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We hear it more and more, if we continue living like this, it will not be long before the earth cannot handle it anymore.  The world population keeps growing, the ice caps are melting, the temperature is rising, the ozone layer is disappearing. The world is – already for some time – in the process of globalisation and the environmental problems are worse than ever before. The nature of this environmental damage in relation with globalisation is often disagreed upon. Generally speaking, we have on the one hand people that see globalisation as a possible solution to our environmental problems and on the other hand people that see it as the cause of the environmental problems. Resulting into one group that is convinced to stimulate the process of globalisation to prevent ecological collapse and another group convinced it is best to counteract globalisation because it will eventually lead to an ecological collapse. For everybody’s sake we need to find out who has it ‘right’ in this discussion.

We start with explaining the point of view of the people that see globalisation as the solution for our environmental problems, also called optimists. According to Ravenhill they perceive the process of globalisation as something that increases the income of people, which makes it more easy to generate funds and political support to protect the environment. They often support the Environmental Kuznet Curve, where pollution levels first have to go up, during the start industrialisation because at that moment the focus is more on industrial and national income increase. As a result the GDP rises, together with the rise of the GDP the pollution level goes down. This is because citizens usually ask for better environment conditions and because the government now has the money to fulfill this request. In addition, they see globalisation as promoting global co-operation, integration and similar environmental standards. Which improves the ability of a state system to manage environmental problems(2011; 451-460).

Opposed to the positivists are the globalisation critics: people that see globalisation as the cause of environmental problems. Globalisation critics worry that the rapidly increasing amount of people on our planet will eventually lead to an ecological collapse. They say that globalisation causes the ecological foot print for each person to rise and increases ecological shadows where more influential economies pass on the bad environmental effects of their economies to weaker and less influential economies. They see the Kuznet Curve as temporary, eventually the pollution will rise again(2011; 453-460).

Besides globalisation critics and positivists, there are also people that believe in sustainable development. They believe that there should be changes in the process of globalsation, rather than trying to stop or encourage it. Michael Redclift states as the main question of sustainable development: “How can development activities be designed which help to maintain ecological processes, such as soil fertility, the assimilation of wastes, and water and nutrient recycling?” (2008, Sustainable Development). I think the COP21 in Paris is partly based on the belief in sustainable development, since one of their outcomes is: “For rich countries to help poorer nations by providing “climate finance” to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy” (Briggs, 2015). With renewable energy, developing countries still can develop themselves, but in a sustainable way. In theory developing countries could still go through the Kuznet Curve but with less environmental damage.

Personally, I think sustainable development is the best solution against environmental damage. This because I think stopping globalisation is not possible anymore. It is an ongoing process. However, just letting globalisation going on like it is doing now does not seem very sustainable to me. We have to think more about the long-term effects rather than the short-term wins. Focusing on sustainable development might help to decrease the ecological footprint of all of us eventually.

And after we managed to focus on sustainable development.. We cross our fingers and hope we are in time to prevent an ecological collapse.

Reference List:

Briggs, H. (2015) Global climate deal: in summary. BBC News. Website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-35073297  [retrieved at 16-12-2015]

Redclift, M. (2008) The Companion to Development Studies, chapter 6.1: Sustainable Development. London: Hodder Education: 280

Ravenhill, J. (2011) Global Political Economy, chapter 14: Globalization and the Environment. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 451-454

  • Mélanie Kamping




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