Tuesday, September 9, 2014

GLOBALISATION’S UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES


Last week a team from the US Center from Disease Control reported that the Ebola outbreak in west Africa was out of control.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) didn’t help matters by saying that the outbreak had been underestimated.

According to the latest WHO figures, 3,069 people have come down with Ebola. Of them, 1,552 have died— a fatality rate greater than 50 percent.

Half way across the world the latest terror group capturing world attention the Islamic State formerly ISIS (The Islamic state of Iraq and Syria) beheaded a second American hostage, Steven Sotloff. This latest killing comes barely two weeks after another US journalist James Foley met a similar fate.

And also in the same week a group of Australian scientists more or less confirmed the findings of a forty year old research, which warned that our continued exploitation of the world’s finite resources, high population growth and material goods would eventually lead to a crash and civilisation as we know it.

The common thread that runs through these and many other emerging trends is the inexorable progression towards a “global village”.

Globalisation was driven by the need for western economies to have more access to global markets and resources and by the thinking that by increasing global trade everybody will be carried along on a sea of prosperity. It’s hard to refute the former but the jury is still out on the latter.

The ebola epidemics result of  two conflicting developments -- greater ability to move around for populations, boosted by improved infrastructure and falling borders and secondly the collapse in health care systems under the weight of the rapidly growing populations and governments’ negligence or misplaced priorities.

The poor handling of the outbreak is a function of governments’ wariness of the speed of information flow but still frozen in a pre-internet era where news could be supressed and crisis’ would just die off unknown to the wider world, of course with horrific consequences for the affected people.

Uganda, which has suffered three outbreaks of the haemorrhagic fever, using its experience with HIV/AIDS has been quick to clamp down on the disease when it first surface showing increasing competence in containing the disease and restricting infections.

By letting it get out of hand what would have remained a national crisis his ballooning into an international emergency demanding a cross border response.

Which brings us to ISIS. Charles Onyango Obbo writing in the Mail & Guardian Africa suggested that terrorist organisations like our very own AL Shabaab and Boko Haram are doing what decades of talk shops could not – force African leaders to think more and more in regional terms.

ISIS of course is playing on a bigger stage. Their ambitions to create a caliphate that straddles Iraq and Syria is forcing the US to contemplate unpalatable alliances. ISIS for one are opposed to the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria but also the US backed Iraqi government.

The flare up of these kind of “super empowered” groups, all taking a cue from Al Qaeda, is being facilitated by improved technology. The innovation that happened in the last half of the 20th century is more than has happened in all of human history and this trend is only accelerating.

Unfortunately the innovation has not been restricted to peace time application but has extended to the means to wage war. So ISIS a relatively small group of combatants can hold the much larger armies of Syria and Iraq at bay and even force a return to Iraq of the US army.

What is little reported is the killing the global military industrial complex makes whenever there is a whiff of insecurity anywhere in the world. Because believe t or not these companies have growth targets to meet and a peaceful world is not good for their bottom lines. Growth regardless of the consequences.

And finally the 1972 book “Limits to Growth,” warned against such gratuitous growth, growth regardless of the consequence to the environment and human considerations. In the 40 years since it was written the global economy has continued to grow. In burst and spurts but to grow never the less. Unfortunately this growth has come in line with the biblical saying “To those who have, more shall be added onto them and to those who don’t have, even the little they have shall be taken away from them.”

The drive for faster and faster growth and the widening inequality in global wealth has led to break downs in systems, as we see with west African health system and precipitated unprecedented insecurity as we see with increased insurgency around the world.

Globsalisation is a desired end result it’s the means by which it is being executed that is throwing up all these unintended consequences. 

The sooner we recognise this the better.

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