Hope and New Species

"World Map" by xedos4 at freedigitalphotos.net
“World Map” by xedos4 at freedigitalphotos.net

I just attended an excellent conference on Global Studies pedagogy at St. Cloud State in Minnesota. One challenge that faculty in the field discussed is that that our courses can too quickly adopt a “global problems” approach. This encourages students to become overwhelmed by the scale of global issues, and to view the world as a problematic and dangerous place. This is unlikely to either lead them to want to dive deeper into Global Studies or to do Study Abroad. For this reason, it’s important to focus not only on issues but also solutions. When covering key global problems -such as environmental issues- I try to also include models, such as Curitiba’s urban planning, or Bogota’s amazing bus system. I also think that it’s good to not forget positive news, even when focusing on deforestation or ethnic conflict. Once students have a sense that there’s hope, they are more inclined to focus on environmental issues or conflict resolution.

So here’s some good news: the amazing discovery of a new species of crocodile in Africa, which is so different it’s not even in the same genus as true crocodilians. Like many such recent discoveries, it was hiding in plain sight. Equally remarkable, a breeding population of night parrots (sometimes called the world’s most mysterious bird) has been discovered in Australia. At first the idea was so shocking that people questioned whether John Young was telling the truth, even though he had a seventeen second video. One expert compared the discovery to finding Elvis. But DNA testing soon proved the truth of Young’s claims. After 15 years searching, he had found the bird, which had been seen only rarely in over 100 years.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

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