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Global Systems and Global Governance

Enquiry question 1: What are the causes of globalisation and why has it accelerated in recent decades?

1.1 Globalisation is a long-standing process which has accelerated because of rapid developments in transport, communications and businesses.

  • Globalisation involves widening and deepening global connections, interdependence and flows (commodities, capital, information, migrants and tourists).
  • Developments in transport and trade in the 19th century (railways, telegraph, steam-ships) accelerated in the 20th century (jet aircraft, containerisation), contributing to a ‘shrinking world’.
  • The 21st century has been dominated by rapid development in ICT and mobile communication (mobile phones, internet, social networking, electronic banking, fibre optics), lowering communication costs and contributing to time-space compression.

1.2 Political and economic decision making are important factors in the acceleration of globalisation.

  • International political and economic organisations (P: role of World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank) have contributed to globalisation through the promotion of free trade policies and foreign direct investment (FDI).
  • National governments are key players in terms of promoting free trade blocs (P: role of European Union (EU), The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)) and through polices (free-market liberalisation, privatisation, encouraging business start-ups). (P: role of governments in economic liberalisation)
  • Special economic zones, government subsidies and attitudes to FDI ( China’s 1978 Open Door Policy) have contributed to the spread of globalisation into new global regions (P: role of governments in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI))

1.3 Globalisation has affected some places and organisations more than others.

  • Degree of globalisation varies by country and can be measured using indicators and indices (AT Kearney index, KOF index).
  • TNCs are important in globalisation (P: role of TNCs) both contributing to its spread (global production networks, glocalisation and the development of new markets) and taking advantage of economic liberalisation (outsourcing and offshoring).
  • There are physical, political, economic and environmental reasons why some locations remain largely ‘switched off’ from globalisation (North Korea, Sahel countries).

Enquiry question 2: What are the impacts of globalisation for countries, different groups of people and cultures and the physical environment?

1.4 The global shift has created winners and losers for people and the physical environment.

  • The movement of the global economic centre of gravity to Asia via the global shift of manufacturing ( China) and outsourcing of services ( India) can lead to changes in the built environment that can bring benefits (infrastructure investment, waged work, poverty reduction, education and training) but also costs (loss of productive land, unplanned settlements, environmental and resource pressure).
  • Some communities in developing countries have experienced major environmental problems (including air and water pollution, land degradation, over-exploitation of resources, and loss of biodiversity), which impact on people’s health and wellbeing.
  • Some deindustrialised regions in developed countries face social and environmental problems as a result of economic restructuring (dereliction, contamination, depopulation, crime and high unemployment).

1.5 The scale and pace of economic migration has increased as the world has become more interconnected, creating consequences for people and the physical environment.

  • Rural-urban migration (push and pull factors), and/or natural increase, is responsible for the growth of megacities (Mumbai, Karachi); rapid urban growth creates social and environmental challenges.
  • International migration has increased in global hub cities and regions, deepening interdependence between regions (elite migration Russian oligarchs to London and mass low-wage economic migration (India to UAE, the Philippines to Saudi Arabia)).
  • Migration has economic, social, political and environmental costs and benefits for both host and source locations.

1.6 The emergence of a global culture, based on western ideas, consumption, and attitudes towards the physical environment, is one outcome of globalisation.

  • Cultural diffusion occurs as a result of globalisation; TNCs, global media corporations (P: role of TNCs), tourism and migration create and spread an increasingly ‘westernised’ global culture which impacts on both the environment and people ( Changing diets in Asia). The spread of a global culture has also led to new awareness of opportunities for disadvantaged groups (Paralympic movement) particularly in emerging and developing countries. (P: opportunities for these groups)
  • In some locations, cultural erosion (loss of language, traditional food, music, clothes, social relations ( loss of tribal lifestyles in Papua New Guinea) has resulted in changes to the built and natural environment (de-valuing local and larger-scale ecosystems).
  • Concern about cultural impacts, economic and environmental exploitation has led to opposition to globalisation from some groups. (A: attitudes of pro- and anti- globalisation groups, environmental movement)

Enquiry question 3: What are the consequences of globalisation for global development and the physical environment and how should different players respond to its challenges?

1.7 Globalisation has led to dramatic increases in development for some countries, but also widening development gap extremities and disparities in environmental quality.

  • Economic measures (both single and composite indices) of development (income per capita, economic sector balance) contrast with those focused on social development (Human Development Index (HDI), Gender Inequality Index (GII)) and environmental quality (air pollution indices).
  • Trends in widening income inequality, globally and nationally (measured using the Gini Coefficient), suggest globalisation has created winners and losers for people and physical environments between and within developed, emerging and developing economies.
  • Contrasting trends in economic development and environmental management between global regions since 1970 indicate differential progress that can be related to the outcomes from globalisation.

1.8 Social, political and environmental tensions have resulted from the rapidity of global change caused by globalisation.

  • Open borders, deregulation and encouragement of foreign direct investment has created culturally mixed societies and thriving migrant diasporas in some locations, but tensions have resulted elsewhere (Rise of extremism in Europe, Trans-boundary water conflicts).
  • Attempts have been made in some locations to control the spread of globalisation by censorship (China, North Korea), limiting immigration (UK, Japan) and trade protectionism. (P: role of government) (A: attitudes of pro- and antiimmigration groups)
  • Some groups seek to retain their cultural identity within countries and seek to retain control of culture and physical resources ( First Nations in Canada), whereas others embrace its economic advantages.

1.9 Ethical and environmental concerns about unsustainability have led to increased localism and awareness of the impacts of a consumer society.

  • Local groups and NGOs promote local sourcing ( Transition towns) as one response to globalisation by increasing sustainability (A: actions of local pressure groups); this has economic, social and environmental costs and benefits.
  • Fair trade and ethical consumption schemes may reduce the environmental degradation, the inequalities of global trade and improve working conditions for some people. (A: actions of NGOs and pressure groups)
  • Recycling has a role in managing resource consumption and ecological footprints, but its use varies by product and place ( local authorities in the UK, local NGOs such as Keep Britain Tidy). (F: environmental consequences of different patterns of resource consumption)


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