9 Oct 2006
Well, the hustings was great fun, it is going up on the green party website in a day or two...so look out for it, although I think it may just be 'internal'...needs to be a bit more open source in my opinion....watch this space
Green alternatives to globalisation
Mike Woodin and Caroline Lucas argue that opposition to globalisation is not enough, coherent economic alternatives have to be outlined together with a series of measures to move from our present society to an alternative future. They build on the approach of Colin Hines, author of Localization: A Global Manifesto (2000). Globalisation for all three authors is largely politically driven. Drawing on the analysis presented by anti-corporate anti-capitalists (see chapter three), they suggest that globalisation has been advanced to meet the needs of an elite. Globalisation is not an irreversible or automatic process, it is politically driven and can be rolled back or radically transformed. Thus they feel it is quite wrong for politicians such as Tony Blair to argue that policies such a privatisation and support for multinationals are inevitable because they are a product of globalisation.
Globalisation is ecologically damaging and therefore the ecological crisis that centrally motivates Greens can only be solved by reversing it. However, economic security is vital to ecological reforms:
Why, for example, should a young man who earns the minimum wage in a dead-end job be expected to fret about the social and environmental consequences of his choice of mode of transport when there is no decent public transport for him to use and when, at every turn, the message is reinforced that the possession of sufficient wealth to purchase the latest car is the measure of man? Equally, why should we expect the poorest countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions when the richest nations blatantly shirk their disproportionately greater responsibility to do the same. (Woodin and Lucas 2004: xix)
An economically secure society would also be more likely to respect nature if decisions were made democratically, according to Woodin and Lucas. This is one of the reasons why they oppose globalisation because it is difficult to give people a real say if decisions are taken on a planetary scale. While some issues such as cuts in greenhouse gas emissions inevitably have to be decided globally, most should be taken as locally as possible to enhance democratic participation. Bodies such as the WTO are more influenced by corporate pressure than the wishes of any imagined global community.
Woodin and Lucas distinguish between green and socialist anti-globalise, suggesting that the left largely ignore ecological issues. They also argue that Green political approaches are not the same as environmentalism, which fails to provide a radical alternative to existing policies. Greens, in turn, while valuing the local reject atavistic, expansionist nationalism and embrace an internationalist politics. In the UK the Greens have made alliances with both Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales and more enduringly, Mebyon Kernow, the Party of the ‘sons of Cornwall’.
Woodin and Lucas stress the links between globalisation, privatisation and poverty. They note how the IMF’s Structural Adjustment Programmes insist that to achieve financial help countries must sell publicly owned resources including power supplies, telecommunications and even transport infrastructure. The stability pact of the European Union, insists that countries in the Euro currency area limit government spending. Even without these institutional pressures, the need for foreign direct investment from multinationals, encourages states to cut spending on welfare, public spending and the environment, so as to reduce corporation tax, so as to attract firms (Woodin and Lucas 2004: 58). Senegal seen as an IMF success, slashed government spending and increased growth rates but saw unemployment rise from 25% to 44% between 1991 and 1996 (Woodin and Lucas 2004: 57). Transnational corporations may dominate the globe but they produce relatively few jobs given their desire to downsize and outsource. The two hundred largest global corporations employ just 0.75% of the world’s workforce (Woodin and Lucas 2004: 73).
The ecological ill effects of globalisation are emphasised with reference to food. Peasants are being squeezed out by ‘free trade’, local diversity in diet is eroded and in the great food swap, identical commodities move thousands of miles across the globe wasting energy and pushing up the production of greenhouse gases. Supermarkets are damaging to farmers, consumers, workers and the environment (Woodin and Lucas 2004: 155-156). European, North American and Japanese agricultural production is protected, while Southern countries are forced by global bodies to open up their markets often with disastrous results:
the IMF bulldozed Haiti into liberalising its rice markets. It was flooded with cheap US imports and local production collapsed, destroying tens of thousands of rural livelihoods. A decade ago Haiti was self-sufficient in rice; today it spends half of its export earnings importing rice from the US. (Woodin and Lucas 2004: 147)
They outlined the absurdity of trade like for like which seems to make a nonsense of comparative advantage and specialisation:
In 1998, Britain imported 61,400 tonnes of poultry meat from the Netherlands and exported 33,100 tonnes of poultry meat to the Netherlands […] it imported 240,000 tonnes of pork and 125,000 tonnes of lamb, while it exported 195,000 tonnes of pork and 102,000 tonnes of lamb. In 1997, the UK imported 126m litres of milk and exported 270m litres of milk […] In 1999, the EU imported 44,000 tonnes of meat from Argentina, 11,000 tonnes from Botswana, 40,000 tonnes from Poland and over 70,000 tonnes form Brazil […] meat exports from the EU to the rest of the world totalled 874,211. (Woodin and Lucas 2004: 148)
The food industry promotes obesity and is hugely abusive to animals, transported ever increasing distances and factory farmed under appalling conditions to push unit costs down.
Woodin and Lucas argue that change must occur, arguing that the present trajectory of the global economy damages its citizens, other species and the natural environment that sustains life. The solution is to introduce local currencies (a theme discussed critically in our next chapter) and to rewrite the multilateral rule book of institutions such as the WTO, IMF, World Bank and EU to promote local economic development. Localisation does not mean complete self-sufficiency or the rejection of trade if it brings real gains. However, social and environmental concerns mean that it is often better to produced goods locally rather than exporting them from many thousands of miles away. Hines concisely defines localisation:
The alternative is that everything that could be produced within a nation or region should be. Long-distance trade is then reduced to supplying what could not come from within one country or geographical groupings of countries. This would allow an increase in local control of the economy and the potential for it being shared out more fairly, locally. Technology and information would be encouraged to flow, when and where they could strength local economies. Under these circumstances, beggar-your—neighbour globalization gives way to the potentially more cooperative better-your-neighbour localization. (Hines 2000: viii)
The localists have been challenged by a number of writers including the journalist and Green supporter George Monbiot, who argues that localisation would prevent development and would put countries in the South at some disadvantage (2003). Other commentators reflect such views that globalisation can be greened or reformed. The German Greens argue for ‘green globalisation’ and believe that institutions such as the European Union can be used to limit the environmental consequences of globalisation. Monbiot argues that trade should be made fairer. Globalisation has both benefits and costs but demands regulation. Monbiot believes that global institutions such as the IMF and WTO could be used to benefit the poorest, if they were made subordinate to a new world parliament, with representatives elected from the entire world. The localists respond that they are not fundamentalists and believe that trade should occur where vital. They argue that trade is too unpredictable to be the sole source of development, that unrestricted trade means that ‘infant industries’ will fail to grow and point to falling incomes as trade increases for the bulk of peasant based producers even in tiger economies like China (Woodin and Lucas 2004: 100). They also challenges Monbiot’s plans for a world parliament as naïve, pointing out that even if the political will could be conjured up to create it, constituencies with ten million voters apiece would eliminate the possibility of meaningful participation (Woodin and Lucas 2004: 89).