Starting university each fall can be a whirlwind of finding classes, buying textbooks and catching-up with friends in the beer gardens after the summer break. Because these distractions in our busy personal lives can remove our attention from the plethora of events going on in the world, here is a global roundup of the biggest headlines during the first weeks of September.
Unless you live under a rock, chances are you will already have heard about at least one of these international headlines. But if you haven’t — or have but still don’t really know what’s going on — this week’s feature will bring you up to speed on some of the biggest news from home and abroad.
1. Climate catastrophes set backdrop for the Global Climate Strike
This year is quickly becoming overwhelmingly characterized by its environmental disasters. Although you have probably heard about the record-breaking Hurricane Dorian and the still-blazing Amazon rainforest fires, a recent United Nations report found that climate crisis disasters are now happening at a rate of one a week.
Large-scale catastrophes like hurricanes, fires and cyclones make global headlines, but smaller events like droughts and floods that cause death, destruction and displacement in developing countries gather little international attention or support.
Another report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre found seven million people have already been displaced worldwide from natural disasters between January to June in 2019, a number estimated to triple to nearly 22 million by the end of the year.
This estimate seems likely as the category five Hurricane Dorian that made landfall in the Bahamas on Sept. 1 has killed at least 50 people and left another 70,000 without homes. The destruction was also felt in Canada as the hurricane made its way northwards, leaving more than 108,000 homes and businesses without power in the Maritimes.
Organizations like the Global Commission on Adaptation and others are urging society to recognize that climate change is no longer a problem in our distant future but an immediate global crisis needing solutions.
Although Dorian may have diverted attention from the Amazon’s destruction, many of its thousands of fires reported in August are still ongoing.
Environmental scientists remained concerned about the future effects the fires could have because of the Amazon’s crucial role in regulating the world’s climate by absorbing an estimated five per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions every year.
International criticism is now directed at the policies of right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as he initially blamed NGO environmental groups for starting the fires without evidence and then only sent military support after receiving threats of trade sanctions.
According to The Washington Post, it has been revealed recently by studies of satellite data that the Amazon fires are mostly a human-made event. The areas of previously deforested sections are being intentionally burned to create land for agriculture.
Between 2000 and 2014, Brazil nearly doubled its cultivable land primarily by deforestation. Bolsonaro’s new policies have accelerated the process with data showing an area the size of a soccer field being lost every minute in July.
These catastrophic events set the backdrop for the Global Climate Strike happening on Sept. 20 and 27, a demonstration to bring attention to the policies worsening the climate crisis.
The strike is being led by the famous teen Swede Greta Thunberg who recently made a two-week, carbon-
neutral voyage from England to New York City to speak at the UN Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23. After, Thunberg will continue her journey to attend the march in Montreal that Friday.
Currently, the #WeekForFuture movement has 117 countries registered for the strikes which will take place in over 2,500 locations internationally. Some Saskatoon citizens will be participating in the movement with a local strike at the City Hall on Sept. 27.
2. Trump cancels talks with the Taliban, leaving Afghanistan’s future unpredictable
Speaking of setting the world on fire, United States President Donald Trump has recently been adding to his erratic reputation by canceling meetings with international delegates rather unexpectedly.
This August, many politicians mocked and condemned Trump’s personal decision to cancel a planned visit with Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen after the country mocked his proposition to buy Greenland.
However comical Trump’s refuted land deals may be, his most recent cancellation of peace talks with the Afghanistan government and the Taliban to end the 18-year conflict have serious implications for the region and the future of American foreign policy.
After a year of negotiations, a draft peace agreement with the Taliban was negotiated on Sept. 2 that would have withdrawn 5,400 US troops from select bases in Afghanistan within five months of the deal being signed.
The meeting could have led towards the ending the US’s longest running war, but it was never finalized after the Taliban claimed its second bombing in the capital city Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed 10 civilians and an American service member.
Trump responded on Sept. 9 by declaring all talks as “dead,” leaving the idea of regional peace in limbo. Criticism immediately fell on Trump from members of the US administration who believe a withdrawal from the country having the potential of causing a civil war in Afghanistan.
The Taliban is now at its height of power since its 2001 ousting by US-led military coalition, now controlling roughly 14.5 per cent of Afghan territory. The group’s primary objective remains with ending US occupation in the country which is what obligates them to provide safe passage for the US troops to withdraw.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen claimed Trump’s ending of negotiations without a deal were “astonishing” because the Taliban believed peace agreements had already been concluded with the US negotiating team.
Concern mounts that civilians will continue to be used as targets for attacks to show the Taliban’s strength to the international community. A UN report said that 2018, with over 3,800 killed, had the highest number of civilian casualties than any year of the war’s nearly two-decade history.
Following the talk’s cancellation, President Trump fired his fourth and longest-
serving US national security adviser John Bolton on Sept. 10. After a series of disagreements with Trump over international issues including the Taliban peace accord, Bolton was removed from the White House, leaving the future of US foreign policy unpredictable.
Attention is now directed at Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to find a new settlement before the presidential elections on Sept. 28.
According to financial website The Balance, the 18-year Afghanistan conflict has cost the US an estimated $975 billion US.
The cost to human life has been more staggering with estimates of over 110,000 Afghans killed, nearly 2,300 US military deaths and the thousands of American veterans coping with post-traumatic stress disorder.
3. Canadian Bianca Andreescu becomes famous overnight after US Open tennis final win
In lighter news, the first weeks of September were celebrated by millions of Canadians as 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu beat Serena Williams, winning the US Open final in New York on Sept. 7.
The Mississauga-born’s win in the Grand Slam singles became an historic event as Andreescu became the first Canadian to ever win the championship title.
Beyond her historic win, Andreescu also broke the audience record with the game being the most watched tennis broadcast on TSN ever. The match drew in 7.4 million Canadian viewers for parts of the match and an average of 3.4 million viewers for the game, making it a larger audience than the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, according to TSN.
Following the tennis final, Bonnie Crombie, mayor of Mississauga, wants to give Andreescu the keys to the city and name a street after her. The mayors of both Mississauga and Toronto have also offered to host parades for the tennis superstar.
Andreescu is adjusting to being in the spotlight and receiving public congratulations from an array of notable Canadians such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, NBA player Steve Nash and a belated congratulatory text directly from Drake.
However, the celebrations might be suspended temporarily as Andreescu will soon return to training for the Beijing Open, held from Sept. 28 to Oct. 6.
Andreescu’s rapid rise from being ranked 210th in the world by the Women’s Tennis Association to fifth, inspired her to keep working towards becoming number one.
After winning $3.85 million US for her victory at the women’s singles title, it is unlikely that the tennis star will be as strapped for cash as are most Canadians her age. With such popularity, Andreescu’s future looks promising that more paycheques might follow with millions from endorsement deals.
4. Canadian federal election campaigns begin
Perhaps if you have not heard of these headlines it is from a purposeful ignorance to keep yourself sheltered from the nonsense. No matter how well your defence system is designed, for the next month you are going to be flanked by political ads for the Oct. 21 federal election.
Campaigns for Canada’s 43rd general election officially began on Sept. 11 after Prime Minister Trudeau paid a visit to Governor General Julie Payette to kick off the campaign.
This election will be unique because of the wide range of personalities leading each of the opposing parties. From progressive NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, to the Green Party’s climate focussed leader Elizabeth May and the Liberal’s most vocal critic, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
Over the 40-day campaign, Trudeau will argue that he deserves a second term while the three other candidates will claim the opposite by addressing the quality of leadership and the Liberal Party’s policies.
A poll on Sept. 11 found the Conservatives started the election with the support of 35 per cent voters nationally with the Liberals close behind at 32 per cent, the NDP at 15 per cent and the Greens at eight per cent.
Even though the Liberals have a fair shot at re-election, the prime minister’s ongoing SNC-Lavalin scandal and ethics violation is an easy target for Trudeau’s opponents. After whistleblower Jody Wilson-Raybould was interviewed by the RCMP on Sept. 10, Scheer began his campaign by accusing Trudeau of being untrustworthy.
Political analysts argue that this election is marked by intense polarization and party loyalty amongst voters. One study out of McGill University called the Digital Democracy Project found that Canadians are affected by ideological polarization because of negative feelings towards members of other parties.
Instead of attributing the polarization to social media, the Digital Democracy Project found that the divide might increase if parties choose to differentiate themselves by taking extreme positions on issues.
Some of the most divisive issues facing Canadians that will be debated fiercely by politicians will include energy and environmental policy, trade, taxes and immigration.
Although the internet might not be driving the divide, there are concerns with what role political disinformation on social media could play in the campaigns.
In the age of “fake news,” disinformation and misinformation, content can be made into a variety of memes, posts and videos to be shared and sway opinions. Even though people often don’t realize that what they are sharing is false, it can lead to disinformation spreading further than the truth.
Whatever your political outlook is or how passionate you are about the federal election, 2019 is an excellent opportunity for every Canadian to voice their opinion.
If three intentions can guide you over the following month and a half of heightened tensions is to look at political information with a critical eye, treat everyone with the respect they deserve, even online, and to get out to vote.
Noah Callaghan/ Staff Writer
Graphics: Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor