Summary: Sustainability: An American Grand Strategy for the 21st Century (Jan. 22, 2015)

Security. Sustainability.

These two hot topics are typically not associated with each other. The World Affairs Council of Charlotte welcomed Colonel Mark ‘Puck’ Mykleby to connect these two seemingly disjointed goals on Jan. 22nd, 2015. His concept paper, Sustainability: An American Grand Strategy for the 21st Century, explores how to reach sustainable economic goals while simultaneously protecting national security interests.

Throughout his presentation, Col. Mykleby placed strong emphasis on the US ability to adapt and meet the two key interests of its people, security and posterity. Col. Mykleby said that adapting to these interests, rather than adapting to threats and risks, is more in line with US values. “The United States is the land of opportunity, not the land of threat and risk,” said Col. Mykleby, generating support from the audience.

It is, without a doubt, in the interest of the United States to maintain a strong economy that reflects the interests of Americans. “So why,” Col. Mykleby asked in reference to the changing dynamic of where and how people want to live, “are only 2% of real estate market demands being met?” According to Col. Mykleby, 60% of Americans dislike where they live. The baby-boomer generation want to be able to “age in place” or maintain community involvement throughout their lives. The millennial generation wants to live in walkable communities, not suburbs, leaving much room for growth.

As the quality of life increases around the world, the realities of ecosystem limitation looms ahead. If everyone on Earth lived the way Americans do, it would take four to five Earths to sustain the population. Currently, 70% of soil erosion is related to farming. What is a solution? Col. Mykleby noted that “regenerative agriculture and consumption of local produce would make each acre of arable land three times more profitable.” This “smart growth” is a practice that enhances efficiency of domestic resources, and promotes security through increased prosperity by sustainable means. Additionally, shifting the United States national security focus from containment to sustainment will also serve as diplomatic tool with nations abroad while gaining greater credibility and influence.

As a nation driven by economics, it is in the United States primary interest to fuel a productivity revolution. There has been recent spectacular technological advancements, but there have not been enough effort to capture the technological revolution and translate it to productivity growth. Productivity, measured in wage increases, has been remarkably stagnate. Productivity is the force behind the US economy and the foundation of sustainable development, employment, and government revenue. In fact, walkable communities, regenerative agriculture, and productivity would positively impact the top four domestic sectors; manufacturing, agriculture, construction, and transportation which means for every dollar spent on each these sectors, another $4.47 is added to the economy.

Col. Mykleby ended his presentation with an inspirational look at the future and the US Constitution. He noted that the preamble of the Constitution is written with action words. Policies that worked for the past decades need to be updated to match the realities of today to ensure a prosperous posterity.

Summarized by Ling Guo, WACC Programming Intern (Spring 2015) and UNC Charlotte International Studies Major, Chinese and Psychology Minors

SUMMARY: Great Decisions – Brazil in Metamorphosis (January 28, 2015)

greatdecisions_brazilThe World Affairs Council of Charlotte together with UNC Charlotte’s Office of International Programs hosted Dr. De La Torre, Assistant Professor of the Department of Africana Studies at UNC Charlotte Center City campus, to speak on the 2015 Great Decisions topic “Brazil in Metamorphosis.”

There is an ideological divide in Brazilian politics. The current governing party, the PT (Worker’s Party), favors populism and control over economic decisions while the private sector favors the free market. Dr. De La Torre stated that “populist” and/or “liberal” are outdated terminology that paints a very simplistic and generalized view of Brazil’s political environment. The Brazilian governing political party represents the desires of people at both state and local levels of the political environment This party is focused on being responsive to social demands, such as eliminating extreme poverty and encouraging higher education to promote economic and social inclusion.

Brazil is faced with the challenge of balancing economic growth and social welfare. Its goal is to become the model of an inclusive society. To accomplish this goal, Brazil has lifted millions out of poverty by reducing extreme poverty from 21% in 2002 to 9% in 2012. Dr. De La Torre noted that the government safety nets and programs brought people out of poverty, as well as broke the cycles of poverty by promoting education. These programs are important examples that both developing and developed countries could learn from.

Brazil is currently developing it vision which underpins its current metamorphosis. Dr. De La Torre offered a holistic look at Brazil’s strengths and challenges through historical, societal, environmental, economic, and political perspectives.

Summarized by Ling Guo, WACC Programming Intern (Spring 2015) and UNC Charlotte International Studies Major, Chinese and Psychology Minors

Summary: Nigerian Election Outcome (Foreign Policy Association)

Summary was written last week in reference to the Nigerian elections on February 14th.

In the first weeks of 2015, the world looked with shock and horror to Paris in the aftermath of the January 7th and 9th terror attacks that left 17 people dead. Western media ignited with outrage and constant coverage, demanding answers and rising up in solidarity under the phrase “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”). Yet just one weekend earlier and thousands of miles away in the Nigerian town of Baga, the bodies of 2000 people, mostly women and children, lay lifeless and unmentioned in the aftermath of a massacre by the Boko Haram terror group. Boko Haram, the same extremist organization responsible for the kidnapping of hundreds of school girls in April 2014, threatens to continue its reign of terror. Nigeria’s presidential election on February 14th is therefore one that demands global attention.

This week, tens of millions of registered voters in Nigeria will have to decide their next presidential candidate. This rematch of the 2011 election is between incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which is largely representative of the majority-Christian south, and challenger Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which gains much of its support from the majority-Muslim northern states.

However, with the extremist terror group Boko Haram wrecking havoc on the country and occupying 20,000 square miles in Nigeria’s three northeastern states of Yobe, Adamawa, and Borno, the outcome of this election may slip from the hands of voters. Before Boko Haram’s takeover of the north, the election results seemed to rely primarily on the competitive Middle Belt states. Now, these states are filled with refugees fleeing from the terror group’s brutality in the north, and because of Nigerian voting laws that only allow people to cast ballots in their specific local government jurisdictions, people who could affect the election’s outcome are further disenfranchised. Additionally, with Boko Haram controlling the north, the likelihood of voters there turning out to the polls on February 14th is severely diminished.

If one political party believes that the election has been wrongfully stolen from them due to these restrictions, tensions could arise, parallel governments could be formed, and the ensuing violence and disorder would give Boko Haram a chance to rise up and take the reigns of burgeoning political factions across the nation. With that devastating possibility looming on the horizon, as well as an unemployment rate of 20%, oil prices plummeting, and corruption on the rise, this next presidential election in Nigeria will be one of pivotal importance and global repercussions.

Original article:

Summary by Ashley Rivenbark,  UNC Chapel graduate (May 2014)

WACC Speaker Series (SUMMARY) with Russell Gold, Author of “The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World”

THE-BOOM-684x1024On Thursday, February 5th, the World Affairs Council of Charlotte welcomed Russell Gold as part of its ongoing Speaker Series Program. Gold, an investigative journalist for The Wall Street Journal and author of “The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World,” gave a balanced and fact-focused perspective on the pressing topic of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” From the start, he approached this controversial subject with clarity and objectivity.

“We can’t even agree on how to spell it,” said Gold. “So how can we expect to agree if it’s good?”

In order to answer this question, Gold used his decade-long research to provide his audience of students and professionals a comprehensive overview of what fracking is and what benefits and pitfalls it has to offer. He asserted that this well-stimulating technique of obtaining abundant amounts of oil and natural gas from pressure-induced cracks in shale rocks has changed the world in numerous ways, beginning with our morning commute.

 “I filled up my car last week at $1.55 a gallon. That’s fracking.”

Thanks to this energy supply, which in the year 2013 flowed from over 100 wells per day, Gold said that the United States no longer talks about importing natural gas, but instead, exporting it. Because of the ease and cost efficiency at which oil and natural gas are extracted from these fractured wells, he declared that “the days of Spindletop are over.”

“Fracking has created an energy abundance,” said Gold. “People are no longer concerned about energy, which gives us a chance to step back and ask ourselves what we want our energy to look like for the future.”

However, Gold acknowledged that fracking is a double edge sword. He expressed his concerns that this economic boost and subsequent reliance on fracked energy will cause people to become complacent and reluctant to further develop renewable energy options. Additionally, the growth of fracking has put an incredibly amount of pressure on landowners and resulted in instances of earthquakes, threats to water supply, and air quality.

Before answering a number of insightful questions, especially from the students in attendance, Gold assured his eager audience that no matter where you stand on the fracking spectrum, you can be sure that it has “set off a revolution, an upheaval in energy production, and one knows where it will go.”

 “It’s changed our geopolitical landscape, the way we deal with other countries and the alliances we have. It’s changed the energy landscape. It’s changed the environmental landscape. In short, it has changed the world.”

Summary by Ashley Rivenbark, UNC Chapel Hill graduate (May 2014)