Flip: Global Voices

If you’re interested in what happens beyond the borders of the United States, then you also know that an awful lot of what’s reported as foreign news is distilled through the filter of government to government action, diplomat to diplomat negotiation. 

A different kind of communication is now available on the Internet, which fills that huge space between the conversation among international elites and the conversation occurring at the grassroots. Few Web sites are doing that as well as GlobalVoices online.org, which has secured an international network of young bloggers to report on ground level events. Some of the bloggers are so good that national governments have frenchtrain.jpgimprisoned them.

I note the existence of GlobalVoicesonline because the American Mode Shift is predicated on this country’s capacity to be much better at getting along with our global neighbors. This is a century in which we’re gradually learning how to do more with much less, and in the process also realizing we can lead richer lives that give us more time, more freedom, more rights, more opportunities. Much of the improvement will come with redesigning cities to be more ecologically sensitive, energy efficient, architecturally welcoming places to live.

But we won’t be able to achieve that more worthwhile future as long as the United States continues to give much the world the back of its hand. In the 2oth century we lived so profligately that we had to reach into every corner of the globe to grab the natural resources what George Bush I famously defined before the first Gulf War as our “American way of life.” The world is pushing back, outcompeting us in labor markets, innovation, and sustainability.

Europeans, for instance, enjoy more vacation, more time with their families, a higher standard of living, and use half as much energy as Americans do. The French just unleashed a new intercity train (see pix)that can go 3oo miles per hour, is quicker city to city than a jet, and uses much less energy. Indian computer and software engineers are returning to their home country because entrepreneurial opportunities are greater there than here. 

GlobalVoicesonline’s network of citizen journalists is dedicated to broadening cultural understanding and improving global journalism. It was developed by Ethan Zuckerman, an activist and researcher focused on information technology and information development, who is based at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. His online project, which he founded with a Berkman Center colleague, Rebecca MacKinnon, features stories from over 100 nations and is visited by 200,000 readers a month. Zuckerman also is a contributor and board member of Worldchanging.com, a Seattle-based global news portal. In 2002, Technology Review Magazine awarded Zuckerman the Technology in the Service of Humanity Award. In 2003, Fortune Magazine named him as one of the top 10 innovators under the age of 40. The World Economic Forum named him a Global Leader for Tomorrow in 2003 and a Young Global Leader in 2005.

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