Global issues

Visuals: Threat of extinction

Over 900 animal species have gone extinct since the year 1500, and many more are threatened with extinction.

Extinction means that an entire animal species dies. For instance, the Dodo bird, a flightless bird that used to live on the island of Mauritius, went extinct in the 18th century because of overhunting by humans.

Please have a look at the graph below and discuss what you see with your teacher.

Visuals: Researchers in the world

For years researchers argued about the "Nature vs Nurture" question. Is a person talented because they were born that way, or did people and circumstances in their environment cause them to develop certain skills?

While this question stays open, there is little doubt that living conditions do matter. Could Steve Jobs have created Apple if he was born in a village in Africa? How much new technology or how many groundbreaking discoveries are we losing because talented children in poor areas don't have access to adequate education?

Please have a look at the graph below and discuss what you see with your teacher.

Animation for raising awareness

It is difficult for people living in safe countries to imagine refugees' problems. Jonas Poher Rasmussenis decided to use animation to show the difficulties of this group of people. His documentary, Flee, became a successful example of using animation to tell a true story.

The film, which has received several nominations and awards, tells the story of Amin Nawabi (the name was changed). When he was a child, his family had to run away from Afghanistan to Russia. Later on, he becomes a successful academic in Denmark. However, his life continues to be difficult because he is a refugee, and gay.

Usually, people don’t think of animations as documentaries. But it can be a powerful tool to raise important social issues. Animations can do what movies can not: show realism and abstraction. They can display realistic images of war and make it less traumatic at the same time.

Visuals: The world gets better

The Conversation, a publication that promotes academic debate, posits that not only do many people across advanced economies have no idea that the world is becoming a much better place, but they actually think the opposite. This is no wonder, when the news focuses on reporting catastrophes, terrorist attacks, wars and famines. These subjects simply make for more exciting coverage than stories about how more than 300,000 people a day get access to electricity and clean water for the first time.

The Conversation states that globalization has helped lift hundreds of millions of people above the global poverty line.

Take a look at the three graphs below and discuss their meaning with your teacher.

Visuals: the price of war

The war in Ukraine has had a vast impact on the whole world. In addition to the humanitarian catastrophe, it has also caused increased rates of inflation all over the globe. 

This rise is mostly linked to increases in food, energy prices and disrupted supply chains. The impact is affecting the poorest countries the most. 

Look at the graph below describing the projected inflation rates for several countries, and discuss it with your teacher.

The Taliban asks for help

A deadly 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit Afghanistan on June 22. So far, more than 1000 people have been reported dead, and at least another 1500 have been injured. This is a humanitarian disaster that requires aid.

People in remote areas have to dig through the rubble with their bare hands, hoping to find people under the destroyed buildings. In addition, recent rains have damaged many roads making access even more difficult. Afghanistan has already experienced multiple humanitarian crises in recent months. This has caused shortages. 95% of households do not have enough food and the health system is not functioning properly.

Nonprofit business: Clean the World

One night at a hotel in 2009, tech executive Shawn Seipler thought about how many bars of soap guests use for a night and then leave. He called the front desk to find out what they did with the used soap and learned that they just throw it away. In the U.S. alone, hotels throw out about 3.3 million bars of soap every day.

So, Seipler started Clean the World, a nonprofit that recycles soap, in his garage. He quickly discovered that major hotel chains, airlines, cruise companies and casinos were happy to pay him to take their waste. The business has since grown into a $750k production facility in Orlando, Florida, with branch operations around the world.

The decline of democracy

Worldwide, democracy and global freedom have been declining since 2006. The COVID-19 pandemic made things worse, with many leaders choosing to use authoritarian measures to contain the virus. It was difficult for the opposition to protest the measures because they weren't allowed to gather in groups.

But the trend towards dictatorship began long before the pandemic. The decline is not just happening in nations with authoritarian governments, but even long-standing democracies have suffered. In 2020, nearly 75% of the world’s population lived in a country where democracy deteriorated. The United States, which has long stood as an icon of democratic values, is becoming so divided that the government can barely function. The 2020 election results were challenged, ending up in an attack on the Capitol building itself.

Look at this graph from Freedom House showing the democracy gap since 2005. Interpret and discuss it with your teacher.

What is ethical in medicine?

Recently a 57-year-old man received a breakthrough operation. He was bedridden for several months and desperately needed a heart transplant. However, he had several health conditions which made him not suitable for the operation. In a last attempt to save the patient’s life, the Food and Drug Administration gave permission to attempt a genetically modified pig heart transplant for the first time in history. 

The operation was successful. Not only was the patient saved, but the medicine came closer to solving the problem of organ shortages. Unfortunately, the story is not as happy as it might seem.