A pro-globalization minifesto

The Inuit don't want to be footnotes of the global economy. But that doesn't mean they have to be anti-globalization.

By Andrew Leonard

Published December 8, 2005 6:25PM (EST)

I'm sure I am not the only person who has a kind of sick fascination with melting icecaps. Every time I see another picture of receding glaciers or read another report about endangered polar bears I greet the news with a mixture of horror and satisfaction. Horror because, well, as some Pacific Islanders are finding out right now, rising water levels are no joke. But satisfaction, as well, because proof is proof, and the more we have, the more likely we may finally get to some global consensus on dealing with the problem.

(I'm not even going to bother here, to grapple with the pathetically lame-brained conservative approach to this issue, which seems to boil down to little more than "hey, ice ages happen, global warming happens, if it gets too hot or wet in Florida we'll all move to Siberia and raise bananas." To deny the negative human impact on the globe over the last century is infantile, and, even worse, to deny that we can or should do anything about it demonstrates a stunning lack of confidence in what our species is capable of, at its best.)

Global warming, the Kyoto accords, and President Bush's refusal to join nearly all of the rest of the world in confronting the negative effects of climate change were in the news this week because the U.N. has been holding a conference on climate change. But what caught my eye was a statement made Thursday by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), as she filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights "seeking relief from violations of human rights of Inuit resulting from global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions from the United States of America."

For me, the money quote in the press release accompanying the petition was this: "Climate change is destroying our environment and eroding our culture. But we refuse to disappear. We will not become a footnote to globalization."

It's not hard to understand the equivalence made here between "globalization" and "global warming." Globalization is, in part, the spread of science and technology across the globe, hand in hand with a proliferating consumer economy that has, for example, everyone in China striving to buy a new car. There is clearly a direct connection between industrialization and global warming. So, globalization = global warming = bad, bad, bad.

But globalization, I would argue, is also a political process in which the nations of the world get together to hammer out agreements that theoretically benefit all. The World Trade Organization comes in for intense criticism from anti-globalization activists, but it is also a very important vehicle for developing nations to voice their concerns and demand (and receive) equity in trade relationships. Likewise, something like the Kyoto Accords should be seen as a positive aspect of globalization -- a framework for dealing with problems that transcend national borders.

It is shameful that the United States, which pushes the free trade and free markets aspect of globalization more vigorously than any other nation, is also the country that most strenuously resists the political accomodations that must accordingly be made if the world is going to survive humanity. Global warming is the kind of problem that, in essense, demands globalization, in the sense of global collective action.

I really don't want to wait until Manhattan , Washington, D.C. and Miami are under water before this point is made in full effect. So I'm starting a campaign to take back the word "globalization." Why can't we all get along -- why can't we be pro-globalization, and figure out how to come together, for the benefit of all?

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Global Warming Globalization How The World Works