Geographies of Global Change 1.  Term Paper
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Loans needed to buy the equipment and seeds create indebtedness to Western banks. Western professionals are needed to intervene and to manage. The productivity of monocrops (e.g., rice or maize) undermines other native crops. Routledge writes, "The project destabilized traditional farming methods, which further rationalized the use of new technologies from the West, and the displacement of traditional foodstuffs by the HYVs" (316). The whole agro-food system has damaged the soil fertility and made dependent the poorer nations, who are compelled to use the seeds of the manufacturers and their means of industrial growth (fertilizer, experts, credit, etc.). People are viewed as irrational and a hindrance to progress. State control over natural and financial resources consolidates the power of the national ruling party who serves the interests of transnational corporations. Routledge writes, "In the process, traditional subsistence economies and their associated cultures are being destroyed; people face displacement from their homes and lands, losing access to their resources, and become economically marginalized" (318). It is in this context that social movements to challenge destructive development have taken place.
Contemporary global agricultural production reflects the trend of Westernized development. The concept has been that non-Western societies needed industrialization as well as the infusion of capital, technology, democracy, and Western values. According to Slater, the geopolitical changes during globalization are still partially rooted in this project, although they are more aligned with the neo-liberalist emphases on "structural adjustment, privatization, deregulation, free trade and market-based development" (93). Since then, concerns related to local cultures, environmental agendas, rural-urban and north-south power differences, and gender issues have arisen that have led to "anti-development" points-of-view.
Another related effect of globalized commerce, including globalized agriculture, is the collection of power in world cities. This illustrates the prioritization in globalization of the urban over the rural. It is connected with urban population growth as well. According to Knox, these urban centers of economic, media, cultural, technological, and political authority and markets are where the "capital-accumulation circuits of the world-system" are located (329). They are the fast world at the core by contrast with the peripheral slow world of rural areas. This shift into the urban centers further demonstrates the transformation of farming into food production trends.
(3.) Globalization has been linked to many environmental problems in the world. Quite simply, significant human-based alterations of the natural environment, which began in the industrial revolution, have continued with globalization. The effects seem to be profound and negative, both environmentally and socially. The rational use of resources has not been done with an eye toward nature's improvement or preservation, but rather with an eye toward the transformation of nature's "free goods" into profit without a concept of natural capital. Moreover, resources have been used excessively by corporations under the notion of limitless abundance and without care for the finiteness of those resources. Meyer and Turner write, "Losses of forest, biodiversity, soil fertility, and wetlands widely repeated around the world subtract significant fractions of the net worldwide stocks of the resources affected" (367). Some of these are replaceable, while others are not. The most important point, perhaps, is that these depletions of resources are intense, expanding, and human-driven rather than natural.
There are environmental side-effects of increasing globalization. One is the threat of global warming. Increased release of carbon and other greenhouse gases like methane into the atmosphere due to industrial processes (including farming) and fossil-fuel-based machines, among other things, is known now to have a potentially damaging effect on global climate. In addition, globalization has done nothing to stop pollution, which is often carried around in water and air so that it spreads from its original source. Agricultural chemicals are having serious effects on groundwater and soil quality, in addition to polluting rivers and streams as it runs off farmland. Agriculture also contributes to the transformation of systems, such as the conversion
of grassland to cropland or forest to grazing pasture. This land-cover degradation is driven directly by globalized agro-food production and may have bad consequences for the tropics.
Another important link is globalization's reliance on non-renewable resources. Emel, Bridge, and Krueger show that the basis for industrial production (e.g., mining) are continuing in much the same was as they always have, although now with oil and electricity. The problem is that many industries are overly dependent on non-renewable resources, despite capital's expansion and the introduction of synthetic materials into the equation, and they resist change. The authors write, "Regardless of the ecological degradation and the social costs to communities, economic reliance on single-commodity production promotes intractability" (380). Global companies have not changed their resource use patterns, nor have materials for global infrastructure changed. Energy is also part of the problem. Dams, for example, can have devastating impacts on natural ecosystems.
Mineral production is likewise destructive. Vegetation is removed, surfaces are stripped, oil is spilled, and the whole ecosystem is modified (as in parts of Alaska). Much of mineral production occurs in the developing world, and to reduce mining there would have tremendously negative effects on the economy. Further, the more mining companies do, the less dense the minerals are, thereby making an increase in mining necessary. All of this is fueled by a consumption mentality that starves for new products that are created through resource depletion. As Emil, Bridge, and Krueger write, "Any government which curbs resource availability in such a way as to threaten current patterns of consumption risks removal from office" (382). It is supported by the separation of production and consumption in global commodification chains, so that consumers do not fully understand how or where their products are made or how badly natural resources are being damaged. Politically, globalization makes it hard to challenge.
Moreover, expansion to world peripheries and frontiers in search of energy and minerals touches the indigenous populations who rely on a clean environment. Global trading requires local extraction, which disrupts soils and vegetation, produces water and air pollution, creates wastelands, and reduces landscape values for those who live in the area or downstream indigenous communities. Furthermore, it means that local resources are taken away from the power of the native populations. Big business eats up the forest and water resources of poor and landless native people to give them to wealthy people far away without equitable distribution. Routledge says, "At the ecological level, social movements struggle to protect remaining environments from further destruction, and to ensure the economic (and cultural) survival of peasant and tribal populations" (321). For example, there has been resistance to ranching and logging in the Amazon which destroys, pollutes, and erodes both the environment and the tribal community. Development appears inherently unjust and unsustainable. He claims, "Despite its claims to bring prosperity and the alleviation of poverty through economic growth, the development project has caused enormous environmental destruction, and the impoverishment, displacement and, at times, cultural ethnocide of poor and landless peasants . . ." (324).
Globalization insists on expansion and development. It creates better technologies to do a better job at finding the things it wants. Its result is often environmental degradation that impacts the poor and, ultimately, global well-being. Further, access to resources is limited so that developing countries see "sustainable development" as a euphemism for developed control, over-regulation, and being barred from using their own resources. Development with only benign effects on the environment is not believed. Despite better resource management today, globalization continues to threaten the earth's health through soil erosion, pesticides, deforestation, sedimentation, aquatic pollution, and other harmful effects. The genetic diversity of the world is plummeting. A renewed emphasis on equality, wise resource use, the importance of ecosystems, and the integration of social and economic goals seems imperative.
Johnson, R.J., Peter J. Taylor, and Michael J. Watts,…
Sources Used in Documents:
Johnson, R.J., Peter J. Taylor, and Michael J. Watts, eds. Geographies of Global Change: Remapping the World at the End of the Twentieth Century. 2nd edition. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 2002; reprint, 2007.
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