The challenges we face in the 21st century requires international cooperation and corroboration more than ever. Even domestic affairs such as primaries and general elections have global implications for defining and redefining democracy through practice. The 7thMcDonnell International Scholars Academy Symposium set the goal of addressing global challenges in health, energy and environment, and agriculture. Scholars and students around the world actively engaged in discussions both on and off the stage to share their concerns and suggestions regarding these challenges. For instance, in the session “Threats from Infection,” Professor William Powderly (Washington University in St. Louis) illustrated the intersection of two epidemics, HIV and Tuberculosis. Underscoring the importance of tackling stigmas attached to the marginalized, Professor Powderly stated, “We have the technology. How we use it will be the measure of success on how we control those issues.”
Issues of climate change, sustainable growth, and food security are no longer new. Many argue, including the scientists at the symposium, that we even have the means to resolve them. What we lack, according to Mr. Carl Casale (Board of Directors, Syngenta), is the will. There is a way but not a will. This means that the global challenges we face are no less a human problem than a scientific question.
The energy and capital used to develop new technologies should be equally devoted to address the problems with a broader audience and promote multiple levels of conversations. The Symposium was a platform and an opportunity to bring attention to both.
Bringing together people of different disciplines, from social work and comparative literature to medicine and chemistry, the Symposium reaffirmed the importance of communication among human beings. New technologies are important to confront global challenges. But at the end of the day, new technologies will be implemented by no other than humans.
I’m leaving Beijing with good memories of hospitality from Tsinghua University and other partner universities. I look forward to continuing our conversations of hope and promises in 2020 at Washington University in St. Louis.