THE GLOBAL CONTEXT: GLOBALIZATION AND THE ENVIRONMENT
In 1992 leaders from across the globe met at the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to forge agreements to protect the plant’s environment and at the
same time alleviate world poverty.
When world leaders met in 2002 for the second Earth Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, the overall state of the environment had deteriorated and
poverty had deepened.
The reason the combined efforts of leaders who met at the first Earth Summit were so ineffectual lies at least in part to the increasing globalization of
the last two decades.
Three aspects of globalization that have affected the environment are: (1) the permeability of international borders, (2) cultural and social integration
spurred by communication and information technology, and (3) growth of free trade and transnational corporations.
Permeability of International Borders
Environmental problems such as global warming extend far beyond their source to affect the entire planet and its inhabitants.
A striking example is the spread of toxic chemicals (such as PCBs) from the Southern Hemisphere into the Arctic.
In as little as five days, chemicals from the tropics can evaporate from the soil, ride the winds thousands of miles north, condense in the cold air,
and fall on the Arctic in the form of toxic snow or rain.
This phenomenon was discovered in the mid 1980s, when scientists found high levels of PCBs in the breast milk of Inuit women in the Canadian
Bioinvasion: the emergence of organisms into regions where they are not native
Bioinvasion is largely a product of the growth of global trade and tourism.
Exotic species travel in the ballast water of ships, packing material, shipments of crops and other goods, etc.
Invasive species may compete with native species for food, start an epidemic, or prey on natives, threatening the entire ecosystem in which the
Red fire ants are an example of bioinvasion.
They traveled from Paraguay and Brazil on shiploads of lumber to Mobile, Alabama in 1957, and have since spread throughout the southern
Fire ants damage gardens, yards, homes, and electrical equipment and invade the food supplies (seeds, young plants, and insects) of
Fire ants also harm humans with their painful sting.
Cultural and Social Integration
As mass media infiltrate the world, people across the globe aspire to consume the products and mimic the materially saturated lifestyles portrayed in
movies, television, and advertising.
Patterns of consumption in developing countries increasingly follow those in wealthier Western nations.