This week’s International Update focuses on two natural disasters, a rocky presidential election, water-soluble plastic, and China’s attempt at technological isolationism. Like most International Updates, everything I read was very informative. Some of these articles were a little stress-inducing, but overall they filled me with a lot of hope. I hope they do the same for all of you.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the articles used in this post and have provided links to them below. All images were found through WordPress’s free image library or taken by me. A bit of additional research has gone into this post, but a majority of this is my own personal interpretation, opinions, and rants.
Title: Mali has an important election on Sunday. Will it be peaceful?
Source: The Washington Post
This opinion piece looks at the challenges facing Mali as they get ready for the first round of their presidential election on July 29.
Some of the main concerns include the country’s lack of security and the lack of unity between the nation as a whole. There are also concerns of potential electoral fraud due to inaccurate numbers on Mali’s online register. If these three struggles weren’t enough of a call for concern, the election budget has dropped roughly $1.5 million from the country’s last presidential election.
Outside of the many worries facing Mali and its presidential vote, things are also looking up. Over 70% of the people in northern and central Mali have received voter cards, two regions that often feel under-represented. International armed forces have been recruited in Mali to increase safety in the nation and there is hope that the country’s political leaders will put peace above all else.
Why Should We Care?
A shift in political leadership would be great for Mali. This country has been through so much in the last few decades and it deserves a shift in its political climate. However, it seems like there are a ton of obstacles standing in the way of a smooth election.
I have yet to read up on how the first round of the election went today, but I’m truly hoping they went well. I feel like the writer of this article was being realistic in their concerns, and I know I need to be too. I, however, try to look at the positives of a situation even in the grimmest of scenarios, no matter how ridiculous that may seem, especially as someone who is constantly reading the news.
I see hope in the fact that the people of northern and central Mali are being represented by a majority of their population for the first time, possibly ever. I also see hope in the fact that the candidates currently running for president are trying to keep peace at the forefront of the election. Only time will truly tell us how this election will turn out, but all we can do is hope.
Bado, Arsène Brice. “Mali has an important election on Sunday. Will it be peaceful?,” The Washingtion Post, 28 July 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/07/28/mali-has-an-important-election-on-sunday-will-it-be-peaceful/?utm_term=.c53ac4c72c6e
Title: Chilean company creates water soluble bag to fight plastic pollution
Source: The Santiago Times
A group of Chilean entrepreneurs have constructed a new formula for plastic that uses limestone instead of oil. The product, known as SoluBag, is water-soluble and does not pollute.
The plastic bags dissolve in cold water and the reusable cloth bags dissolve in hot water. One of the architects of the new plastic drank a glass of water containing one of the dissolved bags to prove the water was still drinkable while giving a public presentation.
They are working on creating cutlery, plates, and plastic containers from the new plastic as well. The SoluBag company plans to market its products in Chile starting in October. Chile is one of the first countries in Latin America to ban the use of conventional plastic bags in stores.
Why Should We Care?
Holy. Crap. Someone actually did it. It might be fifty years too late, but hey, I’m going to try to be optimistic about this. Someone has invented a plastic that doesn’t pollute! According to the article, the bags are even anti-suffocation since that dissolve when they come into contact with the tongue or tears. This could help lower infant mortality rates. It all sounds almost too good to be true.
With all of the positives that come with this invention, I hate that the skeptic in me is still a bit wary about this new plastic. How will rain and human sweat influence anything made out of this new water-soluble product? I don’t think it would be much fun to have your bag’s handles melt away in your hand on a hot day, but I’ll leave those conundrums to the actual scientists. I’m just thankful we’re making progress towards a more environmentally friendly world.
“Chilean company creates water soluble bag to fight plastic pollution,” The Santiago Times, 27 July 2018, https://santiagotimes.cl/2018/07/27/chilean-company-creates-water-soluble-bag-to-fight-plastic-pollution/
Title: China pulls approval for Facebook’s planned venture: NYT
Approval for Facebook to open an innovation hub in Zhejiang, China was withdrawn July 25. A Chinese database originally displayed the approval to open up the new location, but this registration has since disappeared.
The decision to remove the approval resulted from a disagreement between Zhejiang officials and China’s national internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China. The organization was disgruntled by the fact that they were not considered more closely on the matter.
China is known for censoring foreign search engines, news outlets, and social media. Facebook’s failed attempt to start a research center in the country simply reflects a long list of trial and error from many technology firms attempting to get involved with China.
Why Should We Care?
I find this article interesting because of how similar world exploration and technological exploration are. Back in the 1500 and 1600s, people from all over the globe were trying to find the next best piece of land to claim as their own. Now, in today’s very globalized society, we’ve turned to the unexplored realms of the internet and technological innovation.
It seems to me that Zuckerberg is taking an approach similar to Britain circa the colonization era. He’s got a very “the sun never sets on Facebook” mentality. With innovation centers in France, Brazil, India, and Korea, he’s slowly edging his way into many countries around the world. China, however, is not having it.
This part of the story doesn’t come as much of a surprise. As a leading force in the technological world, it makes complete sense to me–even as a technological novice in many respects–that the Chinese government is attempting an isolationism similar to the one used by their neighboring country of Japan back when colonization was in its heyday. By avoiding interaction with other countries and their many internet sources, they hold a level of power over everyone else.
It’s a strategy, plan and simple. It’s also quite impressive, especially when the rest of the world is reluctantly accepting globalization as the new norm. If nothing else, this article proves that no matter how advanced our societies might become, one cliché will always ring true: history always repeats itself.
Mukherjee, Supantha and Vibhuti Sharma. “China pulls approval for Facebook’s planned venture: NYT,” Reuters, 25 July 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-facebook-subsidiary/china-pulls-approval-for-facebooks-planned-venture-nyt-idUSKBN1KF1Z4
Title: The Latest: Greece fire death toll at 91, 25 remain missing
Source: The Associated Press
The death toll of the wildfire that struck Mati, Greece on July 23 has officially gone from the estimated 86 individuals to 91.
Most of the victims died in the fire itself, but a number of the victims fleeing from the flames also drowned in the sea. Twenty five individuals are still missing and dozens of volunteer divers are searching the sea waters for more possible victims.
According the Centre for the Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters in Brussels, this is the deadliest wildfire seen in Europe since 1900. A memorial service was held today, July 29, at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary to mourn the loss of family and friends in Mati’s community.
Why Should We Care?
Morbid curiosity led me to wonder what caused the wildfires in this beautiful coastal town in Greece. If this is the deadliest wildfire Europe has seen since 1900, it’s obviously a very rare occurrence. According to a handful of articles I read alongside this one, the actual cause of the wildfires has not been determined but arson is suspected. However, Greece’s current weather conditions had a huge impact on the destructiveness of the wildfire.
Much like the rest of Europe, Greece is facing scorching hot weather throughout the country. The heat has dried out most of the vegetation in the country, leading to a perfect breeding ground for wildfires like the one that unfortunately took place in Mati on July 23.
Through an environmental standpoint, this is a very rude awakening to the results of climate change. The extreme heatwaves that are striking Europe aren’t an act of God in my viewpoint. These changes in temperature were made by human carelessness and ignorance.
Through a traveler standpoint, this disaster is equally heartbreaking. Outside of the precious lives lost during this wildfire, many of the beautiful homes and landscapes that make Mati such a sought-after travel destination were also ruined. It’s a true tragedy, through and through.
“The Latest: Greece fire death toll at 91, 25 remain missing,” The Associated Press, 29 July 2018, https://apnews.com/9ecd925e64a94265bde034a70ace173a
Title: Earthquake kills 14 on tourist island of Lombok in Indonesia
A 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Lombok, an island off of Indonesia, this morning July 29 at around 6:45 Eastern Time.
At least 14 people were killed during the earthquake, around 162 were injured, and over 1,000 homes were damaged by the earthquake. The number of missing individuals has yet to be determined.
The earthquake struck roughly 140 miles east of Bali and was not far from the volcano, Mount Rinjani. Aftershock from the quake lasted up to two hours after the initial jolt. Hikes on Mount Rinjani have been suspended, but flights from the Bali airport are to go on as expected and Australia, Indonesia, and India have not issued a tsunami advisory.
Why Should We Care?
There are so many places in the world that people often seem to overlook. As I’ve come to notice doing this bi-monthly addition to my blog, most of the countries in Oceania fall into the category of overlooked places. Finding daily news on places like Samoa, Fiji, and Tahiti is like digging for gold in the clay-ridden ground of Missouri (it isn’t there). The fact that I even found this article is probably only thanks to the fact that Lombok is a frequented tourist destination.
It’s important to stay aware of any natural disasters that strike around the world, no matter how big or small the country may be. Having accessibility to news from every crevice of the world connects us to places we might not think about on a daily basis. It makes me sad that the only articles I can seem to find in this particular region of the world are often connected to tragedy or conflict because it’s all our news sources seem to deem newsworthy.
My heart goes out to the people of Indonesia, and I honestly hope we start keeping a closer eye on our friends in Oceania. If anyone has suggestions on news sources that are free to access for this region of the world, please let me know.
Cullinane, Susannah, Mitchell McCluskey, and Angus Watson. “Earthquake kills 14 on tourist island of Lombok in Indonesia,” CNN, 29 July 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/28/asia/indonesia-earthquake/index.html