Globalization was meant to change the world– and it did. The founding idea of globalization is that no country should be restricted to their own borders; that the world is part of a large community rather than restricted to small countries. Globalization aimed to take borders down, to unite everyone, to make us all citizens of the world, to improve business links and allow for free trade. Lofty goals, but with one serious downside: the impact on the environment.
Before we dig into this, however, in the name of fairness, let’s discuss the positive impact of globalization:
- The world is more open to working people than it ever has been before. If you want to try living in another country, then there are opportunities that make this possible, even if you don’t speak the language.
- Investment opportunities are no longer limited to borders. If you want to invest in property and find that the domestic market is too expensive, then you can look overseas for options. You can buy a new house in Malaysia, a condo in France, or a mansion in Romania with far greater ease than ever before.
- Free trade is beneficial to businesses of all sizes, meaning there are more jobs and wealth in the economy.
However, are these upsides enough to counter the effect that globalization has had on the environment we live in?
The Environmental Toll Of Globalization
The simple truth is that globalization and industrialization has done serious harm to the environment. This is somewhat disturbing, given one might expect that a world that is more inclusive would also be able to listen to the calls for environmental protections– but as yet, this has yet to happen.
As a result, the environment is suffering for this revolution of globalization. Read on for an exploration of a few of the issues that globalization has caused, all of which have the potential to be truly catastrophic for environment conservation.
Cheaper Consumer Goods = A Throwaway Society
One of the biggest benefits of globalization is lower prices for goods. As businesses are able to outsource their production to third-world countries — where wages are much lower — we have all seen consistent drops on the amount we are asked to pay for household appliances and other technology.
The cost of a television would once have cost the average family six months world of wages; it’s now possible to buy a cheap TV for under $100. Some of this price drop is thanks to improvements in technology, but much of it is due to cheaper production costs in third-world countries.
Yet these low prices come at a cost in another way, and the cost in this case is how society tends to treat products that no longer work as they should. We have come a long way from the “make do and mend” attitude of the generations before us. If your blender doesn’t work or your vacuum is fritzing, it’s usually cheaper to buy a new one than go to the hassle of repairing it.
All of the discarded, too-expensive-to-repair items have to go somewhere, and sadly, that somewhere is usually landfill. Recycling is becoming more common, but there are still too many items and products that can’t be recycled– so landfill it is.
The “Big” Countries Aren’t Doing Their Part
One might hope that the “big countries”, the major economies, that have so benefited from globalization would invest some of their profits into environmental protections. Unfortunately, the opposite appears to be the case– many of the “big” countries just aren’t taking environmental concerns seriously.
There are plenty of examples of bad behavior from countries who should be leading the charge in protecting the environment. China are still building huge numbers of coal plants and President Donald Trump announced that the US would be leaving the Paris Accord for climate change, even though he seemed to fundamentally misunderstand what the Paris Accord actually is. That’s two of the biggest economies in the world turning their back on the needs of the climate.
This abandonment means that climate science and technology has fallen to less-influential countries. Norway, Sweden, Finland and Costa Rica are leading the charge, but until the big economic countries follow their lead, there’s no sign that globalization has freed up finance to help tackle climate issues.
Overfishing and Deforestation
With globalization, businesses are no longer restricted in their customer base; their entire world is a potential customer. This might sound wonderful, but it has had catastrophic consequences for the environment. More customers means businesses need to consume more resources to meet the demands of their consumers.
The net result of this? Problems such as overfishing and deforestation are rife. While there are efforts and initiatives to address these issues, once again, these efforts are not coming from the major global powers. Overfishing and deforestation both have the potential to destabilize the entire ecosystem, which could have a huge domino-style impact on the rest of the world. Warnings of this, however, are simply not being heeded by the countries who have the most influence to stop the crisis before it begins.
The Big Question: What Can Be Done?
Globalization seems to have opened Pandora’s Box; now these practices have become the norm, it will be next to impossible to return to the old, local ways. Therefore, globalization needs to improve from within.
The biggest change would be the major economic countries of the G7/G20 making serious efforts to combat climate change and provide resources for development of cleantech and renewable energy technology, such as more efficient wind turbines. At present, there is no obvious sign of any change in direction from any of the G20 countries; they are more posturing about environmental concerns than making serious, beneficial changes.
However, as our climate changes and businesses begin to suffer the impact of this change — such as more storms and hurricanes — then the major economies may begin to alter the way they behave. They may be forced due to economic circumstances to alter their practices and seek to protect the environment from future harm. Hopefully, for the sake of the entire planet, they come to this realization sooner rather than later.
Salman is a prolific environmental writer, and has authored more than 500 articles in reputed journals, magazines and websites. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management, sustainability and conservation all over the world.
Salman can be reached on email@example.com