Tough topics: ‘Great Decisions’ lecture series returns to Bainbridge

China’s expansion, human trafficking, and A.I. – oh my!

The world is a complex and dangerous place these days, with issues worthy of discussion abounding every which way one dares look. And for more than a decade, those seeking assistance in navigating the prime issues of our time have found context and company in Great Decisions at the Library.

The free lecture and discussion series is set to return to Bainbridge this month with a full lineup of subjects, including “The Philippines and the U.S.,” “Artificial Intelligence and Data,” “Climate Change and the Global Order” and “Human Trafficking,” among others.

The lively discussions take place from 9:30 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, from Jan. 25 through Saturday, March 7, at Bethany Lutheran Church (7968 Finch Road NE).

Admission is free, with donations appreciated. Refreshments are provided. Visit the Bainbridge Public Library website,, for more details about this year’s eight topics and guest moderators.

The full schedule includes:

Jan. 25: “The Philippines and the U.S.”

Moderator: Vincent Rafael, Professor of History, Southeast Asia Center, Jackson School of International Studies

The Philippines has had a special relationship with the United States since the islands were ceded by Spain to America after the Spanish-American War at the end of the 19th century. However, since the election of Rodrigo Duterte, the country has pivoted more toward China, and away from the U.S. Duterte has also launched a large-scale war on drugs that many criticize for its brutality.

What does the future hold for U.S, relations with the Philippines?

Feb. 1: “Red Sea Security”

Moderator: David Fenner, Affiliate Lecturer, Middle East Center, Jackson School of International Studies

The Red Sea has remained vital for global trade since the time of ancient Egypt. Once home to the spice trade, the Red Sea now sees millions of barrels of oil a day transported across its waters. With major nations like China, France, Italy, and the U.S. building large ports and bases in the region, what does the future of the region look like? How important is Red Sea security for global security? Can the region be a place of global cooperation?

Feb. 8: “Climate Change and the Global Order”

Moderator: Derik Broekhoff, Senior Scientist, Stockholm Environment Institute

Climate change has become one of the defining issues of our time. As much of the world bands together to come up with a plan, the U.S. remains the notable holdout.

What is the rest of the world doing to combat climate change?

What impact will the effects of climate change have on global geopolitics?

Feb. 15: Human Trafficking & Modern Slavery

Moderator: Suamhirs Piraino-Guzman, Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network, International Rescue Committee

Almost every nation has enacted laws criminalizing human trafficking, and international organizations, governments, and NGOs sponsor a large variety of projects to curb trafficking and slavery. Billions of dollars have been allocated to these efforts.

What is the international community doing to combat slavery and trafficking?

What are the experiences like for those being trafficked?

Feb. 22: “U.S. Relations with the Northern Triangle”

Moderator: Seattle International Foundation – Central America

Combatting illegal immigration has become a priority of the Trump administration. The Northern Triangle of Central America, made up of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, is a special target of the administration, which hold the nations responsible for the large flow of migrants from Latin America to the U.S.

With funds from the U.S. cut, how can the Northern Triangle countries curtail migration?

Feb. 29: “China’s Road into Latin America”

Moderator: Jonathan Warren, Professor, Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center, Jackson School of International Studies

As the Trump administration continues to withdraw from the world stage, China is looking to fill the void. How does Latin America fit into China’s “One Belt, One Road” plan? How will the relationship with China affect the region? Should the U.S. be concerned about China’s growing “sphere of influence?”

March 7: “India and Pakistan”

Moderator: Sunila S. Kale, Associate Professor, South Asia Center, Jackson School of International Studies

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi rode a wave of Hindu nationalism to a historic reelection in 2019. His first order of business was to revoke the special status granted to the Kashmir region, inflaming the rivalry between India and Pakistan.

How will the Kashmir situation affect the region, both economically and politically?

March 14: “Artificial Intelligence and Data”

Moderator: Brandon Lee, Consul General of Canada in Seattle

Policymakers in many countries are developing plans and funding research in artificial intelligence. Global growth is slowing, and not surprisingly, many policymakers hope that AI will provide a magic solution.

The EU, Brazil, and other Western countries have adopted regulations that grant users greater control over their data and require that firms using AI be transparent about how they use it.

Will the U.S. follow suit?

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