimates the number of refugees that have crossed the border since the conflict began in 2011 to be over 2 million, a number that is rising by 5,000 daily. The surge of displaced Syrians into Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq creates the immense challenge of providing the refugees with food, housing, and healthcare. Moreover, millions of Syrians remaining in the country are in need of humanitarian aid. UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos stated during an appeal for humanitarian aid in Syria that, “Ordinary women, men and children are bearing the brunt of this crisis” (UNOCA, 2013). Although humanitarian organizations have made an immense effort to help those in need, the escalating violence continues to place the Syrian people in danger.

Check out the video of the recent Teach-in on Syria, from the Center for Global Studies at UIUC.

Latest Books at UIUC Library on Syrian Conflict:
• Martini, Jeffrey; York, Erin; Young, William. (2013) Syria as an arena of strategic competition Santa Monica, CA: Rand Group.
• Pierret, Thomas. (2013). Religion and state in Syria :the Sunni Ulama from coup to revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
• Wieland, Carsten., Almquist, Adam., Nassif, Helena.Hinnebusch, Raymond. (2013) The Syrian uprising: dynamics of an insurgency. Fife, Scotland: University of St. Andrews Centre for Syrian Studies.

Major News Outlets on Syria:
The Guardian – Latest news from Syria

Al Jazeera – Syria’s War

CBS News In-depth coverage of Syria Crisis:

BBC News – Syria Conflict

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