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ONLIN SPRING E 2012
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FROM THE EDITOR
KING HISTORIAN ON CIVIL RIGHTS SOCIAL MOBILITY FALTERING IN AMERICA
Dear Readers, Taylor Branch, UNC-Chapel Hill alum, Pulitzer-Prize winner, and civil rights activist, is awe inspiring. He believes that we are living in good times, if not necessarily ‘epical’ ones. He recognized that he was living during a time for action, and he capitalized on that realization by choosing to act during the Civil Rights Movement. Branch can write long books. Really long books. And if you think his 1,088 page book about the Civil Rights Movement, Parting the Waters, was long, you should have seen it before his editors told him to cut hundreds of pages. In this issue, we draw on his vast knowledge and incredible experiences to revisit the Civil Rights Era in the hopes of drawing some lessons from our past to help us face our future. Maybe we will be able to recognize when our moment of action is here, and choose, like Branch, to act as well. Happy reading! Chelsea Phipps Editor-in-Chief
FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES: A RISKY BUSINESS
3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 18 20 22 25
Mobilizing Beyond Gay Marriage Can Obama Win it Again? Future of Triangle Transit The Keystone Pipeline Politicizing Climate Change Suffering in Syria Development Through Sport The Atheist Temple Controversy Interview with Taylor Branch Decline in Mobility in America Failures of For-Profit Colleges A More Dangerous World? Visualizing Human Rights
On the Cover: “Waiting Around For a Change” by Kelsie Mitchell
chelsea phipps editor-in-chief sarah bufkin assistant editor carey hanlin creative director cari jeffries, tyler tran photo editor joseph biernacki, michael dickson, hayley fahey, molly hrudka, carey hanlin, akhil jariwala, audrey ann lavallee, ellen murray, rachel myrick, jennifer nowicki, wilson parker, libby rodenbough, luda shtessel, grace tatter, neha verma, kyle villemain, peter vogel, kelly yahner staff writers sally fry, cassie mcmillan, jasmine lamb, paige warmus production and design anne brenneman, michael dickson, molly hrudka, cari jeffries, carey hanlin, wilson hood, molly hrudka, grace tatter, kelly yahner copy editors gihani dissanayake, christyn gerber, sarah hoehn, hannah nemer, stefanie schwemlein, renee sullender, jennifer tran photographers rachel allen, cynthia betubiza, joseph biernacki, sarah brown, michael dickson, hayley fahey amy hazlehurst, wilson hood, sam hughes, akhil jariwala janna jung-irrgang, jennifer nowicki, wilson parker, grace phillips, sarah rutherford, ellen werner, akhil jariwala, neha verma, bloggers travis clayton social media director
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CAN OBAMA WIN AGAIN?
NORTH CAROLINA AND THE 2012 ELECTION
orth Carolina is not used to receiving much attention from presidential candidates. The state’s late primary and its position in the “solid South” have made for few competitive elections in the past several decades. With the notable -- and perhaps unfortunate -- exception of former senator John Edwards, the state has played a small role in US presidential elections. But that all changed in 2008, and the 2012 election looks to be just as extraordinary. When then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) carried the state by a margin of 0.3 percent, North Carolina’s swing to the left surprised many news organizations. In fact, of 17 prominent news organizations, only two correctly predicted the outcome of the state in the election, with most simply declaring it a toss-up. As close as the result in North Carolina was, however, the state was not a deciding factor in the 2008 election. President Obama won in a landslide; had North Carolina’s fifteen electoral votes gone to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the outcome would have been unaffected. In this election, however, trying to win North Carolina will be an important part of the president’s strategy. Recent changes in demographics and increased voter turnout among blacks and Hispanics mean that the state’s electorate is markedly more progressive than ever before. 4
Indeed, Public Policy Polling, a Durham-based polling organization, found that Obama is leading the field against every Republican candidate among North Carolina voters. Dean Debnam, the president of Public Policy Polling, said, “Barack Obama’s approval numbers in North Carolina are the best they’ve been in months … this will never be an easy state for Democrats at the presidential level, but he has a very good chance of repeating his surprise 2008 victory here.” The state’s importance to Obama’s chances of re-election is no secret, and neither is the motivation behind the favorable placement of UNC and NC State in his NCAA bracket. The choice of Charlotte as the location for the 2012 Democratic National Convention has been widely regarded as an attempt to court the favor of North Carolina voters. Additionally, North Carolina has seen a remarkable increase in the number of visits it receives from administration officials, including Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Sean Donovan’s recent visit to UNC. While no Republican candidate has clinched the nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney – who leads the Republican field in delegates for the convention – has received endorsements from several prominent North Carolina Republicans, including Sen. Richard Burr. In coming months, the Re-
publican presidential candidate is likely to also focus his efforts North Carolina. As the campaign kicks into high gear, North Carolina -- and perhaps even UNC -- is likely to be visited by prominent political figures from both parties. Such an outcome bodes well for political enthusiasts and poorly for those who hate watching attack ads in the middle of their favorite TV programs. •
President Obama speaks at West Wilkes High School, Miller’s Creek, NC, on his American Jobs Act tour.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
THE FUTURE OF
riangle Transit might offer a new alternative to buses for travel between Chapel Hill and Durham in the near future.. The proposal includes a 17-mile light rail corridor that would run from the UNC hospitals to downtown Durham--a segment of a larger plan to connect Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh and Cary by light rail within the next 10 to 15 years. According to the “Durham-Orange County Friends of Transit,” the U.S. census estimates that the Triangle area will grow from its current 1.5 million residents to 2.5 million by 2035. The group insists that new transit options are essential to support the growth. The Durham-Chapel Hill segment, which would cost approximately $1.4 billion, could be paid for in part by a proposed half-cent increase in sales taxes for Orange and Wake Counties. But according to Orange and Wake officials, voters might not see a proposal at the ballot box until late 2013. The Durham County Commission, on the other hand, voted this past November in favor of a half-cent tax on the condition that the tax would not be implemented until either Orange or Wake County did the same. “I’m glad, delighted that citizens realized the long-term needs we have in preparing for the next few decades in establishing transit [and] getting our transportation system a lot more up to speed with the growth we anticipate,” Durham County Commissioners Chairman Michael Page told The Herald Sun.
Looking to the future 2012
• Planning and engineering begins for: 1) Rail from Durham to Research Triangle Park to Raleigh 2) Rail from Downtown Durham to Chapel Hill
• Opening year of 37-mile rail connection between Research Triangle Park and Raleigh
• Opening year of 17-mile frequent rail connection from Durham to to Chapel Hill
Currently, two options for the DurhamChapel Hill segment are on the table. Option C1, favored by planners on the project, would cut through the Meadowmont community. Option C2, favored by many residents, would cut through the existing N.C. 54 corridor. Proponents of the C2 corridor say that the C1 option would compromise unspoiled natural area.
The option would, however, cost approximately $40 million less to build. While a third option running through the U.S. 15-501 corridor was proposed, Orange County Commissioners ultimately agreed to send both the C1 and C2 options forward for environmental research, the next step in the overall approval process. •
A PIPELINE INTO
WEIGHING THE PROS AND CONS OF THE KEYSTONE PIPELINE
to signaling to the world that the U.S. is ready to put a blowtorch to climate solutions. Athabascan tar sands constitute the world’s largest known oil reserves outside of Saudi Arabia. By 2020, Canadian tar sands oil will emit twice as many greenhouse gases as the entirety of Canada’s automobile fleet. Images of the Athabascan tar sands operation look like nuclear bomb test sites. Oil companies portend to destroy 150,000 square kilometers of Canadian boreal forest and the ecological services they provide. Many supporters have tried to use the faltering economy as a counter-point. But overall, the argument that the pipeline will bring jobs to a faltering economy is inflated. According to TransCanada, the project would bring 20,000 job-years (one job, one year) to the US economy, which includes 7,000 supply chain jobs — far too few jobs to change the unemployment rate for an economy with more than 12 million workers. safe because it crosses the Ogallala aquifer — a groundwater reserve beneath the Southwest that is tapped for farming and drinking water— is misleading. The Keystone XL pipeline would be one of dozens of pipelines that already cross the Ogallala, including the original Keystone pipeline. Although TransCanada’s jobs proposal is weak, perhaps it cannot be dismissed. Keystone XL is a shovel-ready project that would provide 5,000 to 6,000 jobs within the month, according to the State Department. These are not lifetime jobs, but they would be a lifeline to unemployed Americans seeking help until a permanent job came along. Finally, Obama should have approved the Keystone XL pipeline because he is an environmentalist. Should rejection of the pipeline become permanent and the U.S. fail to become serious about oil demand, there are but two frightening outcomes: 1) Best Case: Tar sands oil still makes it to the U.S. through the Enbridge Pipeline that doesn’t need Obama’s approval because it already crosses the U.S.-Canada border. 2) Worst Case: Tar sands oil makes it to China instead, through a much more carbon-intensive shipping process, while the U.S. is forced to quench its demand with more Middle Eastern oil. Obama should be lauded for his record of putting good policy before politics. But this time, maybe he should get on board before the oil leaves the harbor. •
pponents of an almost 2,000-mile oil pipeline participated in the largest-ever environmental demonstration outside the White House last November, forming a human chain that encircled the building’s gates. The much-protested Keystone XL pipeline is a $7 billion, 1,700-mile extension of the Keystone 1 pipeline that would bring 700,000 barrels a day of oil locked up in the sands of West Canada — called “tar sands oil” — to Texas’s gulf refineries. The protests were organized when the Obama administration seemed poise to approve the pipeline. But more than three months later, Obama rejected Why the pipeline should have been TransCanada’s permit application. passed: So was Obama’s rejection of the pipeUnless we get serious about curbing line good policy or good politics? demand, rejecting the pipeline won’t solve anything. Oil prices will continue The Case Against the Pipeline: to rise, and tar sands will continue to be Ethics is the biggest argument for re- mined. From an environmental safety jecting the pipeline. Tapping into the tar standpoint, the Keystone Pipeline represands is a carbon bomb. NASA scientist sents business as usual. Emissions per James Hansen went so far as to call it unit are actually only 17 percent higher “game over” for the climate. than normal Saudi crude oil. Endorsing Canadian tar sands is akin The argument that the pipeline is not 6 Spring2012
GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE:
TEACHING THE CONTROVERSY WHERE NONE EXISTS
n school districts across America, teachers are increasingly pushed to frame global climate change as a controversial issue, implying that its legitimacy is debatable. Global climate change is thus being added to a list of topics, including the origins of life and evolution, that are to be taught as problematic even though there are no opposing scientific viewpoints. State school boards in Texas, Louisiana and South Dakota have already introduced rules requiring that climate change denial be taught as a valid scientific position. According to South Dakota’s state school board’s resolution, “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, but rather a highly beneficial ingredient for all plant life.” What these states do not seem to realize is that these are science classes. Politically, global climate change is an inflammatory issue, but scientifically, there is no controversy. Perhaps “teaching the controversy” is appropriate for social science classes, but the politics of the issue ought to be kept separate from science. Where is the controversy? Global climate change is a fact accepted by the federal government and practically every professional scientific organization. All mainstream scientists agree emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, are altering the average temperature of the planet and will continue to do so. In the scientific field, ideas are based on evidence, and there is ample evidence for global climate change. Climate models, observations of changes in average temperature and isotopes that trace the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
Students in the Philippines attend a climate change orientation class.
back to fossil fuels provide concrete evidence that the earth as a whole is getting warmer, and that human activities are a contributing factor. Debate exists, but not on the existence of climate change. It’s true that there is disagreement within the scientific community regarding how quickly these temperature changes are occurring and to what extent they will continue. There is also debate about the role humans play in creating global climate change. But the fact remains that most scientists agree that human activities are the main cause of the phenomenon. It does not make sense for science classes to portray it as a controversial idea. In fact, the effects of global climate change have already been seen. This past decade was the hottest since the 1880s. Wildlife has also been affected by the increasing temperatures — because of the
need to swim further to reach melting ice floes, the polar bear is nearing extinction. Additionally, there has been a rise in severe weather. For example, according to a 2005 paper in Science magazine, the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes has increased 80 percent over the past 30 years. Global warming also is detrimental to human health — increased pollution has been proven to agitate asthma and allergies, and the higher temperatures allow mosquitoes carrying fatal diseases to travel farther distances. In order to protect our environment and ourselves, the concept of global climate change must not only be accepted, but the human contributions to global warming must be recognized and reduced. A new generation of those who deny climate change is not what the world needs right now – we cannot afford to “teach the controversy” where no scientific controversy exists. • FEBRUARY2012
PHOTO FROM TREES FOR THE FUTURE
A HOUSE DIVIDED
HOW THE MEDIA IS IGNORING SYRIA’S COMPLEXITY
AUDREY ANN LAVALLEE
ivil War. “The Christians to Beirut and the Alawites to the tombs” chanted protesters in Homs during a protest last December. The Alawites are a Shi’a Muslim sect and minority group in Syria, of which the current Syrian rulers are members. Three months later, the mainstream media still shies away from calling the Syrian Revolution a civil war. Instead, they use reductionist statements and write that Syria “might” be “sliding” or “descending” into civil war. The sectarian slogan chanted by Syrians in the streets of Homs does not seem to fit the U.S. and its allies’ narrative of the situation in Syria. In their portrayal of the conflict, protesters unanimously want the West to intervene. But this is a highly inaccurate view which continues to decrease the chances of a peaceful resolution. Framing an Intervention Until now, U.S. diplomats, including UN ambassador Susan Rice, have depicted the Syrian conflict as a brutal government crackdown on peaceful protesters. Every day, readers of mainstream media are bombarded with new data from activists inside Syria and expert organizations releasing “official numbers” of appalling death tolls. No one can argue against the veracity of the footage of besieged cities where 8
civilians are killed mercilessly. But since journalists cannot officially enter Syria, no one has exact numbers. The inaccurate data on where and how deaths took place can easily be used to polarize Syrian citizens. There is a joke in Syria that says that 50 percent of the population are spies for the Syrian regime. What happens when the deaths of civilians siding with the “craving tyrant” is added to the pile of “peaceful protesters” and “martyrs?” But if the U.S. took the Syrian uprising for what it is —a complex situation in which there is a fragmented opposition and clear divides along religious and geographic lines — it could not cast itself as the savior of a united people demanding democracy. The West is not alone in its quest to present this distorted view of the conflict. The usually pro-Arab Al-Jazeera handled the situation in the same way as The New York Times. It covers unfolding events as if it controls the fate of a doomed dictatorship. A basic knowledge of the Middle East suffices to grasp the geo-strategic interests of the Sunni Gulf in weakening the influence of Shi’a states in the region. For one thing, the so-called Shi’a Crescent- a group of neighbor countries with populations of powerful Shi’ites such as Syria, Iran, Iraq and Lebanonideologically irritates the “orthodox”
Sunni Muslim majority. Most importantly, however, those countries are powerful economic partners to Russia and China, while the Sunni Gulf is an ally of the U.S. It remains highly doubtful that, if the U.S. and its allies manage to intervene in Syria, they will have the interests of the people in mind. One fear held by many, from ultra-leftist activists to pro-Assad supporters is that the U.S. will make the change of regime favorable to their interests, thereby alienating an important part of the population and encourage further violence. A Fragmented Reality It is no wonder that Syrian religious and ethnic minorities — which include Christians, Druze and Kurds, many of whom have remained supportive of President Assad — express fear over his abdication of power. As pointed out by Aisling Byrne from the Conflicts Forum, a Qatari-funded poll found out that 55 percent of Syrians did not want President Bashar al-Assad to resign. It remains unclear how the sampling was carried out, but this data attests to the presence of pro-Assad supporters in the country. In addition, neighboring countries with a majority or significant Shi’a populations like Lebanon, Iraq and Iran are not ready to impose sanctions on
a major economic and ideological partner. Beyond the religious bond that ties these countries together and differentiates them from their Sunni Gulf neighbors, these states have much in common. Iranians, Iraqis and Lebanese all bear the scars of long-lasting civil wars
Assad’s prophetic statement last year that if his regime fell, Syria would become like “a thousand Afghanistans.” He might have only been attempting to legitimize his stay in power, but the statement should be kept in mind as countries discuss intervention.
SYRIAN DIVERSITY Religions: Sunni Shi’a Christian Druzee 74% 12% 9% 3%
Iranians, Iraqis and Lebanese all bear the scars of long-lasting civil wars or revolutions, all directly or indirectly fueled by outside interventions.
or revolutions, all directly or indirectly fuelled by outside interventions. Those who don’t identify with regime change are particularly susceptible to the messages of the governmentowned media, which constantly speaks of the regime’s duty to protect the people from Sunni “terrorists”and Israeli conspiracy. Brace for Impact There is some truth to Bashar alBy presenting the Syrian uprising in a binary – the brutal regime against its peaceful protesters –the media dehumanize the uprising. It fails to acknowledge the beliefs of those who side with the regime. If the media wants to assume the regime will fall, it has to work to make sure that those who sided with the government during the uprising – mostly the minorities – are not sent to Beirut or to the tombs for the wrongdoings of their dictators. •
Ethnic Groups: Arabs Kurds Other 90% 9% 1%
PHOTO EDITED BY AUDREY ANN LAVALLEE
A SPORTING CHANCE
THE DEBATE OVER THE EFFICACY
OF DEVELOPMENT-THROUGH-SPORTS EFFORTS IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
ports have long been touted as a way to further many development objectives in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, the father of the modern Olympic games himself, Pierre de Coubertin, was a strong advocate for the promotion of Olympism in Africa. Since de Coubertin’s time, the idea of development through sports has evolved, with some of the world’s largest sports governing bodies and aid organizations joining the movement. FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, the UN and USAID, among others, have devoted time and money to advance development objectives along these lines. These organizations envision preventing conflict, promoting peace, fostering global interconnectedness, strengthening social development, empowering women, encouraging repatriation and preventing disease. But development through sports cannot be classified as simply “good” or “bad.” Instead, development efforts and successes lie on a continuum. On one end of the continuum are massive organizations like FIFA, which fund grandiose projects that aim to achieve an impossibly wide array of goals. While such intentions are honorable, positive outcomes are frequently not as prolific as originally intended. Because large organizations utilize a top-down approach that tends to gloss over cultural differences, a sig10 Spring2012
nificant disconnect emerges between the vague and often vacuous development goals set forth by such organizations and the actual implementation of these goals. Bureaucracy and corruption often plague such enterprises, as profit-driven individuals prevent the realization of imagined development goals. On the other end of the continuum lie local grassroots organizations that understand the need to focus on specific, small-scale, culturally-sensitive projects exercised as only one part of a multifaceted development program. There are hundreds of international and local aid organizations in sub-Saharan Africa that have found varying
2010, only four centers were under construction, and just four others had entered the planning stages. According to Dr. Andrew Guest, a professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Portland and the author of many articles on sports in Africa, the missing 12 centers are glaring representatives of FIFA’s emphasis on positive marketing images over substance and accountability. Even if “for 2010” is removed from the campaign slogan, it is still highly unlikely that the goal will be reached within the next few years. Recently, the United Nations has become an increasingly staunch believer in the power of sports to achieve development objectives, even creating an
While organizations like the UN may believe they are contributing positively to development, they may, in fact, be part of the problem.
degrees of success in achieving their goals. FIFA’s 20 Centres for 2010 was the official development campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup held in South Africa. According to the official website, the campaign is dedicated to leaving “a tangible social legacy for Africa” by creating “Football for Hope Centres” that will promote health care, education and sport in 20 disadvantaged communities across Africa. This is an admirable goal but one that is far from being reached. By July office devoted to the cause: the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace. On the International Platform on Sport and Development website, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke, justified her office’s existence by stressing the efficacious nature of sports in development work. “Sport has a crucial role to play in the efforts of the United Nations to improve the lives of people around
Ugandan children play soccer in a community soccer game where dozens of spectators came to watch from the local village outside of Masaka in July 2010.
the world,” Lemke said. “Sport builds bridges between individuals and across communities, providing a fertile ground for sowing the seeds of development and peace.” While the UNOSDP’s website outlines several development challenges, strategies and projected outcomes, there is little-to-no evidence of actual results. According to Wendy Harcourt, the Senior Programme Director and Editor of Development at the Society for International Development, the UN is following a top-down approach rather than a more specified approach that utilizes local resources in its effort to achieve the eight MDGs. Instead of focusing on development efforts, she claims, the UN has become embroiled in politics, losing sight of its original development objectives. While organizations like the UN may believe they are contributing positively to development, they may, in fact, be part of the problem. When development-through-sports programs are conducted on a small scale with realistic expectations, they have the po-
tential to be successful. The Education For All Youth Challenge Grant Program in Uganda, funded by USAID, produced a paper outlining the lessons learned from a small-scale developmentthrough-sports effort in two regions of northern, post-conflict Uganda: Lira and Kumi. The project partnered with The Kids League, a local NGO that works “towards a world where all young people have the opportunity to improve their lives through access to sports and recreation.” The paper outlines several key aspects in implementing a successful development-through-sports program. It recognizes that monitoring and evaluation efforts conducted by external parties creates a loss of valuable opportunity. Instead, the organization believes local community members should conduct these efforts. It also understands that roles within the project and realistic goals should be clearly stated at the start. Finally, the organization understands that “different settings require different
approaches. Although a uniform framework is recommended, implementers should be flexible and anticipate characteristics and challenges unique to each situation.” The Education For All Youth Challenge Grant Program in Uganda is a glowing example of how development through sports, when conducted properly, can be an effective method of achieving community development. While goals such as education, healthy living, peace building, empowerment and personal development all seem rather vague and far-reaching, they can be achieved with development-through-sports programs. Yet given that the tactics and successes of development agencies lie on a continuum, not all programs are capable of achieving positive results. While the intentions of organizations such as the UN, FIFA and the IOC are admirable, their project outcomes are frequently not highly regarded and sometimes may even do more harm than good. Development-through-sports programs, like any development programs, must be carefully implemented. Local, smaller-scale organizations have enjoyed the most success when implementing these types of programs. This is due to the fact that they understand the need to set realistic project goals and the steps required to achieve positive outcomes. These organizations avoid the disconnect that ensnares those organizations working on larger development efforts; they do not get tied down in image and publicity. Because they are local, these organizations understand their community’s perception of sports and how best to motivate the population. Using this knowledge they are able to attain goals that all development-throughsports programs aspire to achieve in sub-Saharan Africa. •
PHOTO BY CHELSEA PHIPPS
PHOTO FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS Alain de Botton was the first to propose an atheist temple.
RELIGION + SECULARISM
The Divisive Nature of the Atheist Temple
hilosopher and author Alain de Botton wants to bring religion to atheists. Don’t let that confuse you — this is not the same thing as bringing atheists to religion. In his 2012 book, Religion for Atheists, de Botton suggests that people should not abandon the entire institution of religion just because they happen to not believe in any of it. He thinks atheists can still benefit from the particular worldviews and communal bonds associated with religious practice. Now he is trying to convert that hypothesis into a reality, although his methods are turning out to be quite controversial. De Botton has plans to build a “temple for atheists” in London, and he is calling for similar buildings to be constructed throughout Britain. The 46-meter-tall black tower will be dedicated to the idea of perspective rather than to any specific god or gods. It will function as the atheist version of a church or cathedral. “Why should religious people have the most beautiful buildings in the land?” he said. Some say that atheists could only benefit from the charitable community 12
that religion can create. Still, not everyone thinks the temple is a good idea. Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins criticized the construction plan, saying that the money required to build the temple could be much better spent. “If you are going to spend money on atheism, you could improve secular education and build non-religious schools which teach rational, skeptical critical thinking,” Dawkins said in an interview with The Christian Post. Dawkins has a point. But, beyond simply stating that “atheists don’t need temples,” he has not addressed de Botton’s underlying concerns.Whether or not the temple would be a literally tremendous waste of money, it might be worthwhile to consider what de Botton is trying to do. De Botton has said, “Religion puts you with people who have nothing in common except that you’re human.” It unites disparate individuals with communal bonds through a shared belief or ideal. Religion is also known for promoting service and outreach. Religious groups often send members of their community out into the world to bring aid to those in need, fostering
a sense of greater social unity in the world. If the money that was to be put towards the temple was used to fund regular atheist “mission work” of this nature, de Botton’s detractors would be harder pressed to find fault with it. This would provide the atheists involved with the kind of religious experience de Botton advocates, and it would put the money to good use in the world. These two results aren’t completely distinct either. The community resulting from religious experience can be a powerfully positive force in the world long after a funded service trip has finished. Religion, as an institution that fosters communal unity, can be used as a powerful tool for collective action. It’s debatable whether or not atheists need or desire this quasi-religious community, but de Botton at least believes such a gap exists. But at its core, this controversy stems from practical considerations of what religion should signify for both individuals in their daily lives and communities in their mutual responsibilities. •
A conversation with Pulitzer-Prize winner Taylor Branch, UNC ‘68
democratic habits, but if you don’t
do inherit a lot of incredible
can’t breathe life into them.”
UNC visiting professor Taylor Branch answers a question asked during his book signing after being featured on a panel debating NCAA racism.
aylor Branch has talked late into the night with Robert Kennedy and Bill Clinton. He’s spent the day in jail for being on the “black side of town,” exposed the abuse of student athletes by the NCAA in the Atlantic Monthly— and, as if that wasn’t enough, he won a Pulitzer Prize for the first book in his trilogy on the Civil Rights Movement, Parting the Waters. This semester, Branch, a Morehead Scholar who graduated in 1968, is back at UNC to teach a class on the Civil Rights Movement with Professor James Leloudis. He sat down with Campus BluePrint Staff Writer Grace Tatter to talk about his adventures as a student and how students today can make the most of their own experiences. FEBRUARY2012
PHOTO BY GIHANI DISSANAYAKE
GT: How did being at UNC and growing up during up the classical Civil Rights Movement shape your perception of the world? Taylor: That really happened before I got here. I was in first grade during the Brown decision, and I graduated from high school during the Freedom Summer, and started high school during the Freedom Rides. So it kind of followed me all the way growing up, and it was scary. It changed the direction of my interests against my will, just by persistence. Everybody I knew was frightened of this issue but pretending they knew all about it and had it in hand —grownups, kids too. Gradually, I got more and more fascinated by the deep questions about how we could be intimate and yet strangers with the people right across town. Intimate in the sense that our rock and roll music - nobody that I knew would dream of courting their girlfriend to anything but black music in the late 1950s and early 60s - so we knew that there was something very primal and yet we were utterly estranged. All of these things eventually wore me down and I got interested in it. Really, what happened at Carolina: I was interested in politics, I was stunned by the power of the Civil Rights Movement. I wanted to know where it had come from, but by the time I got to Carolina it was giving way to Vietnam. And what that had in common, [was that] Vietnam was about freedom.... [and yet] it was a huge issue here — what are the roots of democracy, and how does it work? I always knew that what had changed the direction of my interests was the Civil Rights Movement, even during the Vietnam Era. And, quite frankly, I felt the white students who were activists over Vietnam did a sloppy job of copying the Civil Rights Movement. We assumed 14
that we were important and that we should get out there and raise hell, but I think we under-estimated how complex, how difficult and what an intellectual challenge the Civil Rights Movement had been. And for that reason I don’t think we had the same discipline they had. When I left Carolina, I went to graduate school. I got into the movement a little bit; in the summer of ‘69, after I’d left Carolina, I went back knowing that I’d been so influenced by the movement that it had made me drop my pre-med courses, take up history and go into graduate school. I worked for a summer registering voters in the South, and that was my only real kind of experience in the Civil Rights Movement, going to jail, being alone, in the middle of nowhere. And I wrote about it in my diary. Because I didn’t know anything else to do with this experience, by myself in this tiny, remote place where people were terrified of registering to vote, even in 1969. So I wrote a diary of it, and one of my professors sent it to a magazine in Washington that had just started, The Washington Monthly, and they started publishing excerpts from it. It was the only thing I had ever written not assigned by a teacher, and I was not writing it to be published. But it was the birth of my career as a writer, because when I finished graduate school, I didn’t know what to do, and the magazine that had published those diaries offered me a job. So I came through Carolina in part on a path moving toward a career grounded in history and politics and discovered writing by accident along the way. What are the lingering issues from the Civil Rights Movement that you see today? Well, the Civil Rights Movement is at
its base about the full promise of democracy; what Dr. King called, “equal souls and equal votes.” What is it that we have that make us, that should make us, relate together as equals in essence, not in attainments, but in essence, in the sense that our votes count the same? I don’t want to jump to my college sports issue, but I think that we do not see college athletes as equal participants. A lot of people think that’s a very odd, if not ridiculous, place to focus sympathy because college athletes are so glorified. But 99 percent of college athletes are anonymous people who give their bodies and wind up working in McDonalds. And we don’t really think about them very much. There are antidemocratic practices littering our society. What do you think that we can do better? I think that we can start by teaching American history better, civics better: what it means to be an American citizen, what is the promise of government, how did it develop? To me, the great imbalance is...to view properly in the light of history the Civil Rights Movement and the consequences for the women’s movement, the Gay Rights Movement, the Global Movement, [the] treatment of the disabled--these basic things [that aim] to recognize the equality of equal souls and equal votes...ought to make people think, realize the tremendous promise of democratic citizenship. Amazing miracles were made from that period, and instead I think most people are curdled against the promise of government, because we don’t want to think about the blessings that flow from that. You know, I always talk to Southern white men, saying if you’ve got a daughter, your daughter stands on the
Civil Rights Movement
full promise of
is at its base about the
democracy Dr. King “equal souls and equal votes.”
Taylor Branch, who has long been a Civil Rights advocate, came to talk at UNC this semester.
shoulders of that movement, because until the Civil Rights Movement got people thinking about equal souls and equal votes, your daughter was excluded from Chapel Hill. Their jobs were listed separately in the newspaper under “Help wanted, female.” Ninety percent of them were for secretaries, nurses and teachers, and the most common job in The New York Times for women was “Girl Friday.” And that’s only 40 years ago. The Civil Rights Movement improved the world, made the South rich and generated blessings all across the board for what the true promise of democracy is, and yet somehow, we’ve managed to convince a large portion of America that those things didn’t happen, or if they did, it wasn’t a product of that movement and we don’t need to think about them--that there is no promise of democracy, [and] basically that government just gets in the way and causes problems. And that’s because we don’t have our history straight. It allows cynicism to flourish. What do you think UNC’s role in promoting democracy could be? There ought to be more courses on democracy, [on] the democratic process as an intellectual challenge. See, when the country was founded, people thought that democracy was a profound intellectual, spiritual, psychological challenge, and the people of the Civil Rights Movement thought exactly that same thing. We tend to think democracy is as easy as slapping a flag on your shoulder, and saying you understand democracy, and you do it by osmosis. And we do inherit a lot of incredible democratic habits, but if you don’t understand them, you can’t breathe life into them. There ought to be more classes on democracy, on civics, on violence. FEBRUARY2012
PHOTO FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
PHOTO BY GIHANI DISSANAYAKE Taylor Branch offers greetings at the book signing.
There’s no topic more salient than violence, the role of violence in the world, in politics and [in] our culture and our families. We’re all around violence, and non-violence, and yet very few universities that I know of study them. Is violence synonymous with power or is it not? If it’s not, why do we condemn violence everywhere it appears, in a household between men and women, parents and children, out in the street, international affairs — everywhere, we condemn it, and yet we turn to it, and we also believe in it. That to me is the most intriguing intellectual conundrum in the world, and it’s not studied in universities. And what should students’ roles be? How can the engage with problems today? Find things they care about, debate them and take risks to find out if anybody else cares about them. By taking risk, I mean, make yourself uncomfortable a little to say, “Do you feel about this like I do?” Ask somebody that’s outside your normal circle. Because only if you take a risk like that, some sort of leap of faith, can you discover that ‘Wow, there is a commonality across that.’ That’s 16
a surprise.That’s what a movement is; that’s how a movement starts. You need to explore. But it all starts with studying and then finding things you care about. And I don’t care if it’s the embargo on Cuba or immigration policy or the environment, or — there are lots [of] areas in which sustainable self-government and building public trust are in danger in modern life. There are plenty of areas to look into. What do you think of the Occupy Movement? It’s an early movement; it’s a symptomatic movement of people recognizing and feeling that something fundamental is out of sorts. I don’t think it’s really coherent yet as to what it is or what the remedy is. I know I’ll get in a lot of trouble for this, but I don’t care: in some respects, it is like the Tea Party Movement. The really important part of the Tea Party Movement is that people on the other side of the political spectrum are saying there is something fundamentally outof-whack here... People just reaching out think of the Tea Party as the founding of what is good about America...but it hasn’t really developed a whole lot of
coherency beyond that; it’s basically just an anti-government movement. It hasn’t even faced the elementary fact that the [Boston] Tea Party was about revolting against the foreign government, not about building freedom here. And building the freedom here was the more significant and the more difficult task. I give the Tea Party credit for saying there’s something wrong, and we need to go back to basics, but I don’t think they’ve gone very far back in their basics. I think it’s just very selfish in the sense that it’s not trying to...figure out, “How do we relate to these very fundamental values and how do we promote them in a way that will build a movement? And the Occupy Movement is similar. I don’t think its really gelled. It seems like being a historian shapes the way you view current events. When you were doing the Clinton tapes, how was it different writing history as it happened than writing about the Civil Rights Movement, which was already in the past? I was still writing the King book when the president asked me, in strictest confidence, if I would consider helping him
“We tend to think democracy is as
easy as slapping a flag on your
shoulder, and saying you understand
make an oral history because he didn’t think he was going to preserve his phone conversations and he didn’t think the material for good history was being preserved. And I agreed to do it, with tremendous misgivings, not about the value of what he was doing but about what the proper role was for me. I knew him. I’m meeting late at night trying to get him to put on the record those things that were not already on the record--that is to say those things that are too sensitive to say--but I had to get him to trust me enough even to put them on the tape then. Then he turns around and asks me what I think we ought to do, and I have conflicting roles. What do you do if you’re trying to get the president to put this stuff down, but he’s also being president, talking about being president--he’s asking you for your advice, and if you give him your advice and make him mad, will he shut down the history project? It was an adventure. I was disappointed, and I’ll say as an author — you’re not supposed to say this as an author — that the book, regardless of its merits or demerits, presented itself as a record of what it was like to be president. [But because] Clinton was so politicized, it was inevitably reviewed as either a defense of Clinton or an attack on Clinton. A lot of his friends thought it was an attack because I included personal stuff. I’m trying to take readers into what it’s like to be president, and if the president’s daughter comes in and asks for advice on her homework, that is part of being president, because part of being president is that you’re still a father. He didn’t like the fact I had Chelsea and Hillary in there — Hillary coming in and saying she had just had a dream, and can I help her interpret it, and that sort of thing. He thought it was degrading. “She’s secretary of state now, and you’re putting in things like that about her coming in wearing cold cream?” [Clinton would say.] I told him that I though that was part of the realism, the whole point of this thing. What’s your favorite spot on campus? Unfortunately, I lived on South campus, so I can’t really say any of that’s my favorite. My memories are of the Coke machines being dropped out Ehringhaus, out of the window, so that’s not very romantic. To me, my favorite spot on campus is really [the path from] Franklin Street to the library. Whenever I walk those steps, I just think they’re perfect. Most of the restaurants are long-since closed. I heard the Rathskeller was about to be reopened, but then I heard
it was not about to be reopened. I would love to go there. I’ll never forget that’s where I was when — there was a hush in the Rathskeller, and the waiters went through and said that Martin Luther King was just shot in Memphis. A month later in May of ‘68, I left Chapel Hill for my draft physical and stopped in Indianapolis to work for the presidential campaign and spent the whole night with Bobby Kennedy. He ran in the [presidential] campaign and grabbed me at midnight in the airport and said, “Would you talk to me about why students like you came up here and worked for McCarthy?” because I had already been [working] for Jean McCarthy; he was an antiwar candidate. [Kennedy] had a huge entourage, and they opened up ...whatever the name of the breakfast joint was, and from 12 until almost dawn, until 5 o’clock in the morning, we argued. That’s May. Still a student at Chapel Hill. Going to take my draft physical. Graduated in June. He was shot exactly a month later. So our little meeting was halfway between King getting shot and him getting shot right when I graduated from Carolina. So ‘68 was an epochal year for good reason. You had a sense of having your teeth rattled. Everyone did. People knew these were historic times. Do you have a sense now of having your teeth rattled? I think now is a little bit more like the 1950s. I think there’s a sense of percolation and a sense that either ominous or good things can happen, depending on how people react. That people are groping around, trying to figure out how to organize themselves and where to assert themselves. No, I don’t think that this is, in spite of 9/11 even, I don’t think this an epochal time. We’re marking time, even, and we’re passive in our politics. • FEBRUARY2012
DISCONTENT IN THE MIDDLE CLASS:
MOBILITY IN AMERICA
top Feeling Sorry for the Middle Class! They’re Doing Just Fine.” So proclaims the headline of a column by Scott Winship that appeared in The New Republic on Feb. 7. Winship contends that a number of conventional statistical measures of economic stability—unemployment, for example—have overstated the plight of the American middle class. He reminds his readers that median household income has risen by as much as 35 to 55 percent in the last 30 years. Indeed, the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts finds that absolute economic mobility—the capacity of one generation to out-earn its forerunner—is alive and well in America. Most of us will earn more than our parents did. But the middle class might have grounds for discontent nonetheless. Economic contentment, after all, is about more than owning a refrigerator and an Xbox. It entails a sense of security—a legitimate faith that the next medical bill will not necessitate re-mortgaging your home. It’s the faith, also, that your financial inability to send your child to an elite university will not spell his or her doom. It has something 18
to do, therefore, with relative economic mobility, or the ease with which we are able to transcend our economic birthright. The fable of “making it in America” is predicated upon the assurance that we live in a classless society, at least relative to our European counterparts in their white gloves and peasant rags. We work our way to financial comfort with elbow grease, not upon coattails. That’s a trite summation, but it underlies a genuine conviction that persists among Americans: the International Social Survey Program found that we’re more optimistic than other countries surveyed about our chances of getting ahead and less inclined to believe that the government should help us along the way. As it turns out, our optimism may not be entirely well-founded. Reports over the past five or six years indicate not only that American society is indeed stratified, but also that class-traversing trajectories of the Henry Ford or Horatio Alger ilk are no longer viable aspirations for the average red-blooded American (if ever they were). Two 2006 studies, one by Swedish economist Markus Jantti and another
by Canadian economist Miles Corak, determined that sons’ earnings are more closely tied to fathers’ earnings in the U.S. than in Canada and much of Europe. According to Jantti’s findings, 42 percent of American men whose fathers were in the bottom fifth of the earning distribution will remain in the bottom fifth themselves. The country with the next-lowest mobility? Britain, at 30 percent. A September 2011 Pew EMP report suggests that we’re not only constrained by our parents’ earnings; we may now be condemned to fall behind them. According to the report, a third of Americans raised in the middle class— i.e., those between the 30th and 70th percentiles of the income distribution— fall out of the middle as adults. The report also concludes that one of the primary determinants of a middleclass individual’s downward mobility is a lack of higher education. This is particularly troubling in a political environment where college tuition hikes, like the one recently approved by the UNC system’s Board of Governors, have become widely accepted as inevitable. Since those raised in lower earning brackets are likely to stay there without
PHOTO FROM FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS A modern day portrait of the rags-to-riches Horatio Alger myth.
the aid of a college education, increasing education costs only fortify a cycle that is already deeply embedded in the American socioeconomic landscape. And the recession, which has eroded home ownership, especially among low-earning households, may intensify the trend. A separate EMP report from December 2011 details the positive correlation between housing wealth and college enrollment and graduation. The study asserts that “increasing home equity from zero to $35,000 among lowand middle-income families increased their college attendance rate by more than 210 percent.” Considering that housing is the primary source of wealth for low- and middle-income American households today and that families who experience gains in wealth are more likely to send their children to college, the correlation makes sense. But the implication is discomforting: diminished post-recession home ownership could foreseeably further immobilize the less-fortunate children in the U.S. Winship recognizes that being born poor in America puts one much further behind than being born poor in Canada or Denmark. But he chastises politi-
cians and media pundits for their efforts to “scare the middle class into thinking they are as bad off as the poor”—by his estimation, the middle class doesn’t need our sympathies, and, in directing attention toward the middle, we’re neglecting those at the very bottom. But one need not—and perhaps cannot—divorce the anxieties of the very poor from those of the vast “middle class” to recognize the devaluation of the American Dream. As the September EMP report conveys, being born into
der assumptions about opportunity in this country that may no longer be rooted in reality. This is not to say that the American middle class is suffering impoverishment or to make conclusive statements about the inherent value of economic mobility. It is only to question the notions upon which the American Dream is based—that ours is a classless society, that all Americans have equal prospects, that the American experiment has somehow triumphed over patri-
And as college tuition increases disproportionately to wealth, the means by which a member of the middle class may shore up his or her economic stability are vanishing.
the middle class does not ensure security. And as college tuition increases disproportionately to wealth, the means by which a member of the middle class may shore up his or her economic stability are vanishing. So while Winship may be entirely correct in challenging our statistical methods of evaluating wealth and economic viability, he may be missing a more meaningful point: we’re operating unmonial entitlements and handicaps. These notions are relevant not only to the very poor but to all who invest their lives and labor in a political and economic system that seems less and less inclined to return its dividends to them. •
PRIVATIZED HIGHER EDUCATION
REFORMING FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES IN THE UNITED STATES
KYLE VILLEMAIN In his latest State of the Union address, President Barack Obama “put colleges and universities on notice” and declared that the time has come for higher education reform. Yet the tough talk has not resulted in accordingly stringent regulations, especially with regards to for-profit colleges. The drive for reform began in 2010 when the Obama administration proposed restrictions on federal aid to for-profit colleges if the institutions did not meet certain criteria showing their students do, in fact, benefit from their degrees. For-profit colleges have long been plagued by high dropout rates, poor job placement rates and claims of deceptive bookkeeping and recruitment strategies. While these institutions serve less than 10 percent of the college population, they account for 25 percent of all student-loan defaults. Supporters of for-profit colleges, however, claim that the high dropout rates and loan default rates are not caused by the colleges themselves, but instead by the specific populations that they serve. For-profit colleges, such as University of Phoenix, ITT Technical Institute, and DeVry University, tend to enroll students with less money and less prior academic experience than their peer institutions. But a report by the Government Accountability Office, using data collected by Harvard economists, determined that even after controlling for student 20
risk factors, such as socioeconomic status, for-profit colleges were still significantly under-performing. For-profit colleges trailed other types of colleges in areas such as “employment outcomes, student satisfaction with academic offerings, debt levels and loan default rates.” REGULATING A LAGGING EDUCATION INDUSTRY In light of the GAO’s assessment, pressure has mounted for the government to regulate the $30 billion industry. The government has an especially large amount of leverage because it provides a large amount of financial aid to students attending for-profit colleges. According to The New York Times, some schools receive almost 90 percent of
into effect in 2015 instead of 2012. The high percentage of financial aid that is directed towards for-profit colleges is especially relevant when viewed in the context of the Obama administration’s larger drive to increase college access. The president has recently threatened to cut funding for traditional universities if they do not cut costs and become more efficient. If less financial aid flowed to for-profit colleges, then the pressure to cut funding for non-profit colleges would decrease. VETERANS AND THE FOR-PROFIT MODEL Critics of for-profit colleges believe the final standards do not adequately address the problem posed by the industry. A particularly political issue is the
While these institutions [for-profit colleges] serve less than 10 percent of the college population, they account for 25 percent of all student-loan defaults.
their revenue through federal aid. The Obama administration’s initial proposals would have levied penalties against roughly 16 percent of all for-profit colleges. The new standards are much weaker. After an estimated $16 million lobbying blitz by the for-profit college industry, the administration’s new proposal would affect an estimated five percent of all for-profit colleges and would go for-profit college industry’s treatment of military veterans. Online classes and accelerated degree programs have enticed many veterans to sign up for for-profit colleges. In addition to funding distributed through the G.I. Bill, the Department of Defense has given for-profit colleges more than $200 million in 2010 alone. The poor quality of the education offered at these institutions, however, has led the
PHOTO FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS The Pittsburgh campus of DeVry University, one of the for-profit colleges found to have been significantly under-performing.
DOD to join the chorus of voices advocating for reform of the system. Critics also point to the high salaries and lucrative stock options for for-profit college executives as evidence of the inherent flaws of the for-profit college system. While large bonuses are not a criminal act, they do not help endear the industry to its critics. High Compensation, Low Value An investigative report by the Huffington Post found that the highest paid for-profit college executives were compensated on average more than $6 million while the highest paid IvyLeague school employees were paid on average just over $1.5 million. The highest paid public school employees were compensated much less--an average of around $800,000. Given the many government reports, agencies and senators, such as U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) who led many of the hearings into the colleges which had advocated for reform, the success of the for-profit college industry’s lob-
bying effort took some critics by surprise. The Department of Education, however, maintains that its retreat was part of the natural process. The initial restrictions “would have unnecessarily eliminated many, many good schools along with the bad,” Justin Hamilton, a Department of Edu-
for two years after leaving government service. The success of lobbying efforts, such as the for-profit college industry’s recent drive, show that lobbyists still hold enormous sway in Washington power circles and are able to change legislation like the administration’s for-profit
While large bonuses are not a criminal act, they do not help endear the industry to its critics.
cation spokesman told The New York Times. The For-Profit-College Lobby But if the industry’s lobbyists were the primary reason the restrictions changed, then it represents a reality check for Obama’s pledge to marginalize the role of lobbyists in Washington. After taking office in 2009, the president banned gifts from lobbyists and enacted rules that, among other restrictions, barred former government employees from becoming lobbyists college regulations. Penn State Professor Donald Heller told The New York Times that the industry had succeeded. “This was the beachhead the colleges were going to defend, and they were somewhat successful in that they got the regulations weakened,” Heller said. “The Department of Education really bent to the lobbying push.” •
IS THE WORLD BECOMING A MORE DANGEROUS PLACE?
Despite progress on resolving traditional security issues, new threats of climate change, overpopulation and resource scarcity are emerging.
lthough public perception - which is heavily influenced by a sensationalized media - more likely considers the world to be a more dangerous place than ever before, research and statistics show quite a different conclusion. That conclusion is much more optimistic about the current level of global security thanks to the effects of democratic peace, nuclear deterrence, international institutions and the changing incentives involved with economic interdependence in the international economy. But unless innovative solutions are found to emerging problems, the future
state of global security might not continue to enjoy such progress. Despite past actual strides towards global peace, new interrelated factors such as climate change, overpopulation and resource scarcity are currently on track to be game-changers for international human security in the upcoming century. The world might be figuring out how to live more peacefully together within the nation-state paradigm, but new security issues linked to these latest factors threaten to make the world in the 21st century more dangerous than it has been in the past.
PHOTO FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Promising progress in global security Aside from these future threats, the current state of world affairs and international security is actually much less dangerous than the public perceives. Improved media and communications technology have made global conflict more visible, not more abundant. Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a dramatic decline in the numbers of both interstate and societal conflicts, falling in the early 2000s as much as 60 percent from their peak levels, according to the Center for Systematic Peace. A 2006 study from the International Studies Quarterly, “The Declining Risk of Death in Battle,” showed that battle deaths declined significantly after the Cold War. War deaths dropped from on average 100,000 per year in the 1990s to 55,000 per year in the first decade of this century. Civilian deaths have also dropped, in part because of a culture shift that has led to an increase in public outrage over civilian deaths and to increased humanitarian assistance for those in harm’s way. Democratic peace and nuclear deterrence have enabled a world order where most conflict is deterred or minimized. Both the development and expansion of international law and the burgeoning role of international organizations in global relations have played their part in managing conflict and promoting cooperation. Peace-keeping by the United Nations has become increasingly more effective, despite some past dramatic failures, and it has been shown to significantly reduce the likelihood of another outbreak of conflict after a cease-fire agreement. Economic interdependence, especially among world powers, discourages engaging in conflict. For example, China is possibly the U.S.’s closest contender
militarily, but a military conflict with the U.S. would hurt international trade and would bar China from recuperating the massive loans they have given and continue to give to the U.S. Disturbing new security threats emerge Despite this optimistic outlook on the traditional state of international relations, there are three specific impending threats to human security that, if not addressed effectively, could reverse the current global progress to peace: overpopulation, resource scarcity and climate change. Declining world food security is a consequence of all three of these factors. World wheat prices have risen 75 percent over the past year, disproportionately affecting the world’s poorest two billion who spend 50 to 70 percent of their income on food. Rapidly expanding populations and frequent weather disruptions, such as droughts and very high temperatures, contribute to these price hikes. According to Lester Brown in his Foreign Policy article, “The New Geopolitics of Food,” world food scarcity will shape global politics and lead to political revolutions and riots. Global consumption of both grains and the livestock that depend on grain will increase as the global population continues to rise; since 1970, the number of people on the planet has doubled itself, hitting seven billion on Oct. 31, 2011 and expected to hit nine billion by 2050. Climate change as a human security issue We are overusing our water, depleting our soil and creating deserts. And climate change is contributing to this geopolitical food crisis as well. According to Brown, for every one degree Celsius rise in temperature above the growing-season optimum, farmers can
expect a ten percent decline in their grain yields. We all know of the possible environmental consequences of global warming, but few are aware of the political ramifications. Stephan Faris argues in his The Atlantic article, “The Real Roots of Darfur,” that the violence in Darfur can actually be attributed to global warming, which caused a drought in the region. The drought led to major disruptions in the lives of the farmers and herders. Because fertile land was being ruined by both the encroaching desert and lack of rainfall, farmers began fencing off their lands to prevent further ruin from the migrating herders and their herds. This led to tension between the ethnically similar but divided based on occupation “Arab” herders and “African” farmers who had normally would amicably share land and access to wells. The tension transformed into conflict as clashes broke out including a campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Janjaweed fighters, according to Faris. Water is another expected and current source of conflict as growing human populations create increased demand for fresh water and climate changes makes water supplies uncertain. Competition for sources of water can and have been causes of interstate conflict. Water is sometimes used as a military tool by state actors or as a political tool by state and non-state actors—as a terrorist tactic, as a military target or as the cause of development disputes. Resource scarcity has historically been a cause of conflict, but is now starting to be greatly exacerbated by overpopulation, an unsustainable overuse of resources and a changing climate that affects access and availability of resources. Thomas Homer-Dixon’s 1994 research on environmental scarcity found that scarcity does lead to violent conflict and that the current conflicts are probFEBRUARY2012 23
On June 13, 2009, thousands of people in Melbourne, Australia rallied for action on climate change.
ably only early signs of what will be an upsurge in violence in the decades to come. According to Homer-Dixon, possible causes of violent conflict related to environmental change include greenhouse-induced climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, the degradation and loss of agricultural land, the degradation and removal of forests, the depletion and pollution of fresh water supplies and the depletion of fisheries. Scarcity issues heighten the pressure on institutions like the state, while simultaneously reducing their ability to meet those demands. Alongside unequal resource distribution and demographic factors caused by overpopulation, scarcity promises wide-spread and systemic problems. The violent conflict produced as a result tends to be persistent and diffuse and can lead to either fragmentation of states or authoritarian regimes. Overpopulation In addition to contributing to resource scarcity, overpopulation is also worrying in that it facilitates the spread of disease through overcrowding, a lack of 24
adequate sanitation and undue stress on public health systems. Infectious diseases are global problems now that technological advances make traveling to all corners of the planet much easier, and global problems require global responses. Somewhat discouragingly, Garrett Hardin argues in his 1968 article “The Tragedy of the Commons” that overpopulation is an intractable problem that cannot be resolved with a technical solution because he says that a finite world can, mathematically, only support a finite population. Hardin cites issues such as the protection of national parks, pollution leading to climate change and the freedom to reproduce as ideal examples of the tragedy of the commons. He discusses the obstacle of our inability to legislate temperance and suggests that the only solution is to recognize the necessity of relinquishing our freedom to breed. Reasons for Hope There is still hope for this century. The impending threats of overpopulation, resource scarcity and climate change that
have already begun to produce conflict are not signatures on a global death warrant. Instead, they are new challenges. Just as the human race has found ways to overcome many of the security issues that have threatened us before, we have the capacity to overcome these as well. Problems requiring collective action are not intractable, and the state of global affairs is never static. Many developing countries today have fertility rates below what a population must have to meet the replacement rate. Global development and advances in sexual and reproductive health and education could lead to a sharp decline in the global rate of population growth. Technology and innovation could overcome the traditional issues that arise from resource scarcity. It could also, along with global awareness and advocacy campaigns that lead to dramatic changes in lifestyles around the world, effect a reversal in the human-produced climate change. There’s hope that these seemingly intractable issues, might not be so intractable after all. •
PHOTO FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Visualizing Human Rights
isualizing Human Rights is a photo essay compiled from the winners of the Visual Voices: Human Rights Photo Contest hosted by Advocates for Human Rights (AHR) as a part of Human Rights Week. During this annual event, many UNC-Chapel Hill student organizations, including AHR, STAND, Campus Y, and UNC Amnesty International, come together to promote and educate about human rights issues both abroad and right here at home. Events included a Di-Phi debate on refugee rights, a presentation by STAND in the pit on the history of genocide, a presentation on human rights photography by David Johnson, founder of Silent Images, called “Seeing Poverty Through a New Lens,” a human rights dinner on food justice, and a Buckley Public Service Scholars’ skills training on ‘Translating Human Rights: Empowering Movements through Policy’ by the Roosevelt Institute. The week ended with a spoken word performance by multiple campus and community groups in “Speak Up: Spoken Word for Human Rights.” The week of events and the human rights photography contest were intended to inspire action and encourage social awareness about these issues. The winners of the photography contest were selected based on their photographic quality, poignancy, variety of content, and ability to capture a human rights issue visually.
st. Kelsie Mitchell, ‘15
“Waiting Around for a Change”
In a peaceful moment by a lake, a young girl fishes alongside her friend with disabilities. This photo promotes the idea of equality for persons with disabilities and insists they should not be ignored, but given access to the same rights as those who are able-bodied because they are capable of accomplishing the same things.
nd. Hannah Nemer, ‘14
A child in Uganda in 2011 has eyes lit up with excitement. The United Nations recognizes the significance of childhood through the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
rd. Matt Lee, ‘15
During a Global Water Brigades trip to Honduras, 11 N.C. high school students went to Honduras to implement a safe water system in a small community called Guaricayan. Many residents of Guaricayan did not have access to free flowing water from faucets, and some faucets went dry for days.
th. Christyn Gerber, ‘13
A young woman in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India performs body contortions on the street in the hopes of earning some small income. Her gender and lack of education make obtaining any other type of work very difficult.
Rachel Crawford, ‘12
“Untitled” A street boy in Uganda from The Street Child Project’s art camp shows off a piece of his artwork in 2009. The Street Child Project uses the arts to educate and rehabilitate Ugandan street children. Street children making art is a huge way for them to communicate to others their pain. Street children are at the bottom of society in many countries, often times unseen and voiceless.
Erica O’Brien, ‘13
“The Children’s Crusade” A child joins the protests against tuition increases in North Carolina universities on February 10, 2012. The sign he is holding calls for putting social welfare before war.
Seth Rose, ‘15
Taken on Main Street in Durham in 2010, a rare encounter occurs between two extremes: a homeless man scrounging for enough change to catch the bus and live another day, and a young professional with her whole life in front of her.
Erica O’Brien, ‘13
On Feb 10, 2012, students protest tuition increases in North Carolina universities. More than 100 students from across the state united to ensure that education, a right recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, remains accessible to all people.
Matt Lee, ‘15
“Save the Forest”
A child in the town of Guaricayan, Honduras learns about environmental conservation as one facet of ensuring clean, safe drinking water, a basic human right.
Cece Peters, ‘14
An eight year old boy in the small town of Santo Domingo de Guzman, El Salvador drinks water from a water fountain on one of the only paved roads. Not everyone has access to clean water and even in the isolated town, water is one of the most important commodity to an El Salvadorian family, among farmland, education and religion.
Rachel Myrick, ‘13
A Buddhist monk and a tourist interact in July 2011 in the courtyard of Tuol Sleng, the former prison of the Khmer Rouge during the Cambodian genocide.
Zoe Wolszen, ‘14
This woman has been chased out of her home, beaten nearly to death, almost put in jail, and constantly threatened and harassed, all by her husband, only because she wanted to send her children to school. She has fought every step of the way to gain access to people that can help her, and walked more than 50 miles to tell her story. This image is about the right to safety and security in your own home, but also the right to make your story known; the right to speak and be heard.
Kelly Bolick, ‘12
A young boy, in Egypt on the eve of the Arab Spring riots in January 2011, is exposed on a dangerous road in the rain.
Hannah Nemer, ‘14
Access to clear water is a basic human right, as it is a prerequisite to sustainable, healthy communities. This boy joins his community in filling jerrycans with clean water.
Radhika Ghodasara, ‘15
“Man’s Best Friend” In Guaricayan, a small town in Honduras, in 2011, a child who has lived in this this town with very limited access to clean water and sufficient food is seen sharing his snack with a stray dog.
Published with support from: Campus Progress, a division of the Center for American Progress. Campus Progress works to help young people — advocates, activists, journalists, artists — make their voices heard on issues that matter. Learn more at CampusProgress.org
This publication was funded at least in part by Student Fees which were appropriated and dispersed by the Student Government at UNC Chapel Hill.
Campus BluePrint is a non-partisan student publication that aims to provide a forum for open
dialogue on progressive ideals at UNC-Chapel Hill and in the greater community. 32
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