During the global crisis, people have been questioning if we should continue globalization, but is globalization or America the problem?
On my desk I have a packet of Indomie, my favorite instant noodle brand that I bought at the Asian Market in the Indonesian section. Perched on the side is a highlighted, green sticky note saying, “Save for a bad day.” But, in the flurry of my thinking on the state of the world, I ask myself, “Have we been irresponsible?”
My whole life, I heard the advantages of globalization without realizing the full extent to which it has become an economic and social trend. I heard, “Isn’t it nice that cultures can get along?” I also heard, “Wow isn’t it nice that now our grocery store can get food from all the way across the world?”
As I got older I heard, “It is so convenient to travel now because so many people speak English,” and “Countries are so tied together from international treaties that we are so much closer to peace.” But, are we really closer?
Throughout the lives of most Americans, they are totally exposed to globalization without knowing its full effect, or for that matter, what globalization is. A OnePoll study shows that 40 percent of Americans have never left the country. However, 78 percent of the US plastic waste, as of 2018, was sent to other countries according to Plastic Pollution Coalition. This means, when I throw my trash away, there is a higher chance that the trash will leave the country before the average American citizen.
Now, the country pauses as we face the challenge of a pandemic. As I sit at home, I wonder whether we, as Americans, chose the path towards globalization with full consideration of its implications. So I ask, “Have we been irresponsible?”
Out of sight, out of mind
As a teen, I was so enthused by globalization that for my last two years of high school, I applied for a scholarship to study abroad. I won the grant and studied in Japan. My studies abroad continued when New York University assigned me to spend my first year on its Florence, Italy campus.
The time abroad with the additional stress of CoronaVirus (Covid-19), makes me question the reality of globalization. As Americans, we have been reckless with it. The only use of globalization for the United States is as a tool for profit and self satisfaction. Ever-focused on trying to glean as much profit from other cultures, the US is glutinous in its participation.
Due to a focus to reap as much riches from globalization as possible, the US failed to responsibly take precautions of its downsides. Because we emphasize reaping the wealth from our globalized world, the Covid-19 pandemic can be recognized as an opportunity to reflect rather than change our attitudes. In short, we need to stop the pattern of global consumption. As a remedy, we must choose to take steps to be more sustainable with our increasing global connectivity.
One of the pro-globalization arguments I most often hear is, “As a result of globalization, we have access to so many things!” Our first mistake in the American approach is our love for globalization from a purely consumerist standpoint. In that, the US is too heavily focused on what we can take from the rest of the world that we do not already have.
From this extraction, one that occurs in distant proximity from the US, Americans lack the ability to see the effects of their actions. The American market now allocates resources from other countries, so the average buyer has any perception of the energy and harm used to attain their goods.
Added, the constant American need for clothes and trends has led to the creation of sweatshops? Americans are able to buy mass amounts of clothing because of systems that can be ignored because they occur outside of the United States. “Out of sight out of mind” is a phrase that is the epitome of globalization when met with capitalism.
The consumption fueled by globalization also has no way of being known by the American public thus, furthering the issue. In the United States, when a product used is no longer pleasing (whether it is broken or no longer “new” enough) it is sent to another country. Why is it only now that there are mass climate protests? The result of this is a lack of knowledge on how much is really wasted.
Only in recent years has the US become more aware of the issues surrounding our trash production. Yet and still, we are not responsible for it. As much as we claim that countries are more interconnected and collaborative, why is globalization further establishing which countries are rich enough to consume and poor enough to clean up?
Out of sight, out of mind
Up until Covid-19, climate change was some of the only tangible pieces of evidence of the lack of responsibility that the west held with globalization. Now with the world shutting down to defend itself against the virus outbreak, the question of what will happen to globalization is being thrown into the news cycle.
Most agree that globalization will continue: the argument being that there is no way to stop the deeply ingrained American, consumerist style of living. However, this style of living does not need to keep going. I believe that we should use the pause that we have from the world to think about how we handle what we have. Americans do not need to accept the advertisement to continue the hunger to consume goods. That is a choice of being aware and acting.
By no means, globalization should be traded for isolation, as many extreme political parties have been pushing in the last decade. On the other hand, globalization can be good if it is not used exclusively as a source of wealth. In my case, it has taught me the power of diversity. No, not the type of diversity that is pasted onto capitalism to make it more acceptable. Rather, diversity that can be used to form empathy and to listen to stories.
When I lived in Japan, I lived with other students from around the world studying abroad. The time was no soda commercial where each one of us got along by drinking refreshments together. However, I learned that there are many ways to drink a cup of coffee depending on where you are from.
Without globalization, I also know that I would not exist. Both of my parents come from two different cultures, yet still love each other. However as a child who grew up in the US, I have learned that loving an item being sold from another culture, is very different from loving the actual culture.
Whenever I visit Puerto Rico, where my mom grew up, I saw tourist trinkets with the Puerto Rican flag printed onto them. However, most tourists are uniformed to the fact that there was a long period in Puerto Rican history that the island was gaged from displaying any flag either than the American flag. The Puerto Rican flag is an emblem. It is not just to catch the eye of a tourist, but is a symbol of pride.
We knew of the possibilities of a pandemic. We also know that climate change is occurring. Have we been irresponsible? Yes, because despite knowing the risks of globalization the west kept on consuming without taking care of the negative possibilities of globalization.
I am only 18-years-old and I am writing this because I and many other people of my generation are feeling the impact of globalization more than ever. When I was 15 and living in the mountains of North Carolina, I saw mass forest fires because an area that had been categorized as a temperate rainforest has become too dry due to climate change. We weren’t allowed to go outside for long periods of time because of the smoke.
When I was 16 and living in Japan, I remember waking up to sirens when the US and North Korea handled a missile crisis. This year, I only had two days to pack all my belongings and leave a country because of a pandemic. Despite all the things I’ve seen, I know that I am one of the lucky ones because at least, I have a home to go back to. While people are profiting off of globalization, many people my age and younger face harsher realities of our irresponsible approach to globalization.
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