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Posts Tagged ‘globalization’

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I know we can’t repeal the laws of nature, but I don’t see why we can’t amend them a little. It seems mankind has forgotten their place and is ruining the earth to make money. Wealth is only seen in the light of human’s own life span. But what about next generations? What about species becoming extinct, about ecosystems being teared down? Is it that difficult to see we humans use the earth’s resources to create our wealth? And once these resources become depleted, nothing will remain? The West even decided to enhance the poor countries, but in a way that has nothing to do with offering help.

Previous year, on June 10th 2010, was election day in the Netherlands. My first task today was voting for the political party that warrants a green, sustainable development of our society. My second task was finishing an exam about ecology. One week later the Dutch political parties seemed to have problems formating a government. It took them nearly four months to agree on several heavily debated issues: retirement age, health care, migration policy, education and most of all, cutting down the expenses. None of the heavily debated issues involved environmental problems like the acification of the Netherlands, the expansion of the Ecological Main Structure (Ecologische Hoofdstructuur, EHS) and the decrease in biodiversity. No, the new government decided agriculture was more important than natural areas in stead, though Dutch agricultural yields already increased every year due to new technologies and by no means there was any food shortage. Moreover, a lot of the yields were exported and the majority of Dutch food is imported from other European countries.

It was during these elections my attention was drawn towards the incredible interconnectedness of our trading system, especially with regard to food, clothes and luxury products (radio’s, computers, jewelry). I cannot tell where my jeans come from, but I do know it costs thousands of liters of water to cultivate the amount of cotton needed to manufacture my jeans, let alone the chance of child labor or sweat shops included in the process.  I am, moreover, terribly opposed to processing soy in all kinds of food products, but yet I have not spot much food products without soy. It is, like, everywhere, and it hurts me in the heart because I know the tropical rain forest in (for example) Brazil is cut rapidly to provide for soy plantations, though the tropical soil is not suited for plantations, because it is low in nutrients and fertilizer will wash out easily due to the loose soil structure.

Farming factories are like heaven to capitalism, but like hell to environmentalists and animal-lovers. Farming factories serve to serve the meat demand. But why do we have to eat so much meat? Can’t we just eat less? And is it so difficult to buy only biologically produced food? Unfortunately yes, it is, because the ‘good’ meat is more expensive than the ‘bad’ meat. And in this capitalist, free market ecnonomy our money is our most valuable possession, right?

In December, I watched a documantery about the gold mines in Guatemala. Canadian companies close deals with the government of Guatemala to extract gold ores from the land. All yields end up at the Canadian companies; all harm ends up at the indigenous people and the environment. The companies are using cyanide to mine the gold, a very venemous substantion causing sickness and death by living organisms, including humans. Though the companies state they do not use cyanide, or they state the cyanide is disposed off in an environmental friendly way, or they state the cyanide is used with care for the environment and human healt. Either way, it has been reported the cyanide disposals have been buried unsafely, meaning the cyanide will leak into the environment, enter the food chain end eventually kill.

One word: consumerism. People don’t see where products come from. Consumerism comes with a blind eye for the start of the products we consume; the global character of current production processes veils environmental desctruction, unhealthy labour conditions, corruption, monopoly and hypocrisy among the ‘civilized’ western organizations. Companies don’t mind telling the production and transportation chain of their products. Then it would become clear transportation costs cover a large part of products’ prices or would bad labour conditions become reveiled. Then it would become clear biologically produced food is doing bad on the market because non-biologically produced food is sponsored by government allowances. Une painful example I read in a Dutch newspaper lately: on one page there was an article about how some Dutch farmers wanted more allowances from the government to ensure a proper income; on the next page there was an article about an African farmer who opposed the allowances provided in western countries because these allowances caused an unfair playing field for upcoming agricultural companies and countries.

It was the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund forcing developing countries to implement the Structural Adjustment Programs which were aimed at enhancing economic growth by participating on the global market. But the global martket was an unlevel playing field with the developed countries laying way ahead of the newbies. Prices of industrally manufactured products were way lower than the more hand-make products of developing countries. Western countries dump the surplus of fruits and vegetables on the local markets of developing countries, causing food prices to drop and negatively affecting the income of local farmers. It was also the WB declaring mining activities are a good way to escape poverty.

Perhaps they still don’t see economic growth is no answer to alleviating poverty or enhancing underdeveloped countries. Why is that? One: economic growth, or a free market system, does harm to the environment. Because people do not know where products are coming from and whatresources it takes to produce them. Two: poverty mainly is caused by maldistribution. And maldistribution is caused by power inequality and corrpution. So it is not economic growth that should help people out of poverty, but a transparant functioning government and fair trade. Three: by focussing merely on economic growth there is no room for sustainable development. Quantity is useless if quality is poor. Four: in western countries economic growth only came after some (World) Wars, protests, revolutions, a strong operating government. But hey, history is forgotten easily. And why bother the hard approach if there is an approach that seems to work fine? But it only works fine for now and for us, and not for the next generation, for the quality of the environment and for the very survival of all species.

The world is a system with structures; nature is a system with structures. It is no use giving money to one of the employees in your company to save the whole business. It is no use replacing the tire of your car if the engine has broken down. It is no use giving money to a gambler and asking hiim to spend his money on charity. Making and keeping a better world asks for a more structural approach. Envirionmentalists can’t save the planet as long as not everyone is coorporating. Western organizations should not cover their practises by the empty words of profit, money-saving, free market, economic growth and progress. It is sustainability we need. And people, all people, need to know how the Earth works. No more: God created it and will save our asses. No more: it is not that big a deal if I give myself what I need and Garrett Hardin was wrong. No more: we should focus on lessen the poverty in this world without caring for the enormous amount of resources needed to provide all this people with the wealth of our current western society and forget about Thomas Robert Malthus. No more: what I do in my backyard won’t effect my neighbours and ignore the externalities of Pigou.

Do not turn our beloved and required clean, healthy environment into a parody. Realize there is only one Earth and if we kill it we cannot make a new one. We should remember our evolutionary place and  never forget we were here last.

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My father sometimes says: “We have the clock, they have the time.” The  “we” refers tu us, Western people, and our habit to hurry, to stress and to live on the clock; the “they” refers to people in developing countries, specifically middle Africa. According to a little joke my dad likes to tell, “all men in Africa sit in the shadow of fruit trees while the oranges drop the ground and rot in the sun”: they seem to have plenty of time.

Social scientists study globalization, and many have recognized the astonishing acceleration in transport, production and way of life that took place in the last century or so. Time has lost its meaning, its significance. Information travels across the globe within ms via glass fiber cables: the Internet. And still, though everything goes fast, it is not fast enough. We act grumpy when our bus is one minute late and when our train is delayed by five minutes. It is true: we spend hours a day waiting for public traffic, in queues, traffic jam etc.

But consider those countries where they cannot answer the question “At what time does the train leave?”, because civilians will answer you “It comes from the north, stops at our village, and goes south. Once a day.”

It would be fun to write a story in which time is the limiting factor. An average day in Ney York and at noon all clocks stop working. Chaos. No “I’m going home at six.” No “I’ll pick up the children from school at three.” No “We’ll meet at 19.30 in the cinema.” Or worse: no electricity. No Internet. No television, radio or airco. No waste. No emissions. No impact.

What if we did not measure time like we do know. No years with 12 months, 52 weeks, 7 days, 24 hours, 60 minutes and 60 seconds. Working days do no longer last for 8 hours. Distance is no longer expressed in minutes. Speed will lose its meaning (distance per unit of time), just like acceleration (distance per (unit of time)^2). Will then finally end the tick tack of time?

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