Saturday, August 18, 2007
PETS, PEOPLE AND TOYS, OH MY!
First pet food, then people food and toys; what’s next? You have to love globalization and all of its wonderful ramifications. Actually, when I first heard of globalization I thought it was a wonderful concept. The idea that trade barriers between nations would disappear opening the doors to an infinite array of goods from other cultures and nations appeared exciting. In the absence of high tariffs exotic products from around the world would be at our fingertips.
What got lost in the translation? I guess others had an entirely different view of globalization in mind. To the corporations, it meant being able to hire children and adults for pennies a day in order to make their goods. Without high taxes and in the absence of foreign environmental and labor laws, companies could now produce products for little cost abroad and get them back here cheaply. Rather than importing foreign products, we began to import our own products to the detriment of domestic labor.
Of course, not only did it hurt U.S. workers, it opened the door to massive abuse of labor abroad. Hungry for jobs, foreign governments courted American producers at the expense of their own people. And, now, as we all know, the majority of products that we buy are made in China or other Asian and Latin American countries. To keep costs low these nations have few laws protecting their workers and little in the way of environmental rules or product safety standards. We all know the old adage; “what goes around, comes around.” So here we are, dead pets, poison in our foods and now lead in our children’s toys.
Of course, these are only the things that have been discovered-to date. What other product safety issues are lurking in our future? What else are we using or consuming that may harm our future generations? Isn’t time to say enough? As a product of the 60’s and 70’s I was hooked on the “small is beautiful” concept. Local produce, local jobs, local supplies of energy and local cultures all interacting to create a wonderful whole was very appealing. We need to return to this concept.
Energy issues must be addressed regionally and even locally. In some places the answer may be hydro, or wind or solar while others may see biomass or other alternatives. Those that can work everywhere can be shared but solutions cannot all be universal. Even from an energy safety perspective, differing systems are easier to protect than one large grid. This also holds for food production. The conscious effort to destroy the family farm was the worst decision to ever hit our agricultural system. I want beans and carrots from Maine, not Mexico-no offense intended. Corporate farming is a bust. The food supply is too concentrated in the hands of the few. Further, if bad weather or disease strikes these corporate farms, our food supplies are gone. Local food means a safer supply and one that can be closely monitored. Who knows what has been put on peppers from Latin America or put into beef from Argentina?
Look at the recent snafu in the housing market. Why should a credit squeeze in the U.S. send Asian stocks tumbling? We know the answer and the answer highlights the problem. Who wants their mortgage held by a bank in Hong Kong? Why are we permitting stock markets to merge? Why are we allowing the continued concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few?
We need a new concept of globalization. It should come to mean a world that shares ideas, cultures, information and solutions. Globalization must bring people together to find common solutions to common problems and not the continued exploitation of the many by the few. A “small is beautiful” concept with a global perspective is the only way we will get through these troubled times. It is time to wake up people. If we do not approach the coming changes with a renewed sense of cooperation instead of competition, we will get what we deserve.