The stately Indo-colonial buildings on Mall Road Lahore, where Dorothy Eha lived for over 40 years (Photo by Saleem H. Ali)

The bestselling author Robert Kaplan has a new book out titled The Good American which is an unusual biography of a relatively unknown development professional. I had a chance to interview Bob Kaplan for a webinar for the Foreign Policy Research Institute and was reminded of one of my high school teachers who died in Lahore, Pakistan in 2018. Contrary to what you may expect, this teacher was not a Pakistani male but rather an American female who dedicated her career to educating young Pakistani men in an all-male school — Aitchison College for over three decades. Ms. Dorothy Eha…


Asia’s vulnerability to climate change: Infographic from Asian Development Bank

Postscript Update to article on April 19, 2021 — Since this article was published on March 27, 2001, the momentum behind the concerns highlighted in this article led the Biden administration to reconsider their approach and they opened invitations to additional countries. This has been a sensible course-correction which is duly acknowledged, though opportunities for climate diplomacy with countries like Cuba and Iran are still being missed.

March 27, 2021. The White House is hosting a major international conference on climate action on April 22–23 and released a list of 40 invited countries. First, it is an arbitrary decision to…


Intergenerational connections: Image from new short-film Tikkun Olam — photograph by Jessica Caso

As the tumult in Washington was unfolding at the start of 2021, I got an invitation to preview a short 10 minute film made on the streets of the nation’s capital by Pakistani-American director Bob (Babar) Ahmed. The film was titled Tikkun Olam, which is a Hebrew term from Jewish teachings on iconoclastic efforts at finding a pure path beyond distractions to improving the world. Using this concept as an exotic metaphor, Ahmed’s film targets the persistent global malady of homelessness — an urban challenge that has become even more acutely obvious during COVID. In the masked quiet world of…


Michelangelo and Wikipedia — Image from American Prospect archives — creative commons license

The year 2020 has tested the most significant aspect of humanity that differentiates us from other organisms — the ability for advanced communication. The miasma of misinformation which this year has brought forth from pseudo-science commentary on virology to conspiracy theories about election fraud is astounding. We have also been far more susceptible to misinformation being stuck at home with our computing devices. Overloaded with memes in forwarded messages and torrents of twisted tweets, many of us have found anchorage in authentic information. …


As the current American election drama bedevils the public, understanding the anatomy of conspiratorial thinking with composure, and without contempt, is essential for this country to heal.

Image by Jackie Ferrentino — Creative Commons License

Conspiracy theories are a symptom of fear and powerlessness. When people are unable to find answers or make sense of uncertainty or turmoil they latch on to whatever fanciful explanation makes sense. An excellent primer on the anatomy of conspiracy theories in the United States was compiled by Peter Knight almost two decades ago and still remains the most academically grounded analysis of the topic. Psychologists have also explored this topic as an…


Trojan Nuclear Power Plant Demolition Print — Kevin Davidson, 2006

The quest for a holy grail of global energy supply remains elusive, but much research continues to be cultivated and curated according to preferences and assumptions about a desired outcome. A recent paper in Nature Energy reflects such proclivities in favor of renewable energy with a clear objective of marginalizing nuclear power. Despite a very elegant hypothesis-driven conceptual framework, the authors have designed a study that diminishes the carbon benefits of nuclear by using a regression analysis that is not well-suited to the core societal question at hand: is the future of nuclear power likely to assist with carbon mitigation…


Lahore Metro Train Project in Pakistan -Developed in Partnership with China

Mass transit projects in cities of the developing world have become hallmarks of development prestige but remain controversial. While many impoverished cities should avoid such massive capital investment, South Asia’s dense, rapidly growing mega-cities are appropriate venues for such projects since the cost-benefit analysis for quality of life in economic and ecological terms usually favors such development. In my home city of Lahore, Pakistan a mass transit metro-train project was opened on October 25, 2020 after several years of delays that ensued from ligation against the development. The litigants were well-intentioned urban citizens who felt that the project was too…


Wildlife near Chengdu, China, Photograph by Saleem H. Ali

Any global crisis prompts environmental scientists to consider linkages to ecological disruptions. In our rush to gain “panic policy dividends” we need to be cautious about what ecological insights and policy prescriptions we derive from current crisis.

Nobel laureate Joshua Lederberg famously said that “the single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on the planet is the virus.” The biological entities called viruses exist in the twilight zone between life and non-life and remain an elusive subject of evolutionary study. While the invisible biotic world of microbiology is often synonymous with dread, only around 1% of all microbes can actually…


As the Corona Virus grips the world in panic, I share this short article about how a small country which has thus far escaped a single recorded case of the virus has managed to reconcile with its erstwhile enemies.

A bridge in honor of a former enemy nation’s leader — Dili, Timor Leste. Photo by Saleem H. Ali

Among the many geographic anomalies of European colonialism are states that have found national identities in defiance of ecological integrity. In these states new fusion cultures emerged that blended indigenous traditions with the language, culture and religion of their colonial masters. Often such states have become enclaves within dominant regional nations and been subject to hegemonic overtures that have led to…


Lake Champlain view from Battery Park in Burlington Vermont — a city positively transformed by Bernie

Buzz-words have resonance in America more than most countries because we Americans are known for our parsimonious vocabulary. We love using “like” and then the same word over and over again as a means of modifying its meaning but in our mental template the core meaning often stays the same. Such is the case with “socialism” in America. The word has erroneously become synonymous with communism and no matter what prefix you use like “democratic socialism” — the term remains stigmatic. …

Saleem H. Ali

Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Energy and the Environment, University of Delaware; Member of the United Nations International Resource Panel

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