Globalization’s Murky Waters
Published 22 Feb 2017
It is very easy to waste water because we can see it abundantly everywhere around us. Our first world society has been able to ensure that safe drinking water and washing facilities are accessible to anyone who needs it. However, we must consider the day when the comfort of good clean water runs out. This century has put man in the middle of a dilemma born out of globalization. There are many who believe that globalization is good for economics and its effects are in terms of profits. However, little focus is made on its total effect outside of the economic arena. Very few have given attention to its worsening effects on the environment, specifically on a basic human need such as water.
First of all, is globalization truly good for us? We certainly obtain lots of benefits such as well-priced commodities, resources, work force, and information because of globalization. We are able to travel to many foreign countries and learn so much about other cultures because of free trade.
However, the negative effects brought about by globalization may outweigh the positive things it can do. For instance, multinational corporations taking advantage of the free economic market are moving lots of its labor and material outsourcing to third world countries who hang on to them for survival in the international trade arena. This has a lot of effects on the society of developing countries.
Although these poor countries’ labor force gain a reprieve from unemployment due to the establishment of factories for multinational companies, with the global set up, these companies are also always on the look out for better labor opportunities internationally. It is easy for them to simply leave a developing country for another that can offer better costs. This can be devastating to the economy and community of the country left behind.
Another negative aspect of globalization is the trend on professional services. Many professionals from developing countries are being attracted by the higher profit opportunities in rich countries. This causes the good professionals to leave their poor nations to seek better monetary gains in other societies. The results are devastating to the poor countries because they are deprived of the good services that they could have gotten from their own countrymen.
The greatest problem that globalization poses, however, is also a concern not only of poor countries but of every human being. This is its effects on our environment which can actually cause our extinction if not addressed at once.
It is difficult to imagine that safe drinking water would be completely lost on the earth. However, the water that we can now drink is less than 0.5% of the total amount of water of this planet. Sea water, the ice in the Antarctic Ocean and ground water are not immediately suitable for drinking. Water from the ground may be taken but would need purifiers to become potable. In fact, Bangladesh has been having a problem with their ground water sources because it has been discovered in the 1990’s to contain dangerous levels of arsenic (World Health Organization 2007). Now, the amount of usable water has been decreasing every year because of globalization.
Multinational corporations of advanced countries build factories in developing countries and use a lot of water there. Recently, the information technology industry and biotechnology industry have been excessively using a large quantity of the water compared to other industries. In fact, in 2000 the National Resources Development Council publicized that Peabody Western Coal Company has damaged Navajo’s water resources because of it ground water mining activities (NRDC 2006). Moreover, all nations are trying to become industrialized which highly affects the use of clean water.
In developing countries, population explosion is also a serious case. Many poor people often have big families because the parents tend to rely on the children to bring in “additional income for the family, help with farm work and provide security for parents in their old age” (Oxfam Community Aid Abroad 1992) This way of thinking can cause population to increase rapidly and it is estimated to reach to about 9 billion people in 2050. Naturally, the rate of use of water will increase if population increases.
Environmental destruction is one of the worst unforeseen results of globalization. It is indirectly an effect of world economics. Poor countries have been gaining larger debts to global institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. To cope with the necessity to pay these loans, most poor countries are obliged to increase their production – even beyond what is environmentally safe for its inhabitants. This has affected these nations in the form of pollution, deforestation, and depletion of other natural resources that affect the basic human needs such as water.
On a smaller scale, globalization has increased the colonial mentality of people from the poor countries. This has brought about a reckless urban lifestyle. In Manila, Philippines, for example, the waste products of factories along its major river, Pasig River, has polluted the waters so badly that it has stifled the once abundant aquatic life.
In September 1999, Greenpeace had river water samples analyzed and found out that the glass and chemical factories have indeed affected the river because it was “loaded with non-biodegradable and poorly degradable toxic substances” such as nickel, lead and copper (Greenpeace 2000).
Connected to the problem of water pollution is water contamination. What may have been safe drinking water for poor communities may be affected by air emissions from coal-burning plants, lead in household pluming and old house paints (APEC 2007).
This can cause many diseases like diarrhea, allergies and cancers.
Due to distrust of the safety of drinking water, poor people are also encouraged to buy purified drinking water which is an additional cost for living. This not only increases the profits of big multinational companies but also becomes a burden to many families who cannot afford it.
Another by product of globalization that affects water is deforestation. Many countries like Indonesia have been pressured to manufacture enough products that are highly dependent on wood. This has caused the proliferation of illegal logging and denudation of tropical forests. Indonesia is second only to Brazil in its forestry which is the natural habitat of many species. With the government’s thrust towards economic survival, the nation has been popular for allowing the destruction of these forests. It has realized its problems only recently with Forestry Production Director General Suharyanto saying that “denudation is partly to blame for floods that caused extensive damage including material losses in the country every year” (Asia Pulse 2003).
The Philippines has also been experiencing many landslides that have claimed many lives due to the problem of deforestation. The roots of trees are what hold the ground firmly for places like hills and forests. The communities that live in these habitats have been victims of landslides when tropical storms rage the mountain sides. In Eastern Philippines, last 2006, a 10 day length of rain has resulted to a mudslide that covered a village of 1000 inhabitants (Bayron 2006). These communities have been victims but were also instruments of their fate because they are known to have encouraged illegal logging because of pressure to work for scrupulous companies who take advantage of the villager’s ignorance and need for money.
But how does the denudation of forests affect water in our environment? Tropical forests are part of the whole ecosystem that is directly involved in the rain cycle. According to Al Gore’s essay entitled the Shadow Our Future Throws, he was personally able to see the way the water cycle revolves around the Amazon forests. He saw that after a thunderstorm, “clouds of moisture began to rise from the trees to form new rain clouds that moved west” (Gore 51). Therefore, massive losses of forest areas directly decrease the factors that will produce much needed rain for agriculture and other environmental resources. Rain is needed for new crops to grow. It is needed by any organisms to live in their natural habitat. It is needed for the earth to be healthy enough so that the ground stays firm and does not easily erode.
This also has great impact on the total ecological system not only of one country but of the world because it also affects global warming. The alteration of the rain cycle has led to situations of El Niño and La Niña. El Niño results to a change in the weather of different parts of the globe because of “increased rainfall across the Southern tier of US and Peru which caused flooding and drought in the West Pacific” (US Department of Commerce 2007). La Niña on the other hand, is the exact opposite of El Niño because it is a “climate phenomenon that causes floods, massive cyclones and endless rain” (Australian Broadcasting Corporation 2000). This instability in weather conditions can greatly affect the production of our natural resources and water supply.
Forests are not the only natural areas that are being abused because of globalization. Mangroves are also being depleted in favor of capitalism. The advent of a very lucrative prawn farming industry has “entailed the destruction of mangroves and associated coastal breeding ground for fish” (Broswimmer 90). It has also affected agriculture because the salt water that the mangroves used to block is now getting into the rice fields. Salt water is bad for the crops. Unnecessary water can be devastating to the overall production of rice which is a main staple for many countries all over the world. The sad thing about this is that this is being promoted by great institutions like the
World Bank and International Monetary Fund so that poor countries can be able to pay off their debts. However, even if the debts were paid, its cost to nature increases the possibility of man losing his very existence on earth.
Water is our primary source for life. It affects all the things around us. It has a great effect on the temperature of the earth. It has a hand in growing our food. It provides us the stability of the ground that we build our homes upon.
What can be done? With the widespread and global nature of the problem, one can feel helpless in fighting the hands of industrialization and capitalism. However, if many people will unite, many governments and social structures can be fought so that a better environment can be upheld.
Many organizations such as Greenpeace and World Wildlife Federation are doing their best to make everyone aware of the catastrophe being fueled by globalization. However, many still do not hear nor heed their calls for better environmental policies. The media portrays opposing views of scientists in the issues regarding the environment but ignore the fact that more scientists are saying that we need to take action compared to those who do not believe that the environment needs this focus.
A lot has to be done and joining hands internationally together is the only way that mankind can be able to survive this global problem that it has made.
- APEC. 2007. “Water and Health.” 07 June 2007 <http://www.freedrinkingwater.com/water-education/quality-water-heavymeatal.htm>.
- Asia Pulse. 14 March 2003 ‘ Indonesia to Restrict Logging in Java.”
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2000. “Who is La Nina.”
- Broswimmer, Franz J. Ecocide and Globalization. London: Pluto, 2002.
- Bayron, Heda 17 February 2006. “Philippine Landslide Buries Village – Hundreds Missing.”
- Gore, Al. 2007. Earth in the Balance. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992.
- Greenpeace. 2000. “Industrial Pollution in Pasig River.” 07 June 2007