60th Annual Conference on World Affairs

April 12, 2008 at 11:16 am (General)

So, I’ve heard of the CWA before – kinda – but finally after about 13 years of living in Boulder, I went to it! I had no idea it was such a big deal, a huge production. I was definitely impressed.

http://www.colorado.edu/cwa/information.html

The Conference on World Affairs is an event held each year in Boulder at the CU campus. Presenters come from all over the world, on their own dime, to participate. The presenters ranged from the film industry (actors, producers, directors) to philosophers, politicians, ambassadors, musicians, magicians, international businesspeople, technologists, journalists, feminists, astronomers, geneticists, molecular biologists, priests, historians, artists – and all of these are real legitimate experts, not just people who talk out of their asses (well, there were a few).

At any given time there were about 5 sessions going on all over the CU campus. Some of the sessions I went to were:

Space: The Battle for the 51st State

China’s Looking Out, Look Out for China

God vs. Science: Can We Both Be Right?

The Candidates on Iraq: The Silence is Deafening

Hardwired to Believe

Why Young Voters Care Again

There were a ton of sessions on politics, current affairs here and abroad, art, pop-culture, media, space, religion, atheism, health care, government issues, the election, technology (even a session about facebook), entrepreneurship, science. Pretty much any topic about the world you might be interested in, was likely covered here in one week!

I’m ashamed that it took me so many years of living in Boulder to take advantage of this wonderful event. Especially after not working for a while, it felt great to use my brain this week! I feel like I have so much to talk about! There is so much going on! It was very inspiring and makes me want to learn more about a lot of things!

I’ll summarize my two favorite sessions, God vs. Science and Look Out for China.

In the God vs. Science panel, there were 4 guys – all exceptional speakers, and 3 out of 4 were atheists who were not afraid to show it. They talked a lot about evolution and how we started with science, created religion, and now are turning back to science to explain the world and what is happening around us. I don’t want to start a debate about it here, but I agreed with the atheists whole-heartedly and look forward to a time when our society catches up to the modern scientific way of thinking. Yikes (well, hey, this is my blog and I can say what I want to!). They discussed topics like intelligent design, evolution, genetics, the need to have answers for the unexplainable, and how the smarter we get as humans, the more we are able to explain the way the world works with science and have less of a need for the ‘stories’ of religion to tell us where we came from and where we are going. In another session on a similar topic, I thought the philosopher, Achim Koddermann put it wisely when he said something like (I am not quoting him here, just summarizing) – our society is moving from Christianity to Scientism and that we aren’t leaving religion but that Scientism will likely be the new religion. Regligion goes through major changes every few hundred years, and they believe that scientism is the next big movement. AMEN to that 🙂 Anyhoo, I’m not asking for you to believe anything here, I’m just writing about what I found interesting at the CWA.

On to China! So, in several sessions at the CWA, China seemed to be a big topic of interest. Sessions that had nothing to do with China, frequently brought it up – China was all the buzz at the CWA. So, I thought the Look Out for China session would be interesting. I was right!

The main theme here was that YES, China is growing massively right now and is a huge powerhouse – “the world’s manufacturer”. A lot of the media is starting to train us to be afraid of this fact, but according to the CWA panel consisting of years of expertise in global politics and living in China, they believe that China is not a threat unless we treat them like one. They need us and we need them, they don’t want to squash us. Their success relies on the global economy. So, basically, the relationship with China is ours to f@%& up, which, we very well may do.

Here are some interesting facts on China (from the CWA panelists):

The worlds largest manufacturer of TVs, refrigerators, cameras, coal, iron, cement (actually 1/2 the world’s cement)

1.3 billion people out of the world’s 6 billion

Out of the 20 most polluted cities, 16 are in China

China has unparalleled growth since the 1970’s worldwide

75% of the world’s used computers and electronic parts end up in China – a big contributer to pollution in their soil

US still dominates military and weapons spending worldwide

Even though they are a huge powerhouse, they are still very unstable:

Rich/poor gap is widening with their growth

Public health is a major issue

150 million migrate each year

National security issues with Taiwan

Corruption at every level in government

Another interesting thing about us and China is that every year there is a study called the International Human Rights Report which includes many nations in the world — minus the US — we refuse to participate in it. This past year, soon after the international report was published, China reported on the human rights situation in the US for us, how nice of them! — they didn’t want to be held to a double standard. They brought up issues like how the US has the highest inmate-to-population ratio in the world and the racial makeup of those incarcerated, as well as our rise of violent crime, police brutality, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, as much as they have problems that our government is so quick to point out, we aren’t so innocent ourselves when it comes to human rights issues.

The panel was definitely coming to the defense of China more than I expected, but a lot of them have lived or are still living in China, and out of 4 of them, 3 were fluent in Chinese. They liked to point out that if you ask the Chinese about them being an international threat due to their economic growth, most will be surprised that they are seen that way.

During Q&A, the most interesting question, I thought, was this:

A CU student of international studies and political science asked something like – “As a university student, with all that is going on with China and the world economy, what is the most important thing for this generation to know about China and to focus on for the future?”

The unanimous answer from the panel was this – LEARN CHINESE.

I could go on and on about other interesting things at the CWA — but I’ll leave it at that! I am definitely looking forward to going again next year, it was a geat experience and I’d urge others to participate as well!

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