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Diversity, Globalization, and the Ways of Nature

Diversity, Globalization, and the Ways of Nature

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Diversity, Globalization, and the Ways of Nature

Danilo J. Anton

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT RESEARCH CENTRE Ottawa Cairo Dakar Johannesburg Montevideo Nairobi New Delhi Singapore

Published by the International Development Research Centre PO Box 8500, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1G 3H9

International Development Research Centre 1995

Anton, D.J.

Diversity, globalization, and the ways of nature. Ottawa, ON, IDRC, 1995. xi + 223 p. : ill.

/Environmental degradation/ , /environmental management/ , /biodiversity/ , /ecological balance/ , /internationalization/ /forests/ , /grasslands/ , /aquatic environment/ , /water resources/ , /air quality/ , /energy resources / , /Africa/ , /Latin America/ , /Caribbean/ , /urban environment/ , /decentralization/ , bibliography.

UDC: 574 ISBN: 0-88936-724-8

A microfiche edition is available.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the International Development Research Centre.

IDRC BOOKS endeavours to produce environmentally friendly publications. All paper used is recycled as well as recycleable. All inks and coatings are vegetable-based products.

Contents

Foreword Roberto Bissio

ix

1. Introduction

1

Globalization and the ways of nature

1

The new globalization processes

2

2. Global Trends and Their Effects on the Environment

5

The information revolution

5

Development of global financial markets

9

Development of more effective transportation networks

11

Movement of people

12

Globalization and the unequal distribution of wealth

13

International migration

18

The development of free markets

23

3. Planet-wide Deterioration

29

Our sister planet

30

The unusual, oxygenated planet

31

The paradox of ozone

33

Oceans canbe degraded too

34

The rivers are becoming muddy

35

Overshooting

36

4. Forests under Attack

39

Deforestation in the 20th century

41

Rain-forest environments

44

Temperate forests

50

5. Grasslands.

63

Savannas

63

The temperate grasslands

65

Modifying grassland ecosystems

66

Environmental balance ingrassland ecosystems

71

6. Aquatic Ecosystems

73

Extractive exploitation

73

The future of fish production

79

7. Managing Planetary Thirst

85

Some basic facts

85

Water supply and options

88

The demand side of the issue

95

Water issues throughout the world

99

8. Protecting Air Quality

113

Air and its principal contaminants

113

Processes of contamination in industrial and urban areas

116

Current and future trends

121

9. Clean Energy for Planetary Survival

123

The industrial revolution

124

The use of hydroelectricity

125

The age of petroleum

126

Nuclear power

128

The Clean Options

129

10. Africa in the 21st Century: Sunrise or Sunset?

133

The causes of poverty

135

Historical causes of the current situation

137

Wars are environmentally unfriendly

143

Evolution of environmental management in Africa

146

Old and new development models

150

11. Latin America and the Caribbean: A History of Environmental Degradation

153

Indigenous cultures

154

The colonial period

157

Exploitation of natural resources after independence

158

Effects of globalizationon the environment

161

The maquiladora phenomenon

163

12. The Urban Environmental Challenge

173

The development of modern cities

173

Large cities in the Third World

176

The megacities of today

177

13. Diversity and Human Survival

197

Documenting diversity

198

Resources for the future

199

Diversity of living systems

200

Causes and effects of the loss of natural diversity

201

Diversity and culture

203

Restoring what is lost

207

Biodiversity and research

209

14. Strategies for the Future

213

Decentralize decision-making

214

People value their environment

215

Problems and responsibilities are global

216

Bibliography

219

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Foreword

Today, when someone speaks about natural diversity, the image most often evoked is that of the tropical rain forest. On the subject of globalization, the first image might be the logo of CNN, the first worldwide television network. In this book Diversity, Globalization, and the Ways of Nature Danilo J. Anton shares with us a different perspective: that of a geographer. He teaches us that the rain forest is not alone: there is also diversity in the savannas, in the oceans, and in the myriad of cultures that have developed as humans interact with their ecosystems. He shows us that globalization is a process much more dangerous than has been suggested by some contemporary prophets, who promise a new world transformed into a happy and well-connected global village.

Antons vision is, indeed, global. It encompasses all the planet, a large part of which the author knows personally, not as a tourist or neutral onlooker but as an actual agent of transformation and sustainable development. And what Anton sees in all the corners of this diverse world is a systematic aggression against diversity, both natural and cultural a destructive and impoverishing trend toward uniformity, which hides its threatening face behind the name globalization.

This book is not a conservative discourse against progress; nor is it a romantic defense of an idyllic past. With scientific accuracy, Anton studies the extraordinary conditions that made possible life on Earth, which were also largely the result of life itself. Our living planet produces the oxygen that makes life possible, while preventing the accumulation of excessive oxygen, which, left unchecked, could result in a planetary inferno. In much the same way, diversity is a consequence of

adaptation to the environment, and, at the same time, promotes new adaptations through continuous cross-fertilization. Without their wild cousins, the domesticated and genetically impoverished plants that we eat would be unable to resist new plagues or environmental change. In a culturally uniform, happy world, the birth of new ideas would be impossible. Diversity is life; uniformity, therefore, is synonymous with death.

Globalization began about 500 years ago with the conquest of America by the empires of Europe. Whereas other global empires such as the Chinese, Incas, and Romans predated this period, it was the European empires that first opened global markets, reoriented local production, and altered cultures and natural environments to a degree and depth never dreamt of by Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan.

Danilo Anton explores this history from new vantage points:

The thirst for gold of the conquistadors has been transformed into the thirst for water in the megalopolises of the developing world.

Irrigation and hydroelectric plants in Africa, the cradle of humanity, promote desertification instead of helping development.

In South America, Australian trees may feed the hunger of computers and fax machines for paper, but they also modify the water cycle and provide nesting places for deadly plagues.

With rigour, erudition, and an entertaining style, Anton demonstrates how globalization is the main contemporary force producing uniformity and, therefore, ruin. However, he also illustrates how the same informatics revolution that promotes globalization provides new methods for public participation, the rescue of traditional knowledge, and the defense of the natural environment. This book and its author, therefore, are hopeful. After demonstrating that change is essential, Anton conveys, in the final chapter, his confidence that it is also possible. Strategies for the future should be based on three pillars: decentralized decision-making, community participation in designing activities affecting the environment, and the recognition that global problems affect us all.

Finally, it remains clear that the principal responsibility for these problems falls to the richer countries, which have been the main contributors in their creation. In other words, the thirst for justice must also be quenched.

Roberto Bissio

Executive Director, Third World Institute

Editor, Third World Guide

December 1994

1Introduction

Globalization and the ways of nature

Trends toward globalization are changing the world. Information systems are allowing the inexpensive generation, processing, and rapid communication of facts, news, data, and ideas throughout the world almost instantaneously. The financial sector is becoming a worldwide web,