Economic globalization is leading to increased destruction of the Earth's resources. This destruction is a result of the demand for cheaper and increasingly rarer resources and a higher level of consumption. If we do not put the brakes on economic globalization, our resources will be irreversibly damaged or depleted.
For example, the rise of aquaculture (shrimp and salmon, for example) to meet the demands of US, European, and Japanese consumption has fueled increased environmental destruction. Coastal zones have been decimated in order to build industrial ponds for the raising of these food stocks. Disease from the farmed fish has found its way into wild stocks. Farmed stocks that escape into the seas compete with the limited resources available to the wild stock and interfere with the evolutionary process that creates locally resilient stocks. A globalization of supply and demand, coupled with increased consumption, has led to this environmental problem.
As mentioned above, the WTO/GATT ruled against the US ban on tuna that was not caught using Dolphin-Safe methods. This ruling led to a battle in the US Congress over a bill labeled by environmentalists the "Dolphin Death Act," which when passed was a compromise that changed the definition of Dolphin-Safe. This example demonstrates the power of the WTO/GATT to influence nations to change domestic laws in order to comply with an international trade structure. This Act has puts the wheels in motion to roll back the current high standard of dolphin protection.
Globalization and the Demise of Local Control, Culture, and Economies
It is the pressure of large nations on smaller nations to open their borders and resources for corporations to exploit. Another benefit for the corporations is the ability to do business without following the standards that are in effect within the borders of the larger nations. In essence, through the globalization scheme, local communities are being forced to change traditional lifestyles, decision-making processes, and economies to fit into the mold of globalization. These communities are forced to sacrifice their futures for short-term profits for corporations.
One of the results of NAFTA is a lawsuit by the US-based Ethyl Corporation against the government of Canada. Ethyl is seeking $251 million from Canada for imposing a ban on MMT, a toxic gasoline additive, which has been banned by the US EPA for use in formulated fuels. Under NAFTA, a corporation can sue a country for loss of income and damage to reputation. This case highlights the ludicrousness of these trade agreements that place a single company's bottom line higher than public health, and the threat of these trade agreements to the democratic process.
As part of the Philippines 2000 economic growth program, there is an agricultural component with a goal of reducing the amount of land devoted to growing food crops and shifting these lands to export crops. These changes will result in less food crops available for the Philippines (therefore a threat to food security), and a greater and more tenuous dependency on foreign demand for exports in order for the basics of the Philippine economy to succeed. In 1995, the net loss of jobs due to the Philippines 2000 program was 120,000.
Globalization and the Corporate Agenda
The push for free trade is fueled by corporations seeking open access to global resources and consumer markets. Corporations are concerned primarily with short-term profits that show up at the end of each quarter in order to meet the expectations of their shareholders. These profits are often less the result of increased efficiency and more through the exploitation of cheap labor and resources.
The recent free trade activities are part of the corporate agenda to reduce government restrictions and deregulate trade and investments in order to create growth. Corporations view regulations as barriers to trade, failing to consider the reasons why regulations were created, such as to protect public health or the environment or strengthen local communities. Regulation ensures that growth complies with community standards and considerations for the future.
Export Economy versus Local Production for Local Consumption
Free trade undermines local economies. Free trade promotes an export economy model (which is characterized by a loss of resources, protein, and profit for the less developed exporting country) and denies a model of local production for local consumption. Local producers are forced to compete with non-local products, generally at a competitive disadvantage to larger multinational corporations that can sell the products at a lower price. An export economy asks us to live beyond our means, seeking products that are not grown locally.
An export economy model can be seen as a major contributor to environmental destruction. The export economy model divorces consumption from the actual impact that it has. For example, a US consumer purchasing aquaculture shrimp does not associate the product with anything but packaging, appearance of quality, and price. The consumer does not associate the product with the environmental damage (loss of mangrove forests and the role these forests play in ecosystem functions) or social impact (the displacement of local fishing and coastal communities). Therefore, the consumer cannot apply an environmental standard when making the decision to purchase the product.
Local production provides the consumer with a better chance to understand the impact of purchases. Buying local products also strengthens the local economy through an increased tax base and more money staying within the community.
Overconsumption on a Vanishing Planet
Free trade promotes, and is supported by, a destructive pattern of living. Free trade promotes increased consumption fueling the destruction of natural environments and leading to a loss of local control of resources. For example, global consumption of shrimp is increasing at 4% per year, with the greatest demand from the United States, Europe, and Japan. This increased consumption is supported either by an increase in shrimp trawling which impacts sea turtles or in shrimp aquaculture which destroys mangroves and local communities. Further, the economics of free trade is based on short-term, extractive profits resulting in the quick sale of resources at the expense of long-term sustainable use and protection of the resources.
It is an unsustainable use of a resource for consumers to expect and demand a year-round availability of products even if they are not in season. This is what leads to the development of aquaculture programs and the long-distance export of crops. This appetite for out-of-season crops also harms local farmers who are growing in sync with the local climate (e.g., growing cabbage instead of tomatoes). Overconsumption must be addressed to counter the threats of globalization.