Is Globalization Slowing?

<p>Alex Steffen of WorldChanging proposes that globalization could soon change direction as transportation costs increase.</p>
August 5, 2008, 12pm PDT | Tim Halbur
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"(T)ransportation costs are not the only reasons why globalization as we know it might be in for some rapid evolution. Consider:"

"-Some of the economic advantages of globalization have come from companies gaining the ability to skirt labor and environmental laws by doing business in countries with high levels of political corruption (corruption they have often helped create). But now, transparency activism has blown the cover of secrecy off these practices; now it is easier than ever to cause enormous brand damage simply by revealing an unsavory backstory.

-Much of the logic of globalization assumes a one-way flow of materials, mined and grown in the poorest countries, manufactured into consumer goods in China, Brazil or Mexico, sold on the shelves of megastores in Europe or North America, then shipped away to the landfill. But as we move into zero waste and closed-loop systems (where there is no "away"), reverse logistics start to become a real concern. Producers become responsible for their products, meaning that running their current supply chains in reverse doubles (at least) their already mounting transportation costs. This alone could drive more local manufacturing.

-Globalization suffers from some big disruptive vulnerabilities. An extreme act of terror, say a dirty bomb in a shipping container, could easily bring the whole system screeching to a halt. Ditto bird flu. Same with mass migrations triggered by environmental degradation and climate change in already desperately poor countries. Heck, even the right kind of invasive species scare could put a hiccup in the system, but some of these could stop trade altogether for quite some time."

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Published on Monday, August 4, 2008 in WorldChanging
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