Globalization: Is it Bad for the Environment?

Defining the two major terms in our discussion will keep us in track with the issues involved because at first glance, globalization and environment appears to be unrelated.  How can enhanced global trading be hazardous to the environment?

What is Globalization?

Simply defined it is the process where constraints of distance and nation are minimized, allowing greater interaction between and among countries or its constituents to promote trade or business endeavors.  (This is a simplistic approach of defining it for the purpose of our discussion.)

Environmental Issues

Exploitation and use of natural resources including mineral deposits, forest and land use are the major issues here.

When the globalization process is enhanced, it encourages greater production.  This is the result of more improved communication and sharing of technological tools and knowledge on a particular industry from different points of the world.  Greater production in turn entails the use of more advanced machines and procedures and use of a greater portion of natural resources.

Exploration encouraged; Exploitation escalates

If you have ever visited a small and remote community and observed their way of living then you will realize what globalization does in destroying the environment.  These people in these cases are satisfied with their daily activities living life at its simplest form.  They are self sufficient in terms of food production and other essential needs.  Imagine if this community is posed to globalization upon the discovery of a precious mineral in that vicinity.  With the offer of big money and greater comfort, the local people are lured into destroying their own land in order to extract the thing that promises them more money and good living.  More often than not, when the ‘resource’ in that area is depleted, the area is left abandoned with waste and other devastating environmental impacts.

To illustrate this further, take into account the remote area called Benguet Province in the Philippines.  In the 1970’s, the indigenous people here were living a simple but great life.  At that time, the mining industry had recently moved in to extract the gold deposits in the area. This gold did provide a great deal of income for indigenous people for few decades but not forever.  Now, the mining areas are abandoned with problems of water pollution, and unstable soil structure.  Visiting the this area nowadays will give you sites of abandoned houses, and peopleless communities because the land is sinking from over mining.  Landslides are also triggered by heavy rainfall that have claimed hundreds of lives over the years.  If not because of globalization, these places could have been preserved. The worst thing is, this scenario is not uncommon in other undeveloped countries where more developed and advanced countries have found valuable resources.

Depletion of natural resources is an inevitable effect of globalization.  Since a particular item can easily be traded to other parts of the world, there is greater encouragement to extract these items more frequently and in too large of quantities. It is sad because most of these valuable resources are non-renewable.

Massive Deforestation

Deforestation is another major concern.  Agriculture is a major source of our daily needs. In undeveloped countries where labor cost is cheap, globalization encourages the advancement of cultivation which in turn transforms forests into crop lands. To make things worse, mass production and goal for higher yield calls for the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers that are undeniably environmentally unhealthy.  With globalization, crop goods are supplied with more ease in areas where there used to be difficulties of reaching it in the past. Use of these chemicals in agriculture is not only causing pollution to groundwater, but it also indiscriminately destroys the life forms that are not posing problems to agricultural production.

Deforestation webs into all sorts of different environmental problems. Soil erosion, destruction of wildlife habitat and aggravating global warming are just few of the problems that spring out from massive deforestation.

Pollution and use of Non-renewable Energy Sources

Once we deal with massive production, we deal with machines and industrial plants.  Industrial plants emit significant volumes of pollutants into the air while flooding ground water with waste matter.  Moreover, machines need fuel in order to operate.  That calls for the consumption of non-renewable energy sources which in turn require greater exploitation of oil deposits. It is a vicious cycle.

Summary and Conclusion

Globalization is not inherently bad.  Its effect to the environment can be attributed to the manner on how the exploration and exploitation is conducted.  If globalization is compared to a medicine, its effect on the environment is the offshoot of improper administration.  Globalization is necessary to promote development.  Pointing the blame to globalization is missing the real root cause of the problem. More so, globalization is inevitable since our countries continue to grow and expand.  Reconciling globalization and environmental hazards poses us with a great challenge. We need to put our focus on how mass production is conducted.  It is not impossible to look into solutions on how to minimize the effect of globalization to the environment. What will make it impossible is our lack of trying.

So what do you think? Should globalization be re-evaluated and changed?


Globalization: Is it Bad for the Environment? — 11 Comments

    • @SPF. I totally agree. This is one of the biggest reasons why I grow my own garden and participate in a CSA. The challenge I find with buying local though is not everything is organic. There is local stuff that uses pesticides which is something I don’t like to support. But then I also don’t want to support flying ingredients 10,000 to get to my plate. It is a real dilemma some days.

    • @Jackie. Agreed. I am not saying that we can live without globalization entirely. What I am saying is that we need to evaluate the impacts it is having on our planet and do something to minimize them. I want people to start thinking about how what they do and what they buy impacts the earth.

    • @Barb. Good to hear Barb. I am glad to hear you are at least conscious of what goes on. So many people don’t even have a clue as to where their stuff comes from. They don’t realize what kind of impact their purchases are making on the planet. I feel that the first step is realization. Once you have an awareness you can make changes from there.

  1. Congratulations for taking on this challenging subject. I read an interesting book by on this subject by Jeff Rubin. He is Canadian, you may be familiar with his work. “Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller”. It’s a compelling read and a stringer argument that globalization, made possible by cheap and accessible oil, will gradually reverse as the cost of oil rises. It will become less economic to import everything from China, and more economic to make things at home again. I think this will be good for the environment too!

    • @Hunter. Thanks for the book title. I actually haven’t read it but am keen too. I hope what he says happens. It would be great if people started being more self sufficient and relied less on imported goods. I would really like to see a global shift in how goods and services are acquired over the next few years. To me it is of the up most importance.

  2. The impact of globalization on our lives continues. Globalization is a multifaceted phenomenon that can affect health in myriad ways. Thank you for sharing this. Great blog to read on!

  3. How much tax equivalent should be added per pound/kilometer to enable capture and sequester of the emitted carbon per mile? Air Traffic should be taxed a minimum this amount, same with shipping. And the money actually used to remove the carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon emission and pollution are stumbling blocks to globalization and have to be fixed first if we are serious about climate change. Until then local production and consumption should be used and in NA we have at least some environmental standards. Pressure should be put on all countries not to deforest and pollute, and I mean major pressure not just lip service. Also, do we want to do business with unethical, corrupt and anti-human rights governments. No, it is unethical for us to do that.

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