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How President Woodrow Wilson tried to end all wars once and for all
Following World War I, President Woodrow Wilson nearly died trying to ensure world peace.
- President Wilson proposed "Fourteen Points" at the end of World War I.
- He wanted an organization created – the League of Nations – to settle international disputes.
- The League was a precursor to the United Nations, but the U.S. never actually joined it.
Coming out of the horrendous calamity of World War I, Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, developed a vision for an international world order that could prevent future war. He was passionate about the creation of the League of Nations, an organization where disputes between countries could be mediated through diplomacy – a precursor to the United Nations. The League was created in 1920 but ironically Wilson couldn't get his own country to sign on to the pact. Despite that, Wilson's perseverance in seeking out a new way to ensure communication and collaboration between nations had a tremendously lasting impact and is important to remember, especially as the world teeters on the edge of new conflicts.
Towards the end of World War I, on January 8th 1918, Wilson announced a set of Fourteen Points in a speech to the United States Congress. It was a statement of principles to be considered in peace negotiations that would end the war. A larger goal of the points was to create a new diplomatic order of international cooperation that would prevent another horrific war that ensnared the whole world. Wilson recognized that people don't always have to agree but need to be able to engage with opposing viewpoints in a way that is not confrontational and destructive. The principles provided for the creation the League of Nations which would help mediate disputes and keep peace.
"XIV. A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike." – from "Fourteen points" by Woodrow Wilson.
1918 cartoon by E.A. Bushnell of Kaiser Wilhelm considering Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points.
Wilson's speech was regarded as idealistic by some but became an important piece of propaganda for the Allied powers, dropped as leaflets behind enemy lines. Besides conveying the vision of a post-war order, the points were used to convince Germans that they would get a just settlement at the war's end. The reality is that this didn't quite pan out as the differences between the eventual Treaty of Versailles and the promises of Wilson's Fourteen Points angered the Germans. The resentment likely carried over into the rise of National Socialists (and eventually Nazis), think historians.
About a month later, on February 11th, Wilson gave another speech in front of the joint session of Congress, elaborating on his vision:
"We are indomitable in our power of independent action and can in no circumstances consent to live in a world governed by intrigue and force, " said Wilson. "We believe that our own desire for a new international order under which reason and justice and the common interests of mankind shall prevail is the desire of enlightened men everywhere. Without that new order the world will be without peace and human life will lack tolerable conditions of existence and development. Having set our hand to the task of achieving it, we shall not turn back."
Exemplifying Wilson's new international order, the League of Nations actually came into existence as a result of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. The war-ending agreement was negotiated by diplomats from 32 countries, including the leaders of the "Big Four" comprised of President Wilson, the Prime Minister of France Georges Clemenceau, UK's Prime Minister David Lloyd George and the Italian PM Vittorio Emanuele Orlando.
"Big Four" world leaders at Paris Peace Conference. May 27, 1919. From left to right: Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Premier Vittorio Orlando, Premier Georges Clemenceau, and President Woodrow Wilson.
Courtesy: Library of Congress
The primary goal of the League of Nations, officially founded on January 10th, 1920, was to prevent wars through collective security and disarmament, while resolving international disputes by arbitration and negotiation. It also was to take aim at issues that still sound quite relevant today - human and drug trafficking, labor issues, treatment of native people and minorities, the arms trade and global health concerns, among others.
As of February 1935, the League of Nations counted 58 members. Notably missing among them? The United States. Despite his best efforts to promote the idea back home, President Wilson, who was actually awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his work in securing peace, wasn't able to convince the U.S. Congress to make the country join this new international body. Wilson ran into concerns which you can hear around the halls of Congress even today – that the country will become the world's policeman and lose its sovereignty.
"I can predict with absolute certainty that within another generation there will be another world war if the nations of the world do not concert the method by which to prevent it" – Woodrow Wilson, 1919.
The first session of the League of Nations in the Salle de Reforme in Geneva. 1920.
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images
An important side note is that President Wilson fell ill while on an intense 8,000-mile tour to promote the League of Nations and decry isolationism across the U.S., ultimately suffering a stroke.
Wilson's efforts can be regarded as quixotic but his own words shed light on why his goal was not only important at the time but should be considered as successful – he saw what the world needed and future generations brought about some version of such a vision:
"There is only one power to put behind the liberation of mankind, and that is the power of mankind," said Wilson in 1919. "It is the power of the united moral forces of the world, and in the Covenant of the League of Nations the moral forces of the world are mobilised… And what do they unite for? They enter into a solemn promise to one another that they will never use their power against one anther for aggression; that they never will impair the territorial integrity of a neighbour; that they never will interfere with the political independence of a neighbour; that they will abide by the principle that great populations are entitled to determine their own destiny and that they will not interfere with that destiny; and that no matter what differences arise amongst them they will never resort to war without first having done one or other of two things – either submitted the matter of controversy to arbitration…. or submitted it to the consideration of the council of the League of Nations…"
The lack of U.S. involvement, along with absence of its own army and not getting whole-hearted support from the key powers were all factors that eventually doomed the League of Nations. Clearly, while extremely hopeful in purpose, it wasn't successful in preventing another World War. The United Nations ultimately replaced the League of Nations after World War II as the pre-eminent entity for world diplomacy, incorporating several agencies and organizations founded by the League.
The Gap in the Bridge. Cartoon about the absence of the U.S. from the League of Nations. 1919.
Why mega-eruptions like the ones that covered North America in ash are the least of your worries.
- The supervolcano under Yellowstone produced three massive eruptions over the past few million years.
- Each eruption covered much of what is now the western United States in an ash layer several feet deep.
- The last eruption was 640,000 years ago, but that doesn't mean the next eruption is overdue.
The end of the world as we know it
Panoramic view of Yellowstone National Park
Image: Heinrich Berann for the National Park Service – public domain
Of the many freak ways to shuffle off this mortal coil – lightning strikes, shark bites, falling pianos – here's one you can safely scratch off your worry list: an outbreak of the Yellowstone supervolcano.
As the map below shows, previous eruptions at Yellowstone were so massive that the ash fall covered most of what is now the western United States. A similar event today would not only claim countless lives directly, but also create enough subsidiary disruption to kill off global civilisation as we know it. A relatively recent eruption of the Toba supervolcano in Indonesia may have come close to killing off the human species (see further below).
However, just because a scenario is grim does not mean that it is likely (insert topical political joke here). In this case, the doom mongers claiming an eruption is 'overdue' are wrong. Yellowstone is not a library book or an oil change. Just because the previous mega-eruption happened long ago doesn't mean the next one is imminent.
Ash beds of North America
Ash beds deposited by major volcanic eruptions in North America.
Image: USGS – public domain
This map shows the location of the Yellowstone plateau and the ash beds deposited by its three most recent major outbreaks, plus two other eruptions – one similarly massive, the other the most recent one in North America.
The Huckleberry Ridge eruption occurred 2.1 million years ago. It ejected 2,450 km3 (588 cubic miles) of material, making it the largest known eruption in Yellowstone's history and in fact the largest eruption in North America in the past few million years.
This is the oldest of the three most recent caldera-forming eruptions of the Yellowstone hotspot. It created the Island Park Caldera, which lies partially in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and westward into Idaho. Ash from this eruption covered an area from southern California to North Dakota, and southern Idaho to northern Texas.
About 1.3 million years ago, the Mesa Falls eruption ejected 280 km3 (67 cubic miles) of material and created the Henry's Fork Caldera, located in Idaho, west of Yellowstone.
It was the smallest of the three major Yellowstone eruptions, both in terms of material ejected and area covered: 'only' most of present-day Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska, and about half of South Dakota.
The Lava Creek eruption was the most recent major eruption of Yellowstone: about 640,000 years ago. It was the second-largest eruption in North America in the past few million years, creating the Yellowstone Caldera.
It ejected only about 1,000 km3 (240 cubic miles) of material, i.e. less than half of the Huckleberry Ridge eruption. However, its debris is spread out over a significantly wider area: basically, Huckleberry Ridge plus larger slices of both Canada and Mexico, plus most of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri.
This eruption occurred about 760,000 years ago. It was centered on southern California, where it created the Long Valley Caldera, and spewed out 580 km3 (139 cubic miles) of material. This makes it North America's third-largest eruption of the past few million years.
The material ejected by this eruption is known as the Bishop ash bed, and covers the central and western parts of the Lava Creek ash bed.
Mount St Helens
The eruption of Mount St Helens in 1980 was the deadliest and most destructive volcanic event in U.S. history: it created a mile-wide crater, killed 57 people and created economic damage in the neighborhood of $1 billion.
Yet by Yellowstone standards, it was tiny: Mount St Helens only ejected 0.25 km3 (0.06 cubic miles) of material, most of the ash settling in a relatively narrow band across Washington State and Idaho. By comparison, the Lava Creek eruption left a large swathe of North America in up to two metres of debris.
The difference between quakes and faults
The volume of dense rock equivalent (DRE) ejected by the Huckleberry Ridge event dwarfs all other North American eruptions. It is itself overshadowed by the DRE ejected at the most recent eruption at Toba (present-day Indonesia). This was one of the largest known eruptions ever and a relatively recent one: only 75,000 years ago. It is thought to have caused a global volcanic winter which lasted up to a decade and may be responsible for the bottleneck in human evolution: around that time, the total human population suddenly and drastically plummeted to between 1,000 and 10,000 breeding pairs.
Image: USGS – public domain
So, what are the chances of something that massive happening anytime soon? The aforementioned mongers of doom often claim that major eruptions occur at intervals of 600,000 years and point out that the last one was 640,000 years ago. Except that (a) the first interval was about 200,000 years longer, (b) two intervals is not a lot to base a prediction on, and (c) those intervals don't really mean anything anyway. Not in the case of volcanic eruptions, at least.
Earthquakes can be 'overdue' because the stress on fault lines is built up consistently over long periods, which means quakes can be predicted with a relative degree of accuracy. But this is not how volcanoes behave. They do not accumulate magma at constant rates. And the subterranean pressure that causes the magma to erupt does not follow a schedule.
What's more, previous super-eruptions do not necessarily imply future ones. Scientists are not convinced that there ever will be another big eruption at Yellowstone. Smaller eruptions, however, are much likelier. Since the Lava Creek eruption, there have been about 30 smaller outbreaks at Yellowstone, the last lava flow being about 70,000 years ago.
As for the immediate future (give or take a century): the magma chamber beneath Yellowstone is only 5 percent to 15 percent molten. Most scientists agree that is as un-alarming as it sounds. And that its statistically more relevant to worry about death by lightning, shark, or piano.
Strange Maps #1041
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The pandemic has many people questioning whether they ever want to go back to the office.
If one thing is clear about remote work, it's this: Many people prefer it and don't want their bosses to take it away.
When the pandemic forced office employees into lockdown and cut them off from spending in-person time with their colleagues, they almost immediately realized that they favor remote work over their traditional office routines and norms.
As remote workers of all ages contemplate their futures – and as some offices and schools start to reopen – many Americans are asking hard questions about whether they wish to return to their old lives, and what they're willing to sacrifice or endure in the years to come.
Even before the pandemic, there were people asking whether office life jibed with their aspirations.
We spent years studying “digital nomads" – workers who had left behind their homes, cities and most of their possessions to embark on what they call “location independent" lives. Our research taught us several important lessons about the conditions that push workers away from offices and major metropolitan areas, pulling them toward new lifestyles.
Legions of people now have the chance to reinvent their relationship to their work in much the same way.
Big-city bait and switch
Most digital nomads started out excited to work in career-track jobs for prestigious employers. Moving to cities like New York and London, they wanted to spend their free time meeting new people, going to museums and trying out new restaurants.
But then came the burnout.
Although these cities certainly host institutions that can inspire creativity and cultivate new relationships, digital nomads rarely had time to take advantage of them. Instead, high cost of living, time constraints and work demands contributed to an oppressive culture of materialism and workaholism.
Pauline, 28, who worked in advertising helping large corporate clients to develop brand identities through music, likened city life for professionals in her peer group to a “hamster wheel." (The names used in this article are pseudonyms, as required by research protocol.)
“The thing about New York is it's kind of like the battle of the busiest," she said. “It's like, 'Oh, you're so busy? No, I'm so busy.'"
Most of the digital nomads we studied had been lured into what urbanist Richard Florida termed “creative class" jobs – positions in design, tech, marketing and entertainment. They assumed this work would prove fulfilling enough to offset what they sacrificed in terms of time spent on social and creative pursuits.
Yet these digital nomads told us that their jobs were far less interesting and creative than they had been led to expect. Worse, their employers continued to demand that they be “all in" for work – and accept the controlling aspects of office life without providing the development, mentorship or meaningful work they felt they had been promised. As they looked to the future, they saw only more of the same.
Ellie, 33, a former business journalist who is now a freelance writer and entrepreneur, told us: “A lot of people don't have positive role models at work, so then it's sort of like 'Why am I climbing the ladder to try and get this job? This doesn't seem like a good way to spend the next twenty years.'"
By their late 20s to early 30s, digital nomads were actively researching ways to leave their career-track jobs in top-tier global cities.
Looking for a fresh start
Although they left some of the world's most glamorous cities, the digital nomads we studied were not homesteaders working from the wilderness; they needed access to the conveniences of contemporary life in order to be productive. Looking abroad, they quickly learned that places like Bali in Indonesia, and Chiang Mai in Thailand had the necessary infrastructure to support them at a fraction of the cost of their former lives.
With more and more companies now offering employees the choice to work remotely, there's no reason to think digital nomads have to travel to southeast Asia – or even leave the United States – to transform their work lives.
During the pandemic, some people have already migrated away from the nation's most expensive real estate markets to smaller cities and towns to be closer to nature or family. Many of these places still possess vibrant local cultures. As commutes to work disappear from daily life, such moves could leave remote workers with more available income and more free time.
The digital nomads we studied often used savings in time and money to try new things, like exploring side hustles. One recent study even found, somewhat paradoxically, that the sense of empowerment that came from embarking on a side hustle actually improved performance in workers' primary jobs.
The future of work, while not entirely remote, will undoubtedly offer more remote options to many more workers. Although some business leaders are still reluctant to accept their employees' desire to leave the office behind, local governments are embracing the trend, with several U.S. cities and states – along with countries around the world – developing plans to attract remote workers.
This migration, whether domestic or international, has the potential to enrich communities and cultivate more satisfying work lives.
The potential of CRISPR technology is incredible, but the threats are too serious to ignore.
- CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is a revolutionary technology that gives scientists the ability to alter DNA. On the one hand, this tool could mean the elimination of certain diseases. On the other, there are concerns (both ethical and practical) about its misuse and the yet-unknown consequences of such experimentation.
- "The technique could be misused in horrible ways," says counter-terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke. Clarke lists biological weapons as one of the potential threats, "Threats for which we don't have any known antidote." CRISPR co-inventor, biochemist Jennifer Doudna, echos the concern, recounting a nightmare involving the technology, eugenics, and a meeting with Adolf Hitler.
- Should this kind of tool even exist? Do the positives outweigh the potential dangers? How could something like this ever be regulated, and should it be? These questions and more are considered by Doudna, Clarke, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, psychologist Steven Pinker, and physician Siddhartha Mukherjee.
Measuring a person's movements and poses, smart clothes could be used for athletic training, rehabilitation, or health-monitoring.