Quick Links — China, Evidence Comparison, REDD+, Free Will, and Much More!

In “Quick Links” I pass along the most debate relevant articles I come across each week as I am fulfilling my unhealthy compulsion to get my Feedly number down to zero. With a full week of news to work with the number of links has doubled this week. 

If you have a link you would like to pass along, please post a link in the comments. 

1.) The Council on Foreign Relations highlights a new book that takes on the ways in which China’s growing demand for natural resources will change the world and how the rest of the world should respond. The book, All Means Necessary: How China’s Resource Quest is Changing the World, is written by CFR Senior Fellows Elizabeth C. Economy (great name) and Michael Levi. It is now available to order. From the CFR press release: 

China’s meteoric growth and transformation into a major economic power is demanding ever-larger quantities of energy, minerals, land, and water. In a sweeping new book, Senior Fellow for Asia Studies Elizabeth C. Economy and Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment Michael Levi show how China’s quest to secure those resources is changing the world—and China itself.

I have not read the book, but it seems like it could offer some reasonably good and recent evidence that might be useful for China debates. It is definitely worth a look. Also, CFR just put out a refresher on China’s environmental problems. It offers some great background information and links to additional resources. 

2.)  Mike LaBossiere, professor of philosophy at Florida A&M, wrote a couple of blog posts this week that offer helpful advice that is relevant to evidence comparison. 

In the first article, “Picking Between Experts,” LaBossiere offers guidelines for, well, picking between experts. An example: 

“2. The claim being made by the person is within her area(s) of expertise.

If a person makes a claim about some subject outside of his area(s) of expertise, then the person is not an expert in that context. Hence, the claim in question is not backed by the required degree of expertise and is not reliable. People often mistake expertise in one area (acting, for example) for expertise in another area (politics, for example).”

In a follow up piece, “Picking Between Studies,” LaBossiere turns his attention to the mistakes people make when examining the strengths of particular studies:

“Since most people do not do their own research, the studies mentioned are typically those conducted by others. While using study results in an argument is quite reasonable, making a good argument based on study results requires being able to pick between studies rationally.”

Some of this may seem a bit elementary, but these articles offer a brief and useful refresher on a skill that many debaters struggle to implement effectively. 

3.) The Star published an article explaining that the new Tunisian constitution includes language that obligates the state to protect the climate and eliminate pollution. 

“Tunisia, the starting place for the massive protests three years ago that came to be known as the Arab Spring, did something remarkable this week: it embedded climate change into its constitution.

The constitution, praised as one of the most progressive in the region, now obliges the state to “contribute to the protection of the climate … for future generations.” It also says that the “state shall provide the necessary means to eliminate environmental pollution.”

Few words but very important ones, say experts.

“What Tunisia has done is something relatively new in terms of world constitutions … it is a big step,” said David Estrin, a senior environmental lawyer with Gowlings, a large Canadian law firm.

Tunisia, he said, has not only given its citizens the right to ask their government to deal with climate change — it has also “elevated the concept (of climate change) to one of an international law.””

The idea of placing environmental provisions in the constitutions of developing countries could lead to some solid affirmatives on the topic. For example, if Jake’s recent article is correct, then constitutional changes might be some of the only topical affs. 

4.) The Rights and Resources Initiative published two new reports this week on the subject of indigenous rights over natural resources and land. “Lots of Words, Little Action: Will the private sector tip the scales for community land rights?” concludes that while the number of commitments and promises for reform have increased, few have resulted in action of any kind. The other report, “Lessons Learned from Community Forestry in Latin America and their Relevance for REDD,” reviews previous initiatives and reforms in the area of community resource rights and what they can teach us going forward. From the press release announcing the reports: 

“LONDON (5 February, 2014)—A recent spate of high-profile pronouncements and court rulings that support the claims of Indigenous Peoples to land and resources in tropical forest nations have yet to be implemented, according to two new reports released today by the Rights and Resources Initiative. Around the world, the pace of legal recognition of land and resource rights has slowed dramatically even as the global hunger for food, fuel, water and mineral wealth continues. 
In examining 33 countries (representing 85 percent of forests in low and middle income countries), the new RRI analysis found that the area of forestland secured for community ownership since 2008 is less than 20 percent of the area that was recognized in the previous six years. And despite progress in Latin America in particular, governments still claim 61 percent of the world’s tropical forests, home to tens of millions of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. 
In a further analysis examining the legal frameworks in a subset of these countries, researchers 
determined that the land tenure laws passed since 2008 are weaker and recognize fewer rights than those passed before. “

I have not thought through how this is best applied to the topic, but it seems to me that it is clearly relevant. 

5.) Speaking of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation program), Monga Bay highlighted a new report put together by Global Canopy Programme, the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, Fauna & Flora International, and UNEP Finance Initiative. The main takeaway is that REDD+ will not be able to meet its targets because of a huge shortfall in funding

“The report, released last week, looks at the projected gap between supply and demand for emissions reductions generated under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation program (REDD+). It finds that if an E.U. target for a 50 percent reduction in tropical deforestation by 2020 is to be met, current commitments would effectively fund only three percent of that amount, leaving a shortfall of 97 percent. That means developing countries would see only a fraction of the financial incentive they would otherwise expect for cutting deforestation before 2020, when REDD+ emissions reductions could start being used to meet compliance obligations. 

“There is currently no source of demand that will pay for medium to long-term emission reductions from REDD+ in the period between 2015 and 2020,” states the report. “This problem seriously threatens the successful implementation of REDD+, because without interim demand there will be little or no incentive for forest countries to participate and redirect resources towards REDD+, or for the private sector to invest.” “

I have already seen a few plans that talk about REDD in some way, this is definitely something to be on top of. 

6.) Dr. Will Turner, Chief Scientist for Conservation International, blogged this week about the importance of the environment and ecosystem services to human health. The post contains a good diversity of warrants and impacts, it also includes some good links that provide useful information. Money quote: 

“As we destroy Earth’s forests, reefs, wetlands and other ecosystems, we light a fire to our storm barriers, our air filters, our water towers and our medicine cabinets, all at the same time. But we can turn this around: Stewarding nature would unleash a powerful, vital force in sustaining human life.

The notion that death and suffering can be prevented has been a driving force in medicine and has completely transformed human existence. We’re rapidly learning about the health consequences of ecosystem loss, and the countless life-saving benefits that natural ecosystems give us. How much longer should we wait to use that knowledge to save and improve human lives?”

This could obviously be useful as affirmative impact evidence, or could at least lead you toward finding good impact evidence. The author also published a study last year that highlighted the important role that ecosystem services play in reducing poverty. 

7.) Brian Leiter, The Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence and Director, Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values at the University of Chicago, provided a link to a collection of interviews with prominent philosophers on the subject of free will. This is a very good resource to learn about an issue that comes up on nearly every topic in some way. Also, I am sure many of the names will be familiar to debaters. 

8.) At Brookings, Visiting Fellow Yun Sun published an opinion piece concerning China’s aid policies in Africa. She argues that while China’s aid policy is more complicated than many commentators realize, it is at least partially motivated by a desire to access African resources: 

“Much Chinese financing to Africa is associated with securing the continent’s natural resources. Using what is sometimes characterized as the “Angola Model,” Chinas frequently provides low-interest loans to nations who rely on commodities, such as oil or mineral resources, as collateral.[13] In these cases, the recipient nations usually suffer from low credit ratings and have great difficulty obtaining funding from the international financial market; China makes financing relatively available—with certain conditions.”

Lots of affs are making arguments about Chinese involvement in African resource extraction, so this article provides crucial background information. Also, it includes some create links to resources on both sides of the issue. 

9.) The Economist highlighted a new study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, that argues environmental legislation like the Clean Air Act have positive long-term economic effects. From the Economists’ description: 

“A new paper* suggests another measure to curb pollution that may have had beneficial long-term economic impacts for individuals. The paper’s authors, Adam Isen, Maya Rossin-Slater and Reed Walker, compared the adult labour-market outcomes of those born in counties in America where air pollution decreased as the result of the 1970 Clean Air Act to those born in areas where pollution did not fall in this period. They found that those who were born in counties that were forced to cut air pollution as a result of the legislation earned more by their thirties than they would have otherwise: gaining approximately $4,300 each in extra income over their lives.”

This is a solid start for researching aff economic advantages or potential turns to popular negative disadvantages. 

10.) Evidence for a “sleep on it” counterplan? The full study is here. 

Chris Theis is a VBI Curriculum Director and coaches at both Apple Valley and PV Peninsula High Schools. 

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