Stunning developments in science, technology, industry, and agriculture have been offset by the political, economic, and environmental costs of these advances. New types of organizations have given governments and people new ways to respond to the world's challenges.
Section 1 The Challenges of Our World
The world has seen great developments in science, technology, industry, and agriculture. Space travel and high-speed communications have opened up new frontiers. The flip side of these developments has been a range of problems that affect growing numbers of people, and the risks of damage to the environment have grown considerably. Globalization has broken down many barriers between nations, and interest in democracy has revived. Yet populations have exploded, the gap between the rich and the poor has increased, and hunger and disease remain widespread. Regional, ethnic, and religious conflicts often spread across borders. The end of the Cold War has reduced fears of a global nuclear war, but fears of powerful weapons in terrorist hands have increased. The gender gap has narrowed, but less so in developing countries.
Section 2 Global Visions
The global nature of many problems in the twentieth century has led to the development of global organizations. The United Nations, formed at the end of World War II, has been an important body in which nations can voice concerns and address problems. Citizen groups have responded to a host of challenges—from the dangers of nuclear power to nonviolence. Nongovernmental organizations have allowed citizens to expand their influence on issues such as religion, disarmament, the environment, and human rights. Yet political, ethnic, and religious disputes have often interfered with the resolution of such issues. One lesson of history is that being involved in the affairs of society may create opportunities to make wise choices, even in an age that is often crisis laden and chaotic.