2010-2011 Topics


2010-2011 Topics


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Healthy Living — Fast foods, convenience foods, stress, multi-tasking, working vacations…all of these are affecting our lives today, resulting in a generation of people with disorders that were unknown twenty-five years ago. Illnesses related to stress and a fast-paced lifestyle seem to be part and parcel of the intensity at which people are living today. These conditions include both physical and psychological conditions such as broken sleep patterns, obesity, lack of physical exercise, ADHD, and mood swings – to name just a few. What impact (social, economic, political, etc.) will these unhealthy habits have on the lives of the next generations?

Air Transport — Megaplanes carry larger passenger loads for longer and longer distances. Budget airlines offer cutthroat prices that hreaten the viability of their competitors. Increased mechanical issues reflect the large number of aging aircraft still in service. High-paying passengers demand luxuries like extensive entertainment systems that require extra weight. Some airlines survive by becoming specialty carriers – one caters only to pets. Passengers complain of inefficiency and lack of privacy both in airports and on planes. Airport security continues to become more intense and invasive. Air traffic controllers complain of outdated systems and overwork. Manufacturers lose money when the air transport of manufactured goods is not dependable. What is the future of air travel? Will people continue to travel the globe in such large numbers or will they turn to other methods of transportation for their travel needs?

Genetic Testing — Scientists are currently looking into the genetic testing of humans so that we will know if we are genetically prone to besity, smoking, violence, etc. How will people respond to the availability of such tests? How much will be shared with insurance companies and law enforcement agencies? Examples: If health insurance companies know that you will become obese and need treatment for obesity related diseases, they may charge you more or cancel your coverage. If you are genetically prone to violence, you may be monitored by law enforcement agencies. In what other ways can this information be used? What are the benefits and drawbacks to genetic testing? Will some governments, employers, or insurance companies require it? Will genetic testing become the “Big Brother” of the future?

Water Quality — Over the years we have made great strides in maximizing water quality. We have also developed innovative ways to lean up messes made to our streams, lakes, oceans. Filters have been devised and chemicals have been discovered that will neutralize many dangerous chemicals. While these solutions have dealt with industrial and household wastes, a new challenge has come in the back door. We are now finding drugs like Prozac, Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine, just to name a few, seeping into our water systems. Drugs pass through our people’s bodies and enter the sewer systems every day. In many places, the water that is “cleaned” is water that is sent back to the drinking water sources. While many other pollutants have been filtered or neutralized, these systems do not filter or neutralize the many legal and illegal drugs that are being consumed today. We are finding these drugs in the bodies of humans and animals in the wild that have never had personal access to the drugs. Is finding new ways to filter or neutralize the water the answer or must we once again find ways to minimize the causes?

Emergency Planning  — Major regional and national emergencies – severe weather events like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and acts of terrorism like the attacks of September 11, 2001 – are an unavoidable reality. There are tremendous costs associated with rebuilding destroyed structures and cities, treating injured people, and rapidly relocating needed equipment and personnel. Often, governments’ and nongovernmental organizations’ ability to respond to disasters do not meet the needs and expectations of affected people. How can institutions – governments, businesses, charities, etc. – better prepare for unforeseeable disasters? Who should have primary responsibility for coordinating responses to major emergencies? What kind of planning is needed to respond to disasters such as cyber-attacks or poisoned water sources?

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