Globalization Links Commodity Imports With Pollution Exports

[Originally published on]

toy importsToy imports by country; reflective of disposable income. Size depicts quantity of imports.

Over the past several decades the United States has generally enjoyed increasingly clean water and air, a reduction in species extinction rates, and increased forest cover due to reduced logging. Similar trends have been seen in many areas of Europe, Australia, and Japan. It is tempting to conclude that our knowledge of environmental crises led to legislation and regulations (such as the Clear Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act) that effectively reduced our negative impacts on the world. While it is the case that environmental awareness has lead to myriad regulations and laws to protect our immediate environment, this has been coupled with increased globalization which has merely lead to increased exploitation of the people and environments of Third World countries.

Increasing environmental heath in First World countries has not come from decreases in environmentally damaging consumption; it has instead exported the destruction to places that we cannot immediately see. This export of environmental costs is maliciously damaging to global ecosystems because it produces a disconnect between destruction and the transactions that lead to that destruction. Many people in the First World believe that the environment is getting better because that is what they see around them, and they think that other countries will catch up in turn as they develop. But the truth is that environmental destruction is getting worse every year, and it is caused largely by consumption in the First World driven by profits. Most of the products consumed in the First World are produced in the Third World, which bears the brunt of the resulting damage. The areas being most quickly destroyed by this system are often those that are home to the greatest diversity of wildlife and human cultures.

In order to stop the poisoning of human communities and the rapid destruction of rainforests, mangroves, wetlands, and coral reefs we must support revolutionary movements that reject capitalism’s imperialistic destruction for profits. We must support struggles of oppressed peoples and places throughout the world to produce a system based in ecological stability and long term persistence.

– Kelly Reed


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