ConsumerismSocietySoil Erosion & Contamination

Melting Borders, Melting Icecaps

Smith, in the computer world of The Matrix. In nature there is order, but not uniformity

The president of Nabisco once defined the goal of economic globalization as “a world of homogeneous consumption”, in which people everywhere eat the same food, wear the same clothing and live in houses built from the same materials. It is a world in which every society employs the same technologies, depends on the same centrally managed economy, offers the same Western education for its children, speaks the same language, consumes the same media images, holds the same values, and even thinks the same thoughts: monoculture. – Breaking Up the Monoculture

The ‘one size fits all’ approach isn’t working, and in our myopic attempts at simplifying the world and reducing it to a factory-floor type environment, we’re reducing the natural bio-diversity of the world in a way never, ever, seen before.

But, as we are ourselves an important part of this great web of life, this reduction in diversity is also happening within our own species. We’re standardising ourselves into a very unhealthy, unnatural uniformity, and traditional knowledge – a lot of it of significant ecological, cultural and social importance – is being systematically discarded.

Saving indigenous languages from extinction is the only way to preserve traditional knowledge about plants and animals that have yet to be discovered by Western scientists, says a linguist and cultural expert.

More than half of the world’s 7000 languages are endangered, because they consist of an unsustainably small – and declining – speaker base. Each language death represents a significant erosion of human knowledge about local plant and animal life that was acquired over many centuries, says David Harrison at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, US.

Information about local ecosystems is so intricately woven into these languages that it cannot be replaced simply through translation, he explains. The indigenous taxonomy alone can provide a huge range of information about species, which young speakers in these tribes acquire instantly through learning the name. – New Scientist (see also BBC)

Languages are disappearing, with valuable knowledge, and, more directly, traditional methods are being marginalised and even outlawed through centralised legislation. Look at Romania, who, along with Bulgaria is the latest to join the European Union.

The peasants of Romania have until midsummer to make their locally produced cheese, milk, eggs and meat conform to the strict food safety standards of the European Union or they face oblivion….

The system seems tilted, as ever, to factory production, supplying spotless, sanitised supermarkets with identical items….

The new law will speed up the end of a way of life already in decline. – BBC

It reminds me of a sickly sweet song that stormed the radio airwaves in the early 1970s. The song made #1 in the charts in the UK, and #7 in the U.S., and was entitled “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”.

The song has everyone in the world holding hands and singing the same song – in perfect harmony. In its essence, the lyrics are quite beautiful – invoking idealistic visions of global peace and individual joy. Ironically, however, the fate of the song itself proves the point I wish to make. Its early success was noticed by Coca-Cola, and the song was soon altered and licensed to become a jingle for that global company.

The words…

I’d like to teach the world to sing In perfect harmony I’d like to hold it in my arms And keep it company.


I’d like to teach the world to sing In perfect harmony I’d like to buy the world a Coke And keep it company That’s the real thing.

If we’re all going to sing the same song – who should we choose to write the lyrics? Who is orchestrating? Who is the role model? Interaction between nations, and the pooling of ideas and resources, will never be a bad thing. But, what if it’s profits before people, and the song gets rewritten according to selfish corporate interests? Unfortunately, that is the status quo at present. We need to shift this around.

Nations have been giving up their individual ‘peculiarities’ for years, conforming to standards that force them away from diversity, away from sustainable methods, and ‘rewarding’ them with the privilege of plugging into the energy intensive global market. The following was written in 2005 in regards to Romania and Bulgaria, just two examples of dozens of countries that have gone down the same road.

The European Parliament has voted to allow Bulgaria and Romania to join the European Union in 2007.

Their eventual membership still depends on both countries reforming areas such as farming… – BBC

Should we all sing the same tune?

Replace the word ‘reforming’ above with ‘conforming’, and it’s closer to reality. A true reform is an improvement – to “remove defects from”. But, in most cases the legislated reforms – particularly in agriculture – translate to the systematic replacement of their traditional low-carbon methods with our energy intensive and unsustainable system. We have politicians, in some countries at least, rhetorically encouraging the world to reduce fossil fuel consumption – whilst simultaneously obliging ‘developing nations‘ to follow in our unsustainable footsteps. It’s like the Pied Piper hypnotising the township, and leading them off to the dark cave – all singing the same tune. But, in this case, the Pied Piper is blind himself – blinded by his own financial interests.

Michael Pimbert, director of the Sustainable Agriculture, Biodiversity and Livelihoods programme at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), put together a fantastic opinion piece recently – an article I’d highly recommend your taking the time to consider.

Food sovereignty is all about ensuring that farmers, rather than transnational corporations, are in control of what they farm and how they farm it; ensuring too that communities have the right to define their own agricultural, pastoral, labour, fishing, food and land policies to suit their own ecological, social, economic and cultural circumstances….

Food sovereignty is not against trade and science. But it does argue for a fundamental shift away from “business as usual”, emphasising the need to support domestic markets and small-scale agricultural production based on resilient farming systems rich in biological and cultural diversity. – BBC (please continue to read the entire article!)

There’s a clear link between globalisation, and global warming. Melting borders can effectively melt icecaps.

One Comment

  1. Hello,

    Heres a thought. Global problems . . . global solutions. Perhaps evrything works both ways in more ways than those we feel comfortable with. Small is beautiful, as is big. I try not to oversimplify but play the game both ways . . . as a locally global world citizen. What if we got what we wanted . . . secular dicatorships perhaps. We are on a small planet . . . globalise ethical business and fast. Size doesn’t matter (!!!) but values do.

    Cymon Fjell

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