CPOL 510: Power and Money: Topics in Global Political Economy
June 11 – Climate Change and CRISPR
This week we introduce our two final concepts in the theater of global political economy.
Often we look at macro-level questions in international affairs and global political economy. Some examples include (1) the industrialized North exploits the agricultural and cheap labor South, or (2) states with competing ideologies build global alliances in opposition to each other, or (3) countries cooperate in global trade even though their populations might benefit unevenly, as the West and OPEC. There are other examples.
Looking at the impact of technology and science on global political economy, we might have chosen AI or blockchain or autonomous vehicles or Big Data or commercial exploration of space. We choose climate change and CRISPR.
Our first GPE question this week is at the macro-level. It argues that climate change is most important to explain international affairs in the next 10 or 50 or 100 years – more important than colonialism or nuclear weapons or trade policy or kulturkampf or political ideologies. The idea is that the consequences of global efforts to reduce and address the effects of climate change, and the humanitarian crises and violent conflicts that follow from shortcomings, will drive international affairs for the next few generations.
Our second GPE question this week is at the opposite end of scale: individuals being changed by gene-editing. What will be possible – to make your children taller, smarter, healthier? What limits might be pursued, and what questions of inequality will need to be addressed? If the science is applied to wealthy societies, or only wealthy people in some societies, what consequences might ensue?
This questions are not only possible issues in the future – they are already current concerns. You might choose to pursue one or the other of these, or both, this week.
Topic 1 – CRISPR
You can copy and paste from Wikipedia into Google Docs, right? What if gene-editing a human being were that easy? What are the right questions to debate? Who gets to decide?
We start by learning what CRISPR-Cas9 is, at least a little (you don’t actually know what happens inside a computer when you cut-and-paste, do you?). What is gene editing? Are there applications of gene editing that might make humanity (or individuals) better off? Are there applications that maybe should be avoided, or prohibited, or federally funded?
Start with a video of Jennifer Doudna, a creator of CRISPR-Cas9 – either the BBC interview or her TEDtalk. What questions does she raise that policy makers might need to think about?
BBC Hardtalk (24 min) –
Policy questions are related to ethical questions. Science writer Heidi Ledford, raises some of these concerns in a recent issue of the highly-reputable Nature, , “CRISPR the Disruptor,” nature.com (June 2015)
And this is all moving very fast. After human experiments and births in late 2018 in China, U.S. efforts are continuing – although not yet to birth: “New U.S. Experiments Aim to Create Gene-Edited Human Embryos,” Feb 1, 2019, NPR
“CRISPR might have made China’s “designer babies” smarter – Interesting Engineering, Feb 22, 2019
Most Americans probably don’t understand the basics of gene-editing, but they seem to have a sense of possible implications. A poll on the uses of gene-editing: “Poll: Edit baby genes for health, not smarts,” Associated Press, Dec 29, 2018
Finally, maybe we are thinking of this as the “future of technology policy” but really it’s the “right-now of technology policy” – we know that policy always lags behind technology. This guy is already selling gene-editing starter kits. “East Bay Biochemist Sells ‘Gene-Editing Kit’ for the Masses,” CBS San Francisco, Jan 29, 2019
(If this is the stuff you love, help yourself to as much of the following as you like. None is required:
U.S. Senate Cmte on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions:
Gene Editing Technology: Innovation and Impact (2017)
Matthew Porteus, Stanford Univ
Katrine Bosley, Editas Medicine
Jeffrey Kah, Johns Hopkins Univ
You can read the executive summary (page 1) of Porteus, the introduction (page 1-3) of Bosley, and all of Kahn (p. 1-5) – or, if you just can’t get enough, watch the entire hearing (1h37m) – you are not required to watch the whole thing or any of this (but you should at least look at those summaries)
Update: 3/17/2019 – A call for international governance of heritable CRISPR https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00726-5
Topic 2 – Climate Change
In 2018, the invaluable Foreign Affairs devoted an issue to looking at our “four columns” of international relations theory in current contexts. They didn’t use columns, but identified six main themes: realism, liberalism, tribalism, marxism, technology, and the environment, which they labeled “warming world.”
This “warming world” article is here and you should read it. If you do not subscribe to Foreign Affairs, you can register for free with your email address, and get a few articles for free. (Or with your .edu email, you can subscribe for a couple of dollars per month.)
There are many avenues to pursue after this introduction, and we offer two here. First, we could look at traditional subjects like Water Wars on the Nile (the impact of Ethiopia’s dam on Egypt’s access to the Nile River, and Horn of Africa politics more broadly), or Climates Shocks and Humanitarian Crises (which countries are most vulnerable and why that is important). You should skim these articles.
But this week we are also choosing to pay attention to one particular technology: carbon capture. We start with the FA article Less than Zero – Can Carbon-Removal Technologies Curb Climate Change. We proceed with a number of shorter items and videos:
Info from companies doing the work: https://cleantechnica.com/2018/12/04/cost-of-carbon-capture-plummets-thanks-to-two-new-techniques/
and this video
Relatedly, we can play with this app that shows what it thinks climate change will do to your hometownby 2080 – when you should be all the things a happy, healthy 80 year-old should be enjoying (“80’s the new 50,” or some similar cliche?)
One word of caution about the app – it says the Westminster, Maryland, and Frederick, Maryland, two towns near each other and both on Maryland’s Piedmont Plateau, will have different changes: Frederick a lot warmer and a lot wetter; Westminster half as much warmer and drier, not wetter. So who knows. But fun to play around with a little.
While we look at removing CO2 we can also look at How can we reduce the amount of food-packaging waste we create?
Finally, we look at two ocean clean-up articles:
Together, we have two giant concerns that can drive the future of global political economy: how are we changing the planet, and how can we change humans?
Ok, your turn…
Choosing to focus on either or both of these concerns, pose your own questions this week. Approx 400-500 words (total) in one or two posts of your own by Friday night, and approx 400-500 words (total) in at least two replies to your classmates’ posts by Sunday night.
And don’t forget – What’s Next?
We shift next to really focusing on your papers. If you and I haven’t talked yet, we need to. If we have already talked and you want to again, great