Communication Between Cultures

(Sean Pound) #1
China are carried by wind patterns all the way to the U.S. West Coast, making it a
matter of international concern.^21
The ever-increasing force of climate change is another consideration that necessi-
tates competent intercultural interactions. Extreme weather conditions will bring
more frequent tropical storms, droughts, wildfires, flooding, health threats, and a
host of other maladies that can be managed only by nations working together. For
instance, in low-lying areas, complete towns will have to be relocated, and some
islands in the South Pacific are likely to be inundated, requiring relocation of entire
populations. Increased ocean temperatures will exert pressure on marine habitats and
fishing patterns, impacting traditional industries and altering diets. Insect infestations
and plant diseases will become more common with warmer temperatures and result in
lower agricultural yields. Adaptation to these many changes will require that nations
engage in cooperative efforts and share resources.^22
We are stressing that ecological changes, both ongoing and in the future, carry the
potential to transform many of the beliefs, practices, and habits that have become nor-
mal over the past centuries. People, organizations, and states will have to learn new ways
of managing and cooperating. Often, this willrequire reaching across cultural divides.

Humanitarian and Legal Cooperation

Advances in communication technologies have enabled rapid notification and dis-
semination of information concerning humanitarian crises, such as contagious disease
outbreaks and natural disasters. Modern transport capabilities have offered a means of
expeditiously responding to those crises, and nations and relief organizations around
the world mobilize and deploy resources to disaster sites. The 2014 outbreak of the
Ebola virus in West Africa is a good example of the complexity of responding to
such an incident. The disease affected citizens of six West African nations, and
infected individuals were also treated in the United States, England, and Spain. In
attempting to contain the disease, personnel and materials from around the world
were rushed to the area, and coordination required communication across
organizational, linguistic, and cultural lines. Additionally, to be successful, the insti-
tuted treatment and containment programs had to be culturally sensitive to local cus-
toms. For example, caring for the dead traditionally requires touching and even
kissing the body in some West African nations. To break the Ebola infection cycle,
emergency workers had to identify and implement effective methods of communicat-
ing the dangers of this practice to the local inhabitants.
Disaster response is another area of international cooperation requiring intercul-
tural communication competence. The worldwide response to the 2010 Haiti earth-
quake, the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, and the 2013 Philippine super
typhoon offer examples of recent endeavors. International assistance in cases of a
major accident has also become common. For instance, the 2014 loss of a Malaysian
commercial aircraft thought to have gone down in the Indian Ocean and the AirAsia
plane that crashed near Indonesia elicited international deployment of personnel and
equipment. These types of calamities increase the need for intercultural communica-
tion skills among all parties involved.
Protection of intellectual property is another legal concern in the globalized econ-
omy. The negotiation, enactment, and enforcement of regulations arising from

Humanitarian and Legal Cooperation 11

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