Global challenges

Authored by: Ulf Engel

The Routledge Handbook of Transregional Studies

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138718364
eBook ISBN: 9780429438233
Adobe ISBN:


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Nowadays, severe problems of mankind are often referred to as ‘global challenges’. First, this is not to say that problems of a transregional, or even global, dimension did not exist before. For instance, infectious diseases and epidemics such as the plague in the sixth century, and again in the fourteenth century, or the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918/19 had already affected large parts of the world long before the concern and resulting discussion about global challenges were introduced. The same certainly holds true for hunger, war, and extreme weather conditions. However, it is only since the publication of the first report of the Club of Rome on ‘The Limits to Growth’ in 1972 (Meadows et al. 1972) that an imagined ‘global’ has become the main point of reference for framing these problems. Second, the very notion of global challenges represents a form of Orwellian newspeak – a controlled language, a euphemism that carries at least two messages: first, that these problems really concern everyone and not simply a specific part of mankind, or one particular world region; and, second, that in spite of the severe nature of the problem at hand, certain institutions can deal with it, manage the ‘challenges’, and create ‘sustainable’ solutions.

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