Vincent A. Ferraro, professor of international politics at Mount Holyoke College, presented the annual Kenneth Roemer Lecture on World Affairs. In his address, Ferraro discussed “The Future of American Foreign Policy: The Burdens of A Reluctant Hegemon.”
Ferraro outlined several key points that he said could potentially lead to future problems for America and placed particular emphasis on the future of libertarianism, the effects of global warming and the steady increase in world population.
“No generation in human history has ever witnessed such a dramatic increase in human population,” Ferraro said.
Along with the rising world population, Ferraro said that the changing climate could bring one-fourth of the earth’s organisms to the brink of extinction by 2050.
“There are concerns about the future stability of the international system, and the ability of the post-World War II system to change,” he said.
Ferraro went on to say that the growing population and subsequent technological developments have greatly impacted international policy.
According to Ferraro, the current generation of college graduates, which he has dubbed “the fourth age of humanity” in reference to the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and the current technological revolution, will bear the brunt of the damage.
“Your generation is stuck with the prodigious task of saving the world,” he said. “Every generation has had its share of problems, but I will concede that yours wins the prize for having the most difficult.”
Although Ferraro said the prognosis for the future is bleak, he stressed that change will not be possible if people focus only on saving themselves. He compared humanity’s role in preserving itself with that of a parent and child traveling on an airplane: If oxygen masks drop down in a crisis, it is the parent’s duty to put their own mask on first, so that they can properly help their child.
“There’s a difference between being self-interested and being selfish,” Ferraro said. “Being self-interested means that you want to be strong so you can help the ones who are depending on you. Being selfish means that you’d rather take someone else’s oxygen mask [on a plane] in case yours doesn’t work. Self-interested is what you want to be.”
He said that the key to truly making a difference exists in the ability to keep oneself informed on global affairs.
“One cannot save the world without knowledge,” Ferraro said.