Building the World

June 22, 2018
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Migrants and the Renewal of Culture

“Detail of Cyrene bronze head, circa 300 bce.” Image: British Museum and wikimedia.

Migrants have been a source of change, and renewal, throughout history. Cyrene, founded in 630 bce, several miles south of the Mediterranean Sea in Libya, became the first of five flourishing cities called the Pentapolis of Cyrenaica. Cyrene’s migrants brought fertile minds to a new land: it was here that Earth’s circumference was first determined by Eratosthenes. Fresh thinking, fostered in an atmosphere promoting science, technology, and art, produced an early map of the stars, the mechanics of doubling a cube, and research that developed prime numbers. The poet Apollonia was also a resident of Cyrene. What policies and cultural practices fostered such innovation? In today’s world, with migrants on the move and in the news, can we draw inspiration from Cyrene to build a better future?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

December 15, 2017
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Words and Swords

Word balloon types. Image: wikimedia commons.

Code talk and authorizations. What is the not-so-hidden code in a government directive that certain words or phrasing not be used in budget proposals, lest those words become swords killing the possibility of funding. Forbidden phrases: “science-based” and “evidence-based.” Word prohibitions include “diversity” and “vulnerable.” Authorizations throughout history have varied: some were a notes scrawled from parent to child, as in the Trans-Siberian Railway. Others were private handshakes made public, as in the New River. A few espoused values for the future of humanity: the Atomic Energy Act set the guiding purpose of peace. But de-authorizing certain code words by directive may be one of the few instances where values are so explicitly defined, and demanded. Summing up the reaction of many, Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, tweeted: “Here’s a word that’s still allowed: ridiculous.”

What do you think about “science-based” and “evidence-based?” What about the other directives? Can language ever be changed, or is it beyond directive? Abram de Swaan, of the Amsterdam School for Social Research, University of Amsterdam, observed that military conquests cause the spread of new wordings and even languages, but as soon as the newcomers are ousted, language returns to its natural evolution.

De Swaan, Abram. Words of the World: The Global Language System. Wiley 2013. ISBN: 9780745676982. Originally published, Polity Books, 2001.

Sun, Lena H. and Juliet Eilperin. “CDC gets list of forbidden words: Fetus, transgender, diversity.” 15 December 2017. The Washington Posthttps://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cdc-gets-list-of-forbidden-words-fetus-transgender-diversity/2017/12/15/f503837a-e1cf-11e7-89e8-edec16379010_story.html?utm_term=.08926eab4d6a

https://www.cdc.gov

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

September 23, 2016
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Welcome

How can the world welcome 65 million people in new settings? Image: wikimedia commons.

The United Nations reports that 65.3 million people are refugees, asylum seekers or displaced: 1 in 113 of all the people on the planet. In the year 2015, every minute saw 24 people forced to flee; half under 18 years old. Conditions for millions are perilous. The first-ever United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants this week produced a Declaration, building upon the 1951 Refugee Convention that defines ‘refugee’ and the rights of the displaced. Education and employment are urgently needed. Can macro-scale infrastructure projects offer an opportunity? After World War II, Australia invited displaced skilled people to join the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Project; over 100,000 moved to a new land. Housing for families included schools where children learned together, adding diversity to the curriculum. How can the world welcome 65 million new arrivals today? Will Alex set an example of welcome?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

August 19, 2015
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Singapore at 50

 

Singapore at 50: does diversity contribute to innovation and prosperity? Image: wikimedia commons.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Singapore‘s independence. Rapid growth may be traced to its founding, as a colony, but more importantly, as a special economic zone. With per capita GDP of $56,000, and 90% home ownership, an achievement aided by the development of Housing Development Board (HDB) homes, the 277 sq. miles are marked by prosperity. HDB helped to eliminate poverty and also promoted diversity: the goal was for Chinese and Malay families alike to think of themselves first as Singaporean. With four official languages, and multiple recognized religions, can Singapore claim the power of diversity in prosperity?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

September 25, 2013
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New Cities, New Visions: Abuja, Nigeria

Nigeria — Lagos and Abuja. Image: Library of Congress.

Abuja became the new capital of Nigeria, replacing Lagos, in 1991. Reasons were similar to factors that led Brazil to leave popular coastal Rio to the tourists and samba dancers (not to mention soccer players and Olympians) and build a new center of government, Brasilia. Nigeria’s new capital was named after a nearby emirate founded in 1828 by Abu Ja, Zarian ruler of some renown (the old town also got a new name: Suleja). Nigeria is 50% Muslim and 40% Christian, and the new capital also had to honor the Gbagyi people who had been in the area for over 40,000 years. What is the significance of building a new capital? How can diversity become a part of the patriotic vision?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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