COVID-19 forced radical change on the world, but isn’t that just what we need to combat climate change? The simple concepts of how we use land and how we eat may very well determine the future of our species—and our planet. Three Weatherhead Center scholars guide us through the complex environmental and political systems that constrain efforts for systemic change, and discuss what needs to be done today.
Whether or not you’ve been exposed to the virus, the COVID-19 pandemic impacts everyone’s sense of well-being. Three scholars in the field of global mental health look at the various ways loss, fear, anxiety—and on top of it, a massive global recession—weigh on the mental well-being of different groups. And they anticipate a surge in demand for mental health services as a result of the pandemic.
Despite the decline in global poverty rates over the past five or six decades, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow ever wider, especially in the industrialized West. Three scholars—Michèle Lamont, Peter A. Hall, and Paul Pierson—discuss how housing and education can actually reinforce inequality, and who in our society is seen as “deserving” of getting help, or not, and how that has changed over time.
The accumulation of human-generated waste is causing negative health and environmental impacts around the globe. Many countries are realizing they must work together to reduce waste by recovering, reusing, and remaking things—and the inspiration and technology to create such a “circular economy” already exists.
Are fake news and the misuse of personal data just unintended consequences of a new technology? Scholars Sandra Goh and Jack Loveridge believe tech investors have an ethical imperative to head off potential harms to democracy early on.
By Sandra Goh and Jack Loveridge
New startups are launching innovative technologies with the potential to transform democracies around the world, often in foreseeable ways. Always looking toward the future, early investors in new tech should work to infuse a startup’s business model with an ethical outlook that upholds democratic values. For a case in point, look no further than the recent history of a humble dorm room startup that attained a remarkable global reach: Facebook.
It’s now been over a year since CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivered his much-publicized testimony before the US Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary Committees. Since then, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal—in which data from 87 million user profiles were made available to third party developers seeking to influence the 2016 US presidential election and the UK’s Brexit referendum—his company has struggled to reassure the world of its good intentions.... Read more about Bankrolling Ethics: Do Tech Investors Have a Responsibility to Protect Democracy?
A Harvard professor challenges a long-held assumption about political revolution.
By Michelle Nicholasen
This is the first of a two-part series with Erica Chenoweth about their work on nonviolent resistance. Read part 2 on Epicenter.
When they started their predoctoral fellowship at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in 2006, Erica Chenoweth believed in the strategic logic of armed resistance. They had studied terrorism, civil war, and major revolutions—Russian, French, Algerian, and American—and suspected that only violent force had achieved major social and political change. So, when a workshop challenged Chenoweth to prove that violent resistance was more successful than nonviolent resistance, they thought: of course. The question had never been addressed systematically, so with their colleague Maria J. Stephan, turned it into a research project.
For the next two years, Chenoweth and Stephan collected data on all violent and nonviolent campaigns from 1900 to 2006 that resulted in the overthrow of a government or territorial liberation. They created a dataset of 323 mass actions, and, leaving no angle unexamined, Chenoweth analyzed and regressed nearly 160 different variables related to success criteria, categories of participants, state capacity, and more. The results turned Chenoweth’s long-held paradigm on its head—in the aggregate, nonviolent civil resistance campaigns were far more successful in effecting change than violent ones.
Harvard Professor of Government and Russian Studies Timothy Colton discusses the fraught relationship between the US and Russia under the Trump administration.
This is the third blog post in a series of edited transcripts from a panel on Trump's presidency held during our orientation in August 28, 2018. Our three panelists were Christina L. Davis, Melani Cammett, and Timothy Colton.
Since the panel took place, the following events have occurred. The investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election has intensified, with more indictments and sentences handed down to President Trump’s associates, bringing the total number of indictments and guilty pleas in the investigation to thirty-three.
In October, the Justice Department filed criminal charges against several Russian operatives, accusing them of conducting “information warfare” during the US midterm elections. In a constitutionally questionable move the day after the midterms, President Trump replaced Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Matthew Whitaker, who is serving as acting attorney general overseeing the investigation until an official replacement is confirmed.
Further, Trump’s abrupt announcement in December that he would be withdrawing American troops from Syria prompted the sudden resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The troop withdrawal was praised by Vladimir Putin, who analysts say can now work more strategically with Assad to form a dominant power alliance in the region.
This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Talk delivered by Timothy Colton:
So let's talk about Trump and Russia.
This is a tangled tale. I sat down last night to try and update my sense of this. I've written a few op-ed pieces, but I think it's very hard to do scholarly work that comes to the point of publishing really scholarly papers, let alone books, on this subject because it changes almost from week to week.
Once we have some distance in time, we may be able to make better sense of it than we can just for the moment. It is a tangled tale, and it also has been rendered. You [Melani Cammett] mentioned cable television. So cable television, of course, is on this story, but often in a rather simple-minded way, it seems to me. And it would be nice to improve on the media interpretation, but it's hard to come up with an alternative one that's more grounded in normal scholarly frames.... Read more about Trump’s Impact on the World: Timothy J. Colton on Russia
Sarah Dryden-Peterson, associate professor of education at Harvard, shares insights from her team’s work on refugee education around the world.
By Michelle Nicholasen
Of the sixty-five million people currently displaced worldwide, about half of them are children. On average, a refugee may spend between ten to twenty-five years in exile. This means that for many children, their entire formal education will take place while awaiting a durable solution to their displacement. However, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that only 50 percent of refugee children have access to primary education, and only 22 percent have access to secondary school.
The critical task of educating refugee children has been the focus of scholarship for Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Sarah Dryden-Peterson and her research team who are investigating processes of refugee education in Kenya, Lebanon, and Uganda, among others. Documenting the experiences of students, families, and teachers over time, the group has gained insight on education delivery, quality of instruction, and resource allocation. The struggle to meet the educational needs of refugee children, according to Dryden-Peterson, has called into question the very purpose of education and what kinds of futures it prepares young people for.
The Weatherhead Center asked Dryden-Peterson and doctoral students Vidur Chopra and Elizabeth Adelman to describe some of the realities facing Syrian refugees, who rely on education as a critical pathway to establishing a secure life. What follows is an abridged version of that conversation.... Read more about When Life Is in Limbo, Education Can't Wait