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Debate: International community

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Is there such a thing as the "international community"? Will it survive?

Background and context

The international community we live in today is a global community incorporating the whole world. Previous international communities were partial and regional (e.g. the Roman Empire, the medieval Holy Roman Empire and concept of Christendom, the medieval Islamic world, the 19th century European congress system), and cooperation was sporadic and unsystematic. Today's international community is a global phenomenon, in which different political, economic, ideological, military, legal, technological and cultural strands are intertwined. The question of the survival of the international community has now become very important due to feelings of crisis in a number of areas. This is due to the development of military technology, especially the invention and proliferation of atomic and other weapons of mass destruction, the overexploitation of world's resources, ecological problems, and increasing international tension, among other issues. Some may think from surveying the state of the world that human civilisation and the modern international community are suicidal by nature. Others take a sunnier view and argue both that things are not really so bad, and that mankind is able to find solutions to any new problems it encounters or creates.

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Argument #1

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Yes

The main actors of the international community are constantly at war with each other. Somewhere around 180 million people have been killed in one Twentieth Century atrocity or another - a far larger total than for any other century in human history. Wars destructiveness has increased, at the same time international alliances such as NATO make it likely that any war between two major states will quickly become global, and annihilation is a real possibility. A world war is becoming more likely to be instant mass suicide.

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No

There have been wars amongst the great powers for 60 percent of the years since 1500. Nine of these wars were general or world wars involving nearly all the great powers. The destructiveness of weapons has been increasing since the invention of gunpowder and still there has been no annihilation. Indeed, the peace between the great powers which has held for nearly sixty years suggests that mankind has learned the lessons of World War II. Nuclear weapons are so awesomely destructive that new strategies rapidly evolved to deal with them; arguably such strategies kept the peace during the cold war.

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Argument #2

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Yes

Regional energy and natural resources are diminishing rapidly as existing sources are exploited unsustainably and population growth and economic development increase demand. China is burning more and more oil, natural gas resources are low and water is a grave problem in many regions (e.g. Central Asia, the Middle East, East Africa). Disputes over such resources are becoming more and more frequent and will intensify in line with the increasing scarcity of resources.

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No

World science is daily inventing new means of energy production and conservation, finding substitutes for natural materials and developing plans for sustainable development. Known oil and gas reserves are now larger than they have ever been, despite decades of gloomy forecasts of imminent shortage. Science will in the future develop enough alternatives to secure us from another scourge of war. Progress in using alternative means of energy can already be seen (e.g EU commitments to renewable energy, Chinese exploitation of hydropower, new advances in fuel cells and solar power).

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Argument #3

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Yes

There have been increases in population and life expectancy, which causes demographic problems. The causes of population increase are highly complex, and involve many different biological, cultural, economic, geographic, political, and social factors. The international community is currently unable to deal with the implications of overpopulation in terms of extensive urbanisation, increasing unemployment and inequality, mass migration, and possible struggles over scarce resources.

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No

With fertility rates consistently falling in most developed countries, and now in many developing ones too, overpopulation is not a serious threat. Indeed AIDS threatens to put population trends into reverse in some regions. Intellectuals are developing new plans for how to deal effectively with current demographic projections. They will remain regionalized and won't threaten the international community as a whole. Effectively dealing with demographic trends is also one of the greater successes of the United Nations Organization.

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Argument #4

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Yes

Rapid economic growth is causing deadly climate changes. Climate models predict that the global temperature will rise and cause major flooding (e.g. in Bangladesh and the South Pacific), as well as other extreme weather events. Food-borne and water-borne infective agents, as causes of diarrhoeal and dysenteric infections, are likely to spread more readily in warmer and wetter conditions. The Ozone hole is getting bigger and many flora and fauna species are on the verge of extinction.

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No

Climate changes are not necessary bad and destructive; even if they are disastrous in some regions they are not a global threat. Some agricultural regions could benefit from climate change (e.g. Russia, Canada). More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would boost the productivity of plants. The global yield from marine fisheries should remain unchanged by global warming. The world's climate has always varied naturally and changes in temperature are only a part of this phenomenon. Better understanding of climate is preventing humanity from many of the devastating effects such trends may bring, and allowing us to gradually prepare for any changes.

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Argument #5

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Yes

The irresponsibility of humanity is causing environmental degradation. Especially in places of high urbanisation, pollution causes severe problems. We face contaminated sediments and degradation of sea bottom communities, contaminated ocean surface waters and plankton declines, contamination of biological tissues and tumours, to name only a few critical issues.

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No

Responsibility towards our habitat is increasing. In many countries recycling policy became a part of they daily routine, in others it is yet to come. Overall, as societies become more prosperous they do much more to protect their environment. Gobally, the educational level of humanity is making people more aware and responsible. We don't use CFC's anymore (which is already solving the ozone layer problem), use of carcinogenic materials is diminishing and green technologies are becoming very important. Increasingly, developing countries will be able to "leapfrog" to these technologies, avoiding the worst mistakes of the industrial revolutions in the developed world.

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Argument #6

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Yes

The uncontrolled spread of disease kills more people than floods, earthquakes, and wars. Since 1945 an estimated 150 million people have died from AIDS, TB and malaria, compared to 23 million from war. Malaria kills up to 2.6 million annually – 75 per cent of them are children. The modern contraction of time and space through cheap air travel is even worsening the global health picture (Sars and Bird flu are only the latest examples of new diseases spreading rapidly beyond their host community).

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No

While infectious diseases claim the most lives, they are also the most preventable disasters. Most of last year's 13 million deaths from infectious disease could have been prevented at a cost of US$ 5 per person. New discoveries in the field of medicine and stricter standards are proving effective in preventing pandemics of the worst kind. AIDS has meant that the world is finally focusing on these issues, and this is a major area of success for the international community as major global initiatives are being undertaken to find new cures and vaccines, and to improve access to healthcare.

See also

External links and resources

Books:

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