Friday, June 27, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT POST: Addressing Global Dependence on OIl

While reading the following article, keep in mind the following questions:

What are proven reserves of oil and gas?
How fast are we consuming these resources?
Where are global reserves of oil and gas located?
What are the environmental effects of oil and gas use?
What are the issues of drilling for oil in the ANWR?
What is peak oil and has it been reached yet?

Running on Empty? How Economic Freedom Affects Oil Supplies
by Stephen P. A. Brown and Richard Alm

Respond to one or more of the following questions:

1. What is today’s world price for oil? Check the web, a daily newspaper, or business network.

At present rates of consumption, we can determine how long world proven reserves (1,190 billion barrels at the end of 2004) will last by simply dividing the total oil by the annual production – approximately 31 billion barrels per year. Note that when we do this the resultant number is years since “barrels” cancel out.

The number represents the total number of years from 2005 that oil could be produced at current rates before it is all gone, assuming constant production and demand. In reality, the depletion of a resource like oil does not follow such a simple pattern. Rather, oil production will gradually decline over a long period of time (oil, like coal, becomes harder to extract). It is useful for this analysis, however, to assume for the moment that it does follow this simple depletion pattern, that is, at the present rate of extraction and use.

2. In what year, starting from 2005, would the world run out of oil in the previous scenario?

3. With oil reserves still available, should the United States look for better ways to extract oil or should we look for alternatives to oil as our major energy source?

Although the following New York Times Op-ed piece is dated, it offers some insight into how the United States is viewed globally. Check it out.

4. What benefits will both the United States and other countries reap when we become less dependent on oil as our major energy source?

Think about adding Freedom From Oil by David B. Sandalow, 2007, to your summer reading list.

5. I would be interested in your opinion concerning the United State’s dependency on oil as a source of energy. What solutions are there? What choices do we have? Are these choices economically and socially feasible?

6. How have higher energy (including gasoline) prices affected you and your family? What are you doing to deal with higher energy costs?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT POST: The Art of Deception

Hello everyone. I’ve been thinking recently about what I’ll call The Art of Deception. Human beings deceive, distort and distract to accomplish their goals, whether selling a product, electing a candidate, or winning popular support for a policy. We even deceive ourselves. Naturally, we accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative in a job interview or when selling a house. At what point does a convenient distortion become a poisonous lie?

I’d like you to read and think about political deception and post your comments accordingly. My hope is that you will be less susceptible to deceit and distortion. We wish to avoid partisan politics – every political party has engaged in deceit. Even so Abraham Lincoln, who spoke the immortal words on the subject, “…you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Perhaps it is best to begin with a synopsis of the research of Dr. Glen Newey, who concluded that “…some political deception is not only inevitable in a democracy but can be legitimate where it is conducted by elected politicians in the public interest where they have the tacit support of the electorate.”

Politicians being Economical with the truth is the price of a Healthy Democracy

Two other readings from opposing standpoints:

"Selective Intelligence" by Seymour Hersh, from The New Yorker magazine

“How Democrats Bamboozle Black Voters” from the Wall Street Journal

For more, search “Politics of Deception”.

Possible questions to ponder:

Where is the line that shouldn’t ethically be crossed in political deception?

Is the public entitled to the whole truth, all the details, all the time?

Can there be a successful, honest politician?

At what point is a mudslinging candidate hurt by her/his own negativity?

Does freedom of speech guarantee freedom to deceive?

What will it take to restore politics to an honorable stature?

I’m excited to hear your thoughts. I feel strongly that this is a critical issue that our society should address.

SUMMER PROJECT POST: Global Food Production

While reading the following articles (they’re short), keep these questions in mind:

What are global trends in grain production?
What are the principal uses of grain in the United States and the world?
Can global food supplies feed a growing population?


Why Ethanol Production Will Drive World Food Prices Even Higher in 2008
By Lester R. Brown

By Lester R. Brown

Critically answer one or several of the following questions and post your answers to our blog:

1. How do you think substituting ethanol for oil as a transport fuel will affect grain supplies (how has it already affected global grain supplies)? What evidence supports your view?
2. What percent of global grain harvest was fed to animals in 2006? Do a little research to find out. Should we discourage meat consumption or encourage grass feed instead of grain for livestock to free grain to feed the world’s hungry? How would your decision affect you personally?
3. What is the current global population? Check out this website to find out:
Do you think it is possible to feed a global human population of 9 billion? Support your answer.
4. Lester Brown doesn’t offer any alternatives to the use of ethanol as a source of fuel. Can you offer a solution to our growing energy needs that will not adversely affect global food supplies?
5. Have you or your family members noticed an increase in food prices? Find out. Discuss the issue with your parents or whoever buys the bread in you household. Share with us what you find out.

Friday, June 20, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT POST: ABC's of Developing Nations and Microfinance

This is the second of my 4 summer project posts around the theme of "Global Challenges: Narrowing the Gap between Developing and Developed Nations". If the Kiva article got your attention, you might want to find out more about what defines a developing nation, what microfinance is, and other basic concepts around this topic. The link below will take you to a google doc I published online that contains excerpts from articles with information on this issue.

Once you've read it, consider answering some or all of the questions below:

1. Based on your knowledge of world history, current events, etc., why do you think some countries have become "more developed" than others?

2. Is being "more developed" necessarily a good thing for a nation? Why or why not? What are some advantages/disadvantages to being a developed or developing nation?

3. Why do you think women in developing countries are the most likely to apply for microfinance loans?

4. In your opinion, what would be the most desirable and important outcome of microfinance efforts in developing countries? Why is this outcome the most desirable/important?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Apply for a chance to participate in Forecast Earth Summit!

This looks like an interesting opportunity to participate in an environmental forum to be held in Washington D.C. this December. Think seriously about applying.

Dear U.S. High School Students,

If you are passionate about the environment and are ready to help lead the world to a cleaner, greener future, please consider applying for this opportunity to share your ideas with leading environmental experts.

In an effort to bring environmental experts and students together to share ideas and thoughts on major environmental issues, the Weather Channel is hosting a Forecast Earth Summit in Washington, DC December 5 – 7, 2008

20 outstanding high school students, who are passionate about their environment and taking action to make a difference, will be selected to attend this summit.

If you are a high school student who wants to develop leadership skills by being an Eco-Ambassador for this summit, please go the following web site and fill out an application.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Interested in Solar Energy?

If so, you might want to put the Open House for the Mountain View Solar House on your calendar for Saturday, July 12 from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Check out the website at

The address is 3026 Pious Ridge Road, and there's an e-mail address and a phone number on the website to find out directions. This would be a great way to begin a project about solar power or alternate energy sources for our class.

Internet President? SUMMER PROJECT POST

Those of you who know me know how interested I am in popular media’s influence on society, and you’ll be seeing me post articles related to communication and media over the next few months. This is my second summer project post and deals with media and communication in a slightly different way than the first.

In the June issue of The Atlantic Monthly, Marc Ambinder discusses Barack Obama’s use of the Internet as a campaign tool, and speculates about how he will use it if elected president. Another interesting aspect of this article deals with the way communication media have changed and how successful presidential candidates have used new (and sometimes controversial) media to their advantage.

Read the article at and consider the following:

This is the first election in which candidates have had a consistent web campaign (via MySpace, Facebook, speeches on YouTube, etc.); you may even want to view the candidates’ pages in order to really think about this issue. How do you think this change in media has affected voter demographics, perception of the candidates, and campaign tactics?

Does the medium in which a candidate communicates affect your perception of that candidate? Is, as Neil Postman asserts, the medium the message? Is the method of communication just as or more important as what is being said?

What are your thoughts about what a President might do with the Internet once in office? What changes might we see based on these changes in communication media?

Disclaimer: I do not mean for this post to provoke partisan political discussion. Let’s focus on the way candidates are using media to communicate.

Friday, June 6, 2008

What are YOU reading this summer?

My favorite things about summer are big red sliced tomatoes, campfires, going to Cape Cod, and READING WHATEVER I WANT! I'd love to hear everyone else's book suggestions, and I'll share a few of my own. Post 'em on this thread!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Student Opportunity: America's Promise

Since one emphasis of this class is active student involvement in the community, nation and world, here's an opportunity for you to become engaged in one of the premier youth-focused organizations in this country: America's Promise. It was established by General Colin Powell about 10 years ago and is dedicated to increasing the well-being of youth across the country. They are looking for young people (16 - 22 years old) around the country to join their Youth Partnership Team. The link below will take you to the site that explains this program:

This could be an incredible opportunity for someone in our class; it could even be the basis of your project for the class. Check it out and consider applying!

Monday, June 2, 2008


Hello everyone! This is the first of my four posts over the summer around the theme of "Global Challenges: Narrowing the Gap between Developing and Developed Nations". I thought I'd start with an article from the Stanford University Alumni Magazine about Kiva, an online organization that allows people around the world to loan small amounts of money (as little as $25!) to other people in developing nations trying to start businesses to improve their lives. Here's the link to the article:

If you choose this post as one of your four for your summer project, please read the article and comment on one or more of the following questions, keeping in mind the posting requirements on the summer project handout and criteria we established at our meeting:

Possible questions to consider:

Should we as people of the richest nation in the world lead the way in helping developing nations, simply because it's the right thing to do (moral idealism)? Or should we do it because we might get something in return (political realism)? What benefits might result from assisting developing nations?

Does Kiva refute the argument that technology isolates people? Why or why not?

Are you surprised that virtually everybody who receives a loan from Kiva pays it back? If so, why are you surprised? If not, why not? Are your personal biases about developing nations reflected in your response? What is your image of the typical loan recipient?

Why do you think Kiva has taken off the way it has?