Globalisation: beneficial for trade or a pathway for destruction?

Johanna Straatman

As the years have gone by, globalization is an increasingly rapid phenomenon taking place in the world. Globalization has created problems that make cooperation between countries necessary and many new problems challenge human societies. Traditionally, the world faced external risks, problems humans have no influence over, such as natural disasters. However, our society has now reached the ‘end of nature’. This means humans have affected the environment to such an extent that no aspect of it is fully natural any more. As a result, the risks the world now encounters are ‘manufactured risks’, which are problems created due to human actions. 

Extremist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram are a global terror risk fully created by humans. Due to their extremist ideologies based on nationalism, separatism, or religion, they react violently to opposition to their beliefs. Globalization has allowed for better global transportation and communication, which has led to easy establishment of terrorist cells in many countries.

Besides being man-made, these manufactured risks are de-localized, and their consequences are unpredictable and often irreversible. Developments such as Chernobyl, bird flu, and genetically modified foods have affected either the entire, or large regions of the world. As they are relatively new problems or technologies with no precedent, their consequences are uncertain and often turn out irreparable. For example, Chernobyl had health effects no one had predicted could come from nuclear energy, and affected populations from not one, but many nations. Therefore, the world society is now aiming to minimize the potential risks associated with these international issues. This change in the world community is also referred to as the Beck’s ‘World Risk Society’. However, as the consequences of these events are large-scale, a single country is unable to minimize the risk on its own.

Humans have affected the environment to such an extent that no aspect of it is fully natural any more.

Hence, globalization, and the problems it has caused, has forced countries to cooperate with each other. A prime example of this is the European Union (EU). Formed after the Second World War, the EU was created with the purpose of making countries dependent on each other for resources and materials. It was believed this interdependence would minimize the risk of war. As a result, the member states have established governing institutions, such as The Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), and most significantly European Citizenship. European citizenship entails any person who lives in a EU country, is a EU citizen. This allows them to move and live freely within the EU, and to vote for the European Parliament. In effect, this gives the impression national borders are dissolving, and EU members are slowly becoming one large entity.

Even though manufactured problems have stimulated collaboration between countries, this does not mean all countries are equally affected by these risks. For example, global warming has global effects, such as a rise of global temperatures and rising sea levels. These global ramifications affect regions in different ways depending on their climates. At least 75 million more people of the African population are expected to experience severe water stress by 2020, while Asia is more likely to encounter floods due to melting glaciers. In Latin America, 50% of agricultural land is expected to undergo desertification and salination by 2050. While all areas will be affected differently, they all run the risk of the problems worsening. This relates to the notion of ‘community of fate’, which is the formation of groups or “temporary social cohesion arising from a mass emergency [that] comes into being as a result of stress and crisis” (Baehr, 2005, p.181). Though countries experience risks differently, they all face that risk, leading them to form a community between nations.

Therefore, the notion of manufactured risks has shown how problems nowadays are exposed globally rather than locally, and are almost fully created by humans. This has caused cooperation between countries to become a necessity, which has led to greater interdependence between countries worldwide.