Category Archives: Conference

Recap and Response: The Impact of Technology and Globalization

by: Paul Michael ’20

Globalization and the information technology revolution are two inextricable phenomena that have far-reaching impacts on virtually every aspect of human life. On October 30th, a panel of experts in political science, economics, sociology and anthropology gathered to discuss the different forces of change that individuals, families and societies continue to reconcile with their lives and livelihoods. The event was co-sponsored by the Fordham IPED program and Touro college, with professors from both universities giving presentations on academic papers that they have written in conjunction with the event.

The morning session provided a holistic view of how globalization and technology are shaping social institutions. Dr. Ida Bastiaens, professor of political science at Fordham, offered an analysis of how the developed and developing world have been affected from a political perspective. Dr. Erick Rengifo, from Fordham’s economics department, elaborated on the forces of global economic convergence that have resulted in monopolistic competition and disruption in global job markets, amongst other outcomes. He reported that 375 million global workers will have to change occupations thanks to the technological revolution. Moving to a microeconomic level, Fordham sociology professor, Dr. Matthew Weinshenker, illustrated how this economic pressure influences families. Families often opt for dual employment in an hourglass economy in which inequality in incomes is growing. Parents experience greater anxiety over the economic future of their children in a more globally competitive and changing job market. Finally, Touro sociology professor, Dr. Deborah Ratti, explained how biotechnological innovation has contributed to an untenable scientific worldview devoid of personal meaning, driving a greater felt need for individual spirituality.

A consistent theme of all the presentations is the double edged sword that technological innovation and global economic integration have brought. On one hand, both  promise a world of maximum economic efficiency, spurring humanity to produce more goods and service at lower costs than ever before. Biotechnology has provided hope through reproductive technology and extending human longevity. The human race is more connected than ever before and societies are more transparent with the rapid transmission of information via social networks. And yet, these efficiencies have not come without negative externalities. Technology continues to cause economic disruption and foster economic inequality. Public confidence and participation in global democracies is low. Families are anxious and individuals are isolated. The sweeping and rapid pace of change is driving people to seek answers to its accompanying existential crisis.

Globalization and technological innovation have benefited humanity on a scale that few would have dreamed possible just 50 years ago. But like any paradigm shifting economic force, it brings with it a high level of uncertainty for the future. One can only hope that individuals and societies will find a way to overcome these challenges and leverage these forces for the greatest social good for the many and not just the few.

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Living in the New World: The Impact of Technology and Globalization

by: Patrick Fernandez ’20

Last October 30th, Fordham IPED and Touro College sponsored a conference entitled “Living in the New World: The Impact of Technology & Globalization” which featured academics from different fields discussing how social institutions and processes are changing because of technology and globalization.

The conference started with an address from Dr. Peter Stace, Fordham’s Senior Vice President for Enrollment and Strategy, and from Dr. Marian Stoltz-Loike, Touro’s Dean of the Lander College for Women and Vice President for Online Education.

Dr. Peter Stace giving his welcome address in behalf of Fordham University

Dr. Marian Stoltz-Loike giving her welcome address in behalf of Touro College

A discussion between Fordham IPED’s Prof. Schwalbenberg and Touro’s Prof. Weinstock then followed. They discussed how the world is responding, and how it has changed due to the rapid development of technology and globalization. They highlighted how technology has produced a lot of good but also a lot of uncertainty about some of its effects going forward.

Prof. Schwalbenberg and Prof. Weinstock discussing

A panel discussion then followed about how social institutions are changing in terms of politics, economics, the family, and spirituality. The panelists were Prof. Bastiaens of Fordham’s Department of Political Science, Prof. Rengifo of Fordham’s Department of Economics, Prof. Weinshenker of Fordham’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Prof. Ratti of Touro’s Department of Sociology.

(L-R) Prof. Ratti, Prof. Ratti, Prof. Bastiaens, and Prof. Weinshenker discussing how social institutions are changing

The afternoon session of the conference was held at Touro College where lunch was also served. The first afternoon session featured Touro’s Rabbi Prof. Fishbane and Rev. Fr. Patrick Ryan, SJ on “Old and New Meanings of Community – for the Jewish People and the Catholic Church.” They discussed how the very definition of community have shifted due to the increasing globalization of the world, and the rapid development of technology which have brought people closer than ever before. They discussed how the social climate has changed, as well as its repercussions for the Jewish People and for the Catholic Church.

The second panel then followed which discussed how social processes are changing as seen in our psychology, and sociology. The panelists were Prof. Pirutinsky of Touro’s Graduate School of Social Work, Mr. Rosenberg of Haaretz, Prof. Silberman of Touro’s Departments of Sociology and Pyschology, and Prof Leventis of Touro’s Department of Sociology and Academic Director of the Program in Criminal Justice.

After a coffee break, Prof. Verbit closed the conference with a discussion on how society has indeed changed due to technology and globalization, and what is to be done moving forward. Prof. Verbit also discussed how technology and globalization, with all of its benefit, cannot be the ultimate cure to the problems of the world – thus requiring more action and thought from society as we move forward.

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Recap and Response: GMOs: A Moral Imperative

by: Rensi Pua ’20

If you could multiply your income sixfold, how would your life change? This was the question Dr. Sarah Davidson Evanega, Director of the Cornell Alliance for Science, used to argue the case for GMOs. For those of us lucky enough, a sixfold increase means elevating our lives from comfort to excess. For a small farmer in Bangladesh, it means assured survival.

The Cornell Alliance for Science is an initiative based at Cornell University that seeks to promote access to scientific innovation as a means of enhancing food security, improving environmental sustainability, and raising the quality of life globally. Central to Dr. Evanega’s presentation is the controversial GMO narrative. The story starts with Mansur Sarkar, one of 20 farmers who pioneered Bt Brinjal, a genetically-engineered pest-resistant eggplant. Sarkar talks about how pest-resistance not only decreased his use of pesticides by 65-70% but also returned a crop yield larger than the traditional eggplant variety. These environmental and monetary gains from GMO technology benefit farmers like Sarkar and give them the opportunity to increase their income sixfold. However, not long after Sarkar’s story was published did anti-GMO group GMWatch publish an allegedly false story about Bangladeshi farmers abandoning the Bt Brinjal project. The Cornell Alliance for Science went on site to straighten out facts and found that about 27,000 farmers are actually benefiting from the project (see video here). Dr. Evanega further mentions that much of what’s on the internet has no scientific basis and is simply driven by fear-mongering.

Prof. Evanega discussing the significance of the use of GMOs in food security

So, what are the facts? Fact 1: Agriculture is under siege from factors such as climate change and fast-evolving pests and diseases. In fact, food production is falling behind and needs to increase by 70% to feed the world’s population by 2050. GMOs can increase production efficiency to ensure food security. Fact 2: GMOs can uplift farmers’ lives by ensuring their investments are protected from said detrimental factors. Fact 3: GMOs can decrease agriculture’s impact on the environment by reducing the need for fertilizers, pesticides, tilling and use of land space.

The controversy surrounding GMOs is not just a bourgeoisie issue but a matter of social justice when resistance comes from developed, well-fed countries far-removed from the ground. Anti-GMO advocates are hindering progress and preventing farmers from gaining access to scientific advancements that would change lives for the better, and ensure food security for all. The controversy becomes an issue of morality when viewed from these power dynamics.

So, the next time you go to the grocery and see a “GMO-free” stamp on a product, think about what it really means before purchasing – there’s more at stake than you think.

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Recap and Response: New Approaches to International Food Security: On-the-ground Perspectives

By: Hannah Fort ‘20

International food security was one of the key issues addressed at the Reduce World Hunger: Pope Francis’ Call for New Approaches conference on September 28 th , 2018. Bill O’Keefe, the Vice President for Government Relations and Advocacy at Catholic Relief Services (CRS), addressed this topic directly. He believes that integrated approaches should be the future of how organizations look at food security; multi-sectoral, multi-year programs are most needed but current programs are not set up to provide this.

Instead of working with households one-by-one, CRS has developed an Integral Human Development Framework which they hope to use to influence the systems and structures that households operate within. These systems and structures need to function in a way that allows people to thrive. CRS focuses on the most vulnerable people to help them find a pathway to prosperity. The issue threatening the food security of poor families and farmers worldwide is climate change, which needs long-term,
integrated methods. While emergency assistance is a part of what CRS does, they are looking for new approaches such as direct cash transfers in refugee camps, which they believe will help preserve human dignity.

Mr. O’Keefe giving on-the-ground perspectives in approaching the problem of food insecurity

Addressing climate change as a driver of food insecurity is imperative. Looking at the problem on a country-by-country basis has allowed CRS to implement programs that are geared towards the culture and the people. In Malawi, one of the world’s most densely populated and underdeveloped countries, CRS has implemented the Wellness and Agriculture for Life Advancement (WALA) program. They have had around 250,000 participants so far and seen a 65% increase in organic growing matter. The El
Salvador Cacao Alliance has helped farmers recover from the loss of their coffee crop due to disease and insects sped along by climate change. Working together with the Salvadoran government on horticulture policy, 6,500 farmers are looking to plant the traditional cacao trees across 16,000 acres of land. Speaking on the sustainability of these projects, Bill O’Keefe says that the goal is to, “build a  capacity for support not dependent on us.”

Bill O’Keefe also offered his thoughts on impact investing. Taking private capital and investing it towards the world’s poorest, especially in health, youth employment, migrants/refugees, and climate change can make a big difference. Countries need to work together on these issues in an integrated way or we will never get ahead of the problem and always be chasing solutions.

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Recap and Response: Replicating Successful National Programs to Reduce Hunger

by: Tish Harrison ’20

Dr. Daniel Gustafson started by saying that he never thought there’d be so much progress in the reduction of global hunger between 1977 when he first started working in Brazil and the present. He then launched into his report on national programs that have been successful in reducing hunger in the world. Between 1990 and 2015, he observed, the proportion of those suffering from hunger out of the world population fell from 24% to 12%.

It’s heartening to hear that programs geared toward reducing world hunger are succeeding and that incomes are rising so that more families can feed themselves. Skeptics often say that poverty will always remain a reality in the world regardless of people’s efforts to combat it. However, these are real statistics showing that, in at least one regard, we are succeeding in improving living standards for humanity.

We’ve learned that when governments make hunger programs a priority and get the support of the people behind these programs, real change can occur. Dr. Gustafson showed us ample evidence of this in governments around the world, providing special anecdotes from Bangladesh, India, Mexico, Brazil, Ghana and China.

Prof. Gustafson provided examples of national policies that have effectively addressed food insecurity

Dr. Gustafson has been working in the fields of rural development and agriculture for a long time. He’s seen better agricultural practices (advanced by scientists in the laboratory and experts in the field) lead to not only larger food yields to be consumed, but also greater income for farming families who put in the sweat and hours of labor. Toward the end of his presentation, he asked us to think about what more can be done now and in the future.

One thing we must do is keep up the pressure on world leaders to have world hunger on their agendas as they design their foreign policies and draw their national budgets. This has worked well in the past. We must keep these issues at the forefronts of their minds until 100% of the world’s population is nourished sustainably. Every person has the right to life and everyone must eat to live. After listening to Dr. Gustafson speak at the conference and hearing about our progress, I have great faith that the world can unite and eliminate hunger in the coming decades.

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