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Borderless Society “Think Globally, Act Locally”

In: Science

Submitted By illanalove01
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People make choices every day – decisions as big as choosing a career or a marriage mate and as small as selecting what to wear or what to eat. Even seemingly small decisions, however, can have far-reaching effects. In today’s virtually borderless society, the food we choose to eat affects not only ourselves but also our communities, our ecosystems and even the global economy. Therefore, we need to think globally and act locally. We need to widen our horizons and think about how what we choose to consume affects the environment and the people around us in both the short-term and the long-term.

First, the global market itself has pros and cons. A global market ideally creates opportunities for more people to provide goods and services more cheaply, which in turn makes more jobs available. Additionally, it allows consumers complete access to many products that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible, to acquire. However, in order to do any good in the long term, the system must be sustainable (Collins, 2010).

That said, today, the global market is realistically not so. Decentralization, which functions by having smaller groups of people specialize in a certain niche product that is then dispersed globally, is socially unjust, creating pockets of wealth while a large majority of people work hard for less money in their local currency (Norber & Gorelick, 2013, para 5).

The high demand for one specific area’s natural resources results in frequent over-farming, which depletes the nutrients in the soils and increases the amount of erosion. The large amounts of pesticides applied to crops seep into the surrounding ground and water, poisoning the ecosystem. Because of this issue more land then has to be cleared for farming, doing further damage to the environment (Norber & Gorelick, 2013, para 7).

In addition, the global market creates a need for goods to be transported across long distances, which demands large amounts of fuels, which, in turn, creates more pollution that contaminates our air and water and contributes to global climate change. By the time the product reaches the shelves of corner stores and supermarkets, consumers have no idea where their products are coming from or under what conditions they were produced. In regard to food, these factors are even more important, as people should know exactly what is going into their bodies and what possible issues can arise and the potential cost of these foods that are being eaten.

By way of illustration, we can consider what goes into two meals for one day. If an American was to eat a bowl of Cocoa Puffs cereal and milk for breakfast, which consists mainly of wheat, corn, sugar, cocoa, and milk, the grains may come from the mid-western United States (EPA, 2013), while the sugar may come from the southern United States or Brazil (UNICA, ApexBrazil, 2013). The cocoa beans might be grown in Central Africa, processed, and transported close to 6,000 miles before even being used as an ingredient in the cereal that was distributed to the buyer’s local Kroger store (climate choices, 2013). Transport across the ocean alone would consume dozens of gallons of fuel. The impact would be felt not only in the cost of that fuel but also in the quality of our water and air. Next, for lunch, if that individual was to make a small turkey sandwich, the bread may be made locally, while the turkey (its ingredients being mainly turkey, water and modified corn starch) could come from other states. While not as extensive as the import of the cocoa beans in the earlier meal, distribution within the country still demands fuel, and both the corn starch and minor ingredients in the bread have been chemically or physically altered in processing, which could have detrimental effects on our bodies in the long term.

As shown, the cost of what we consume is high – economically, ecologically and physically. How can we be proactive in remedying that cost? One alternative is to buy locally – in other words, re-localize. Locally-produced goods provide employment in smaller communities, keeping the money in the local economy and promoting positive social interaction. There is less waste when food is produced locally and sold locally than when food must be transported long distances, and the food also retains more of its nutritional value.

Reducing transport also lessens reliance on fossil fuels and lessens our ecological impact on the environment. Farmers’ markets are one means to promote local growing and selling. Food cooperatives, which bring together volunteers from agricultural communities (FAO, 2012), and box systems, which are marketed by subscription in the form of a box of fresh, in-season produce every week (Local Harvest, 2012), are also well-used methods of localizing the food market. Others are community farms or gardens and recreational, or “weekend” farming – types of urban agriculture that make use of unused plots of land in more populated areas.

We can also recycle our waste as well as the water that we use to grow produce. Moreover, learning to preserve our food can even further reduce the amount waste we make. If every person could take action locally and be more careful about the foods he or she selects, the cumulative effects would be multiplied!

In conclusion, it is commendable that today’s global society tries to bring consumers the best in well-made products from around the world in an affordable way; however, we must consider the toll that transport takes on the ecology of our planet and the toll that decentralization takes on local workers. The global market has proved to be unsustainable, while a localized market is simpler and easier to maintain. We need to take action ourselves by supporting re-localization. We can buy locally and promote local growth, thereby decreasing the amount of fuels used to transport and distribute goods and pumping money back into local communities. In this way, we can lessen our negative impacts on the environment as a whole and improve our communities socially and economically. We need to consider the far-reaching long-term consequences of the choices we make every day, even if they seem small and insignificant. That is what it means to think globally and act locally in today’s borderless society.

References

Norberg-Hodge, H., Gorelick, S. (2013) Bringing the Food Economy Home, Retrieved from

http://www.localfutures.org/publications/online-articles/bringing-the-food-economy-

home

Collins, M. (2010) The Pros and Cons of Globalization, Retrieved from

http://www.manufacturing.net/articles/2010/06/the-pros-and-cons-of-globalization

EPA (2013) Major Crops Grown in the United States, Retrieved from

http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/ag101/cropmajor.html

UNICA, ApexBrazil (2013) Detailed Map of Sugarcane Production, Retrieved from

http://sugarcane.org/sustainability/preserving-biodiversity-and-precious-

resources/detailed-map-of-sugarcane-production

climate choices (2013) Where Does Your Food Come From? Retrieved from

http://www.climatechoices.org.uk/pages/food1.htm#CentralAfrica

Key-Cell, LLC (1999 - 2011) What is MODIFIED CORN STARCH?, Retrieved from

http://whatisthatingredient.com/ingredient.php?id=29

FAO (2012) Agricultural Cooperatives: paving the way for food security and rural development,

Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/016/ap431e/ap431e.pdf

Local Harvest (1999 - 2012) Community Supported Agriculture, Retrieved from

http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

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