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Innovation Must Be Global

April 10, 2012
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The recent American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in Vancouver, BC had the theme, Flattening World: Building a Global Knowledge Society.  In the March 30 edition of Science, Edward Lempinen wrote a summary, In a Flattening World: Innovation Must Be Global, of the keynote address and other talks by prominent participants.

What struck me in reading his piece was the consensus among scientists around the world for the need to build global partnerships to solve some of the worlds most challenging problems.  Here are only a few examples of challenges we face:

  • With 9 billion people by 2050, we must find ways to double the world’s food supply by 2050, but with major crop yields down nearly 10% globally we will have to be creative with our efforts.
  • We need to develop crops that thrive in a hotter world on land that we now consider unfarmable, using water we now consider unsuitable for agriculture.
  • We need to find a way to curtail the uncontrollable overfishing that plagues our planet or we will be without an ecosystem to support nearly 15% of the planet that relies on fish for protein in their diet.
  • We need to find a way to curtail the uncontrollable release of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere that is having a net effect of warming the plane

All of these challenges and others will only be solved if we develop collaborative partnerships around the globe in which everyone treats EARTH as our common home. These four challenges, and others, do not observe continental boundaries.  If we abuse our atmosphere, our oceans, our lakes and rivers we will all suffer the consequences.

Experts gathered at the 178th Annual AAAS Meeting said that global research collaborations will be critically important for solving these complex and urgent problems. (p. 1593)

The types of collaborations that scientists were supporting were:

  • marine reserves governed across political and international boundaries
  • surveillance at key ports to prevent “superbugs” from moving across international boundaries.
  • developing breakthroughs in artificial meat production that could satisfy the world’s growing appetitte for beef and pork

I would add that we need to investigate international collaborations that shitf diets to more sustainable vegetarian or vegan diets.  We expend significant plant resources to feed the animals we eat.  Could we build a more sustainable food supply for 9 billion people by 2050 if we supported plant-based diets?

The scientists discussed how these global partnerships will need to leverage the creative or innovative talents of people around the world.  The efforts of a single country will not be sufficient to address these complex global challenges.

What I would like to try and change is not so much the way people understand the facts, Judson said, but the way they look a the world and ask questions about it.  (author and biologist, Olivia Judson)

Shouldn’t this be our goal, to change the mindset for how we look at the world?  This is our shared home.  A place with vast resources, but limited in their ability to meet the needs of an ever expanding population.  Through global partnerships that emphasize collaboration, we can build a more sustainable existence that will allow us to support 9 billion people in 2050.

This work of building global partnerships must begin when our children are being educated during their formative years.  Our educational system needs to refocus its efforts on nurturing our students’ creative talents and energies.   In addition, we must educate them to be good stewards of our resources and good partners with their peers from other countries.  Our future depends upon us being success in these efforts. 

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2012 6:06 pm

    So many of the global trips that our students go on through our schools are really some combination of tourism and community service. What I have tried to do with my Philippines trip, and this has been extended to several of our other Interim trips, is to develop true partnerships with groups in a developing country. When we go year after year, we are viewed as friends and partners, and the experience for our students is just something special. It has long-term implications that are not created if a group goes for a visit, comes home, and does not create that partnership modality. Our schools are here for the long run and are sustainable; let’s do the same for our overseas partnerships.

    • April 12, 2012 8:09 am

      Grant:

      I totally agree with you. I think these overseas connections that school make are a critical piece of the 21st Century programming puzzle that can advance a school’s mission to build global understanding and literacy. My concern, when I think of Westminster, is that many of these programs are not accessible in a fair and equitable way to ALL students at a school. I know at Westminster most trips are expensive and not affordable for many “middle or upper-middle class” families who are doing their best to meet the costly demands of tuition. Scholarship does not often cover the expenses for many of these trips. Therefore, they become programs for the wealthy students in a school. I hope we can resolve this issue so that these worthy programs are open to ALL.

      Thanks!

      Bob

      • April 12, 2012 1:23 pm

        We also worry about equity. We ensure that every student can go on at least one major trip regardless of financial circumstances, and I know, having taken some of these students, that it can be life changing. It costs some $$, but we all value equity more than just about anything else.

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