Are we at the Verge of Collapse?
In this blog post, I attempt to examine the role of globalization in relation to the economy, language and natural environment.
Civilized man was nearly always able to become master of his environment temporarily. His chief troubles came from his delusions that his temporary mastership was permanent. He thought of himself as “master of the world, while fully failing to understand the laws of nature. Tom Dale and Vernon Gill Carter has mentioned in ‘Topsoil and Civilization’ – man whether civilized or savage, is a child of nature- he is not the master of nature. He must conform his actions to certain natural laws if he is to maintain his dominance over his environment. When he tries to circumvent the laws of nature, he usually destroys the natural environment that sustains him. And when his environment deteriorates rapidly, his civilization declines.
With this backdrop, I first attempt to examine the globalization with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) based economic growth in the light of its aberrations and practical consequences. Let me begin with an example. We are trying to purify the Bagmati River in Kathmandu which was once a natural source of water for people dwelling in this valley. Over the years, population swelled in multifold along with the drive for urbanization, with the capital and technology – the drivers of globalization. Then water shortages ensued. Now, we are trying to turn the natural course of Melamchi River in order to fulfill the need of drinking water in Kathmandu. I have three unanswered questions in this process – first, isn’t it something like robbing Paul to pay Peter? Second, do we know the long-term impact of changing natural course of a river? Third, Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL) is the water distributing company in Kathmandu. Is it profitable for it to take care of the drinking need of other species in the valley because the river accessible to them is completely destroyed by human beings? If we extend the above example in international context we get the clear picture of what globalization is.
The present economic model is the more we consume, the more it helps to increase the GDP. Cyclical consumption model is threatened by its negative impacts in the society such as resource depletion, water and air pollution, and destruction of natural habitat. At the one hand, this economic model has completely overlooked the impacts on other species (other than human beings) and natural environment around us. On the other hand, this model ends up storing or developing weapons of mass destruction as the result of so-called economic success because we are obsessed with power. Furthermore, the growing inequality created by the competitive model of business has no human face (Economic Development for general people is not only for the owners-inequalities produced by current economic model). For instance, the unemployment generated by automation which contributes to continuous wastages of natural resources. Throughout the human history we have never been out of war and natural calamities aggravated by human beings. I wonder why this so-called intelligent specie is always the source of destruction and I think we are at the tipping point once again.
The second example I am citing here shows the flip side of specialization. Nepal Government is developing a few eastern districts as a bucket area for the cultivation of cardamom. The farmers are being lured to planting cardamom replacing their regular food products in those remote areas. They have cash from sales of high value crops, but they have to depend on transportation (one of the main sources of globalization) of foods from other areas for their regular diet. It shows the flip side of specialization as there are two problems associated with specialization of agriculture sectors. The first is the issue of food security as it destroys the local food chain and the second is the value gap created by the change of consumption pattern as they have no local food. Further, the consumption of products of multinationals is normally known as increasing living standards or modernization.
When we turn into language and culture, MCDonaldization and mass productions are replacing local cultures and languages leading to acute poverty because the most local businesses depend on local culture. The rhetoric behind skill gap is clearly intended to further destroy the local and traditional businesses. The English speaking local students are being turned into international labor completely ignoring their need and contributions to the development of local society. English as a foreign language should be taught in the schools and colleges but, is it necessary to replace the native languages from schools in the name of English medium only? This one-sided language domination is clearly a long –term burden to the western societies because sooner or later they would realize that these half-caste (new breeds having desire to live in two worlds i.e. Anglicized vs. localized) English speaking generation cannot get jobs in western societies in the name of globalization.
The theoretical impossibility of globalization lies in its illogic that we have to create a global market. That means every country has power or right over the resources of the whole planet in order to supply stuffs all over the world. For example, As Nepal is known as a suitable tourist spot she has to build infrastructures to accommodate tourists of the whole world by being competitive. However the question that remains unanswered is – how much is adequate?
The whole concept of state welfare function is built on false premises which started after the French Revolution with enlightenment or rational thinking as means of modernization. But it ignored the relationship between human being and the natural environment and led people to believe that man can be independent of the plants and food or the nature. Diamond Jared in his book ‘Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed’ mentioned that the climate change is not a new phenomenon and lists out the eight factors (deforestation and habitat destruction, soil problems, water management, overhunting, overfishing, effects of introduced species on native, overpopulation, and increased per-capita impact of people) that led to the collapse of past societies. He further added four other factors (anthropogenic climate change, buildup of toxins, energy shortages, and full human use of earth’s photosynthetic capacity) which may contribute to the collapse of present and future societies. All factors are the roots of destruction of natural environment.
We have had enough experiences that the apogee of highly industrialized state is to start decaying. We have observed the pre-eminent symptoms of collapsing civilization. None of the governments has choices to take unpopular decisions such as developing its own economic systems or to choose only those technologies which are sustainable considering its local economic, social and cultural environment. Climate change and inequalities are major concerns of almost all countries but we have not been able to address it in its entirety.
Mr. Wasti works for Rural Education and Environment Development Center (REED Nepal), Pulchock Lalitpur in the capacity of the finance manager.