Apr 15

Cities, Size and China

As my colleagues in Urban Studies point out, when we speak of global issues we often focus on nation states, but some cities can be nearly as influential as states regarding trade, political stability or cultural impact. Nowhere is urbanization of greater importance than in contemporary China. A new webpage titled “The City-nator” at Chinaskinny allows you to type in the name of your city and see how many cities in China have a greater population. For example, when I entered my city of Portland, Oregon (there was no option for Portland, Maine, which was under the one million minimum) the website showed a list of 219 cities in China of greater size. These cities combined spend more than three trillion dollars are year on goods and services. According to this website, there are 223 cities in China that are larger than Vancouver, Canada.

But how accurate are these figures? In the case of Portland , the website said that the city’s total population is 2.34 million. In fact, the city’s population is 609,000, but the website’s figure probably would be accurate for the greater Portland area. So the numbers appear reasonable, based on a quick survey of a few U.S. cities, but you can explore the page further. As the webpage points out, there are 112 cities in China “with more people than New Zealand.”

Shawn Smallman

Permanent link to this article: http://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2017/04/cities-size-and-china/

Apr 07

Pandemics and Information

Colorized transmission electron micrograph of Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses. By Photo Credit: Cynthia Goldsmith Content Providers: CDC/ Courtesy of Cynthia Goldsmith; Jacqueline Katz; Sherif R. Zaki [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There have seldom been as many times over the last 100 years when the world has faced such a diversity of emerging infectious diseases. For this reason, I want to review some of the best websites and blogs for tracking pandemic threats. Michael Coston has a wonderful blog titled Avian Flu Diary, which tracks emerging infectious diseases, particularly avian influenza. I particularly recommend his March 13, 2017 post “Avian Flu’s Global Field Experiment.” In this post, he describes in detail the diversification and geographic expansion of avian influenza threats over the preceding six months. Although the blog post is written for the lay reader, its information is scientifically sound and based upon a deep knowledge of influenza.

For the dangers that we face, and what we need to do to face them, it’s worth reading two articles. The first is Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s, “The big one is coming, and it’s going to be a flu pandemic.” It’s also worth reading Crawford Kilian’s, “A War We Should All Support — But Probably Won’t,” in the Tyee.

If you are interested in tracking news related to influenza, you’ll also want to follow the Virology Down Under blog. Ian Mackay often provides the best numerical analysis available regarding outbreaks. The Bird flu report collects tweets regarding avian influenza by experts in the field. FluTrackers.com is not a visually engaging site, but it collects detailed information on avian influenza, which is organized by world region. Finally, for influenza the H5N1 blog is one of the best sources on the web. The page also has links to almost every other valuable website regarding influenza and global public health. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2017/04/pandemics/

Apr 01

Hope and Fear in the Amazon

Macaw in the Amazon, taken by Shawn Smallman

Macaw in the Amazon, taken by Shawn Smallman

In the 1980s the global media gave extensive coverage to deforestation in Amazonia. Over the last thirty years, there has been a significant decline in media attention to this topic, which partly reflects very real progress that Brazil and neighboring countries have made in slowing deforestation. Still, the problem remains. In 2014, Brazil decided not to sign a UN agreement to defend forests.

I’ve been teaching a course on Amazonian history for 20 years, and I’ve never found such a good classroom resource on the topic as this storyboard by the Council on Foreign Relations. The storyboard combines small amounts of text, with imagery and short videos to place the issue into historical context. Many of the pages are dynamic; that is, there is movement in the background. Some of the maps are excellent. I also particularly liked the successive aerial shots of forest in the Brazilian state of Rondonia over ten year increments.

One weakness is that the storyboard focuses only on Brazil. While Brazil is the country that on its own has the largest Amazonian territories, it would have been useful to have more information on Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela as well. I also personally believe that dams are perhaps the greatest environmental threat in the region, and would like to have seen more coverage of this issue in the storyboard. Still, for any class that addresses environmental issues, this would be a great link in a course shell.

Shawn Smallman, 2017

Permanent link to this article: http://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2017/04/amazonian-deforestation/

Mar 17

International Students avoiding US

International Students. By Vrenibean (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

One aspect of cultural globalization is the movement of students amongst countries. Over the last few years I have noticed a strong trend as more of my undergraduate students ask me for letters of recommendation to apply to graduate programs in Latin America, Europe, South Africa and New Zealand. In part, I believe that the rising relative cost of an education in the United States drives this trend. At the same time, just under a quarter of the students in our International and Global Studies department at Portland State University are international students. In my program, a discussion concerning migration will be shaped by the fact that there is often someone in the class who is either a refugee, or the child of refugees. This exchange is part of what makes higher education in the United States a cosmopolitan world.

I am very concerned that the travel ban and anti-immigrant rhetoric in the United States changes how our country is perceived as a place to study on a global level. If students are uncertain that they will be welcomed, why would they apply here instead of the University of Victoria in Canada or the University of Manchester in Britain? Sadly, we seem to be already seeing declining international enrollments at my institution, as this article by Stephanie Saul in the New York Times discusses.

Shawn Smallman, 2017

Permanent link to this article: http://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2017/03/international-students-avoiding-us/

Mar 15

Nanjing: the Burning City

Nanking bodies 1937. Originally by Moriyasu Murase, 村瀬守保 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

China’s relationship with Japan has been strained ever since World War Two by what it has perceived to be Japan’s failure to acknowledge and atone for its wartime crimes. Iris Chang wrote a wonderfully researched academic book on this topic, “the Rape of Nanking.” This is still perhaps the best scholarly study of this event, although it was published in 1997. I love, however, graphic novels. Earlier on this blog I discussed Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa, a cycle of graphic novels examining war-era Japan, which is a richly researched and moving account of this time. Recently I also came across Ethan Young’s Nanjing: the Burning City, published by Dark Horse Books. This beautiful and well-written book tells the story of the Rape of Nanjing through the eyes of one individual soldier. This work describes the pathos and chaos of a world in which individuals had to choose whom they could help, and difficult moral choices awaited people at every step. Be warned that this book deals with graphic and disturbing material, including sexual violence, as one would expect. When one finishes the book, one understands why the memory of this event continues to haunt Chinese-Japanese relations. The book also speaks to issues that are relevant to more recent conflicts, such as events in Syria. Strongly recommended.

Shawn Smallman, 2016

Permanent link to this article: http://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2017/03/nanjing-the-burning-city/

Mar 10

Global Warming and the Arctic

By U.S. State Department [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For those of us living in the Pacific Northwest of the United States or Canada, it’s hard to believe that this was an unusually warm year. We had one winter storm after another sweep through the region, and the same was true far north into British Columbia. Still, most of the United States this year was unusually warm. More seriously, much of the Arctic experienced record heat this year. Although they published their article in November 2016, I think it’s worth reading Chris Mooney and Jason Samenow’s work, “The North Pole is an insane 36 degrees warmer than normal as winter descends,” in the Washington Post. The temperature data, history of sea ice cover and map provide powerful evidence for the profound changes taking place in the Arctic now.

Prof. Smallman


Permanent link to this article: http://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2017/03/global-warming-and-the-arctic/

Mar 01

Digital Surveillance and Privacy

NORFOLK, Va. (Dec. 3, 2008) Sailors on the watch-floor of the Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command monitor, analyze, detect and defensively respond to unauthorized activity within U.S. Navy information systems and computer networks. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Corey Lewis/Released) via Wikimedia Commons.

I am currently teaching an online class on Digital Globalization, and we have just finished the section of the course that deals with surveillance and privacy. For a recent discussion question I asked students if they were more concerned about surveillance by the government or by corporations. Last year, my students were much more worried about how corporations tracked their activities. This year, however, many of my students say that they are not overly worried about both, but they are also ambivalent. After students say that they they think that they live relatively boring lives, so that the government would have no interest in their activities, they’ll often point to one event or issue that concerns them. What I realized after reading their posts was that I may have asked the wrong question. It’s not that students are worried about their online activities being tracked. Instead, they are much more concerned about the Internet of Things, and how a hacker might use the camera in their security system to observe them, or a device with a microphone to record their conversations. They worry less about who might be watching their internet searches, than the possibility that their devices might record their speech or images.

One of my students also shared an article on Bloomberg with me, “Microsoft Allowed to Sue U.S. Government Over E-mail Surveillance,” by Kartikay Mehrotra. At issue was whether Microsoft had the right to tell people when the government may have accessed their emails. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2017/03/digital-surveillance-and-privacy/

Feb 22

Murder and Mystery in Malaysia

I’ve always been interested in international mysteries, and I’ve covered many of them in this blog, such as the strange death of Natalio Alberto Nisman in Argentina; the authorship of the Stuxnet virus; the nature of Number Stations; the massacre in Coahuila; the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370Cicada 3301chronic kidney disease in Central America; lost nuclear weapons in Canada; the death of Walter Benjamin; the hijacking of the Arctic Sea; the Vela Incident; the lost island of Bermeja; the attack on a South African nuclear site; and the strange case of Witches Broom and bioterrorism in Brazil. This last blog post on Brazil received more attention than any other blog post on mystery, and certainly the most feedback from readers. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2017/02/murder-and-mystery-in-malaysia/

Feb 17

Cracking the North Korea Puzzle

I want to thank Dr. Mel Gurtov for the following guest post:

Donald Trump inherits an intractable problem in Asia: North Korea’s determination to modernize its weapons arsenal and, absent a better deal from the United States, continue working toward an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability. The North’s latest missile test—one with intermediate range of perhaps 2,000 miles—should be understood in the context of weapons modernization. According to the US Pentagon, the test represented progress for North Korea in several respects: it was a ground-based launch rather than a submarine launch; it used solid fuel technology; and it flew farther than other IRBM tests, the four most recent ones having all failed at launching.

Over the past year, North Korea has carried out over 25 ballistic missile tests and conducted its fifth nuclear-weapon test as well. All these tests are in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions that ban and condemn them. Each resolution has led to harsher sanctions, but sanctions have had little if any effect on Pyongyang’s behavior or rhetoric. Even China’s criticisms, which have grown more severe in recent years, have not moved North Korea to change course. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2017/02/cracking-the-north-korea-puzzle/

Feb 15

Love, hate and novels

When I talk about globalization in my introductory class, it’s common for my students to think immediately of economic globalization, rather than other aspects such as cultural globalization. Yet to be a global citizen entails making connections between our worlds and that of others, and one of the best forms to do this is through music, art and literature, which make an emotional tie to other cultures. I recommend this interview with Indonesian author Eka Kurniawan, in this article “The Profound Reason we should all Read Internationally, not Locally.”

Shawn Smallman, 2017

Permanent link to this article: http://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2017/02/international-literature/

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