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Only after the last tree has been cut down;
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"Globalisation" opponents?!

by Thomas Kesselring

I was looking for our own origins.
I was looking for people, who lived in perfect harmony with nature.
Bruno Manser
Buno Manser's Link
...Rivers are poisoned, forests felled, species destroyed, indigenous people driven out...

Aren’t we lucky! My family is fortunate enough to live at the heart of the Bremgarten forest in Bern! As a matter of fact, no actual forestry workers live here any more. And that is because the Forestry Commission of the Burgergemeinde of Bern had to cut its staff numbers. Because the company was slipping into the red. Because deforestation timber from Siberia won the competition against domestic timber in Switzerland! - What better way to begin the debate on socalled globalisation? But what does this word actually mean?

The first, closest, meaning is that local products, for example, Coca Cola or Pizza, are spreading worldwide (or, in any case, much further than their region of origin). That happened to rice, the wheel or writing thousands of years ago. The headdresses of the Amazon Indians have also long since entered into the "globalisation" mill. In many parts of the world today, it is part and parcel of any, well-equipped, child’s bedroom. A specific type of competition has also spread throughout the world. The beauty competition? The Winter Olympics? The competition in economic use of resources?? Oh no. The ousting competition - The custom that can be witnessed in the world’s economy whereby the strong overpower the weak and the cheap replaces the expensive. This competition is to late capitalism what a shadow is to a relief. It makes us all get our skates on. Even the forestry companies, as already mentioned.

"Globalisation" therefore also means, secondly, that the competitive pressure of all companies spurs us on to local specific reactions. The faster, the better, as the clock is ticking relentlessly. And therefore technological development is accelerating, the battle to survive is becoming more intense. Rivers are poisoned, forests felled, species destroyed, indigenous people driven out. Or also destroyed?

And this brings us to the third meaning, a growing series of challenges to face up to: the ecological crisis, the abysmal gulf between the poor and the rich; the consequence of the almost quadrupling of our species in the course of the 20 th century alone; and the discovery that there are many ways to destroy ourselves and a large part of life on earth. Every single one of these problems is new. And what is new in particular is that we are all in the same boat with regard to them, i.e. all societies, all ethnic groups on this globe must work together in order to get the situation under control. Iraq must immediately make its weapons of mass destruction harmless! That’s all well and good. But we are still far from finding a solution to the problem.

Fourthly, traffic, transport and trade operate globally today: their volume has increased eight hundred times over the past 300 years - a hundred times faster than the world’s population. Today it is possible to consume goods that have been manufactured in a completely different part of the world - often at the cost of reckless overexploitation, of which we in our (still) protected corner of the world, know nothing of unless we carr y out painstaking research.

The fifth meaning: thanks to a range of technical revolutions - from telephone to television, from fax to computer and the Internet - our communication possibilities have expanded beyond all expectations. Luckily, thanks to these media it is easier for us to track down overexploitation, wherever it takes place.

Sixth, over 60,000 companies - the notorious "multinationals" - have extended their share radius internationally, even globally in parts. Sorr y but even the Mafia is operating globally in the meantime, the drug trade, arms trade, organ trade, the trade in women and in children. And many human trafficking organisations do what they can to ensure that the wealthy paradises are permanently fed with newcomers. Even terror is spreading itself around the globe. Once the world market is completely deregulated and freed from state rules, how will we then be able to differentiate the business practices of the "Multinationals" from those of the Mafia?

Luckily, there is the socalled "civil society": Spread throughout the hundred thousand Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and networked throughout all continents, they take action to ensure justice and welfare for all and have thus taken over the actual basic tasks of the state. Whether Amnesty International, Greenpeace or BMF - they dedicate their efforts to causes ranging from the fight against poverty to the certification of timber. Their "business" deserves two figure growth rates, in contrast to the rampant egoism!

The diversity of the themes conveys the breadth of challenges facing our generation. As for the seventh meaning, globalisation stands for the international conference - for the possibility for people from all over the world to meet and exchange views. Scientists, politicians, businessmen - they all organise conferences. Even the NGOs! The largest of this kind of conference the third World Social Forum in Porto Alegre (23.-28.1.2003) - has just taken place. The "globalisation opponents" allegedly met there. Excuse me? The opponents of what exactly?


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