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Economics and Global Change

by T. Peterson, Ph.D.
(the following text excerpts are taken from:
The Creator's Window -Viewing Global Change,
Universal timelines, & The Promise, © 2000)

• Economics and Environment

Even with human advancements, the world loses real Gross National Product (GNP; SXi 65-83). This is only apparent when one factors pollution damage, resource degradation, and other environmental variables into the cost of future business. For example, Nigeria and the US. have lost 17% and 2% of their GNP, respectively, due to soil erosion and environmental damage. For Nigeria the consequences are obviously significant. What appears to be a small loss, again only 2% in the US., amounts to 100 billion dollars in productivity (SXi 68). If one adds cumulative, long-term, environmental degradation to annual production losses, there is an ominous irreversible loss in the world’s future agricultural base. These problems haunt humankind when limited food stores are pressed further by population growth.

In recent time, businesses operated on the premise that raw materials in, finished products out, equals net monetary productivity. Profit is the bottom line. Resources, treated as an infinite supply of material, are never in question. Economists now know GNP calculations alone do not reveal the true relationship between a nation’s economy and environmental health.

No nation can say its economic activity is sustainable if it fails to replace the capital that depreciates. Similarly, no nation will expand its future income unless it invests in new capital.' (SXi 75)

The world’s ozone layer, rain forests, potable water, top soil, and numerous elements of the biosphere represent natural capital for each nation’s audit books. To this I add human capital, which includes machines, roads, factories, and vehicles. Elsewhere, industries and services emphasizing use of renewable resources—recycled materials—begin a vital process reducing the dependencies on non-renewable resources.

Remember, 77% of the population earns 15% of the global income (SXi 65). Unless investments are made regionally, people will continue to migrate to cities or other localities where investments are concentrated. Offsetting global economic inequity, by adding regional political and economic stability, requires the North to invest in the peoples of the South. If this occurs—in a way that instills social equity and builds affluence—population pressures will ease because:

when livelihoods are secure, ... only then does it become rational for poor people to limit family size.' (SXi 53)

The World Bank estimates when the income of poor people rises 1%, the general fertility rates drop by 3%. Would you give away the proportion of your personal wealth that is required to create equality for all of humankind? If this gesture slowed population growth and insured the Earth’s preservation would you also accept a smaller pay check? Your answer, yes or no, has a bearing on the Earth’s future.

The window mirrors change to show people are both the answer and the problem. I tend to think that you would prefer to keep your money. Many of us are conditioned to be slaves to autos, computers, appliances, buildings, and other material possessions. These are the idols of materialism. The child is often taught to possess—not distribute freely—and those who lived through depression times store flour and sugar by the barrel. Humanity’s old habits are hard to break. Would anyone freely bundle up the hoards stored in the North to sent them to the South? Human nature seems too predictable for such an unlikely event. The answers to many of humanity’s problems are that simple, that outlandish, and so improbable. What conclusions are left to us from this logic?

Conservation movements and recycling programs emerge from the collective social consciousness. But, recycling previously an option is now necessity, because land fills are at maximum capacity and garbage disposal systems are over burdened. Putting reusable waste into recycling requires mechanics to collect, store, process and re-manufacture materials. In recent decades, prudent use of the Earth was not the willful choice of the majority. The exceptions are those individuals, like Henry Thoreau, who lived a least-impact life style, wholly in the organic realm. He ate modestly, grew what he needed, sold enough to buy what he couldn’t grow or make, and disturbed as little of his environment as was necessary to make life sustainable. What Mr. Thoreau consumed most was air, sights, and sounds—and he considered himself wealthy for all these possessions and the life to enjoy them. Paradoxically, modern consumerism has quickly built trash mounds as its memorials—monuments that now generate methane and climate change.

Chiczgo © 2005

• World Markets, Competition, and Global Polarity

The world’s economic systems are essentially asymmetric, lop-sided, creating a problem for the South which can only respond with aggressiveness or defensive measures for survival. The South sees global change as a negative economic scenario because:

...the net transfer of resources to the developing countries has been reversed—from a positive flow of $42.6 billion in 1987 to a negative flow of $32.5 billion in 1988; primary commodity prices, on which the economies of the Third World countries significantly depend, have reached their lowest level since the great depression of the 1930s. The foreign debts of the developing countries, more than $103 trillion, now require nearly $200 billion a year in debt servicing alone. In this environment, development takes place much too slowly.' (SXi 150)

In 1982, Mexico and 42 other countries were unable to pay their loans. When faced with these circumstances, many countries engage in short-term exploitation of crops and other resources to quickly raise hard currency—typically US. dollars in place of local devalued currency—to establish repayment of external debt. The loan providers, mostly from the North, fear non-payment because simultaneous failures by several of the largest debtor nations would paralyze the global economy—in other words: global economic collapse. Keeping the poor poor, keeps this possibility alive!

In the current economic climate, one can reasonably expect to see a future realignment of nations. Anticipation of future trade relations, competition, protectionism, and other economic pacts or dependencies drive nations to form new trade alliances. Trading blocks now form in the wake of the European Community’s (EC) consummation of a unified system. Elsewhere, in the North, the United States, Canada, and Mexico move to strengthen a unified block of trading nations (NAFTA), while Asian and Pacific nations consider forming a Pacific Rim block (APEC), and African nations talk of an African Economic Community. Dr. Odhiambo states that nations today function as a fractured, dysfunctional, human family (SXi 217). This is obvious where the world has drawn lines of division. The trading blocks will compete with one another following defensive patterns created from former bipolar inequities.

Trade wars and protectionism are possible results of block formations and the North may perceive these as the South’s mechanisms for economic extortion. As you will see later, trading blocks are a key point which logically leads us to the future governing system—made of ten global 'kingdoms’—which lock all nations into a single global-political system.

This is just one of many panes in the WindowView. This is a fraction of the process identified earlier within the section entitled 'Convergence.' Keep exploring the view, visit our page titled 'Experience WindowView' to see how global changes are part of a larger holistic paradigm which is the reason behind assembling this cyber-place. Putting the picture together helps to envision humanity's direction along the dimension of time.

A copy of this text with footnotes and a complete listing of references used in writing this text can be obtained by downloading the chapters and reference list for the Creator's Window. References that appear as ''(SXi #)'' signify the page number from Sigma Xi's publication related to a 1991 forum on global change (see reference list for the Creator's Window for a complete citation of this work).

References from SXi and page number refer to the Sigma Xi Forum Proceedings: Global Change and the Human Prospect: Issues in Population, Science, Technology and Equity, November 1991. The importance of this science society's forum is that the meeting was forward looking and demonstrates how scientists from social, biological, and physical sciences all saw change on the rise. Not just climate change, but change in every aspect of human and earth affairs ... globally.

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