Consumerism Divergence and Convergence Essay

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(Assefa and Degefa, ND, online at (

Until, very recently there were many upscale coffee drinkers that assumed that the nations that hold a geographic monopoly on the coffee market (as coffee can be grown in a very limited region) were benefiting from the overall growth of the success of coffee as a preferred drink all over the world. They were wrong, nations that sell coffee usually in its raw form are suffering at the hands of corporate greed and dominance a clear example of divergence of both voice and income.

The opposition movement is an attempt by forward thinking individuals to warn blind consumers about the dangers of globalization when it goes into the market unchecked by the needs of the people it buys raw goods from. The divergent camp, apposed to globalization would say that the poorest countries in the world deserve a share of the earnings that are being made with these raw goods rather than continued status as the lowest people on the food chain, in a very literal sense. The camp also claims that the poorest countries remain so because they have no real voice in setting prices for goods, and no way to combat the larger nation delegates when their agendas, in these negotiations, are set on the back burner as the larger nations make all the rules about determined progress based on corporate interest on the bottom line. Making the rich richer and the poor poorer and essentially washing away the middle class.

Voice Divergence/Convergence

In the agricultural industry, the U.S. And the UK, two of the nation's largest voices in the "free trade" negotiations have an established set of rules in the face of agricultural sustainability. These nations pay subsidies to their own farmers when the prices fall. Historically this has even meant paying farmers for fallow land, to try to decrease the amount of product on the market and therefore increase prices. The developing nations have no such support, the globalization opposition movement claims, logically that the lack of such subsidies leaves these nations at a disadvantage in global trade as they then become victims of rising and falling prices, going through long periods where they cannot feed, cloth or educate their children or prosper in any way, despite their increased workload, when the demand is high. The opposition movement demands that these subsidies either be extended or eliminated to ideologically establish a sense of real "free trade." As is stated in the documentary "Black Gold" the inability of any industry to have a voice in the value of the goods they provide leaves them in a position of being slaves to the dominant international price setters, even though the large stock exchanges have no other bearing on their lives, and make no difference to them on a daily level of struggle. Nations providing raw goods are then left with the option of gaining voice through NGOs (Non Governmental Agencies) that are a bold attempt at a bridge between social progress and globalization. Yet, it is also clear in the current history that the ideas of corporate social responsibility voiced by NGOs are as marginalized during WTO and other free trade conferences as are direct representatives of the developing nations.

This early history of CBOs signified the birth of pluralist democratic cultures in many developing countries but has been ignored in the current policy environment characterized by free market reform and the dismantling of the social democratic state apparatus. With the imposition of structural adjustment programs and neoliberal economic policies in Africa, Latin America, and South Asia, CBOs have become useful and even essential to the functioning of international donor institutions. The lack of state infrastructure, combined with the decline in state entitlements to the poor, has led donor agencies to channel greater amounts of aid to CBOs and NGOs rather than to state governments. (Kamat, 2003, p. 65)

The complaints on the part of those in opposition to "free trade" often revolve around the idea that if these organizations and the nations themselves want to compete in a global market then true fair trade must be the answer. The gift of aide to any nation is welcomed but the WTO opposition demands that aide is not the answer, as these people are not seeking to be provided with their daily bread they want to work for it, for a fair price. This is also a thematic symbol in "Black Gold" as aide distribution is juxtaposed with farmers working in the fields, meeting to talk about how to build a school with no money and how to create a market for their goods that is not dependant upon the commodities market for pricing. Clearly coffee just serves as a limited example of the problems associated with globalization. The limited or non-existent voices of developing nations are limited in many areas and regions not limited to in any way the coffee or agricultural markets.

As the Taliban regime fled Kabul, the World Bank and other development agencies began discussing their role in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. Meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan from Nov. 27 to 29, 2001, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) hosted a conference on "Preparing for Afghanistan's Reconstruction." Nearly 60% of conference participants were representatives of donor nations such as the United States and officials from the host institutions. NGO representatives and Afghan professionals comprised the remaining 40%. (Jatkar, 2002, p. 88)

The resulting voice then is limited to those who have a say in where the money is coming from, rather than where it will be going to, which means that the nation who understands its cultural and economic history is not in the forefront of the resolutions.

Environmental Convergence/Divergence

Another desperate issue that needs to be addressed in global market negotiations, that has also been sorely neglected is the balance between economic growth and environmental damage. As agriculture and other raw industries spring up and expand at the whim of market shift the environment is becoming a victim as well. Creating sustainable practices in agriculture and mining, under pressure of the need to produce more product to elicit the same or less profit puts the traditional stewards of the land in a precarious position and the result is often ignoring sustainability.

A the best solution to the problem of habitat destruction may be for South American countries and donors to invest in agricultural development and education. For example, if investments were made in agricultural research and extension, and South American agriculture became more productive, demand for farmland would fall. Investing in education is equally important. "The bottom line is to give people better alternatives where they already live so they won't become agricultural colonists in tropical forests. Conservation depends more on economic development than on anything else. Unless this is recognized, the campaign to save South America's biodiversity will fail." ("Saving Rainforests May Be," 1994, p. 15)

Though the protests at WTO meetings and other globalization assemblies serves to at least give pause to developed nations and corporate interests about the willingness of the developing nations to lay back and take it as a carrot to future promises of return and aide, there is a clear sense that protest is not enough.

Economic and Democratic Divergence/Convergence

Economy and democracy are at odds with the globalization movement, as it leaves those at the bottom in the most vulnerable of economic positions and this must be addressed on many levels. In the book Globaphobia Gary Burtless points out that though many assessments of the modern economy are decidedly positive others claim, the WTO protesters included that the economy is, "...very kind to a few at the top, but barely rewarding for many in the middle, and a continuing nightmare for those at the bottom." (Burtless, 1998, p.1) the question then arises with regard to globalization that because this economy is expanding to the global marketplace, where the majority of peoples suffering from this "continuing nightmare" live, all care must be taken to redress this social concern. (Spotts 2005, p.5) Some will invariably argue that the development of trade agreements is simply the next step in a self-serving corporate mindset to more effectively direct the funds into the pockets of those at the very top.

Consumerism Divergence/Convergence

The divergence camp demand that consumers take notice, as the problems are likely to get worse before they get better, transitional market or not, consumers need to follow their own consumer footprint to understand where they are buying products from, and who is reaping the benefit and then in the case that they find dubious results from such an investigation they need to stop buying those products and buy others where all the people in the chain of profit are being rewarded for their work. Though more important than this, the consumer needs to heed the warnings of the current practices of the globalized movement and begin to…

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