Tuesday, October 19, 2010
In 1972, Lester Brown, then a Senior Fellow with the Overseas Development Council, a private, nonprofit organization he’d helped found, penned the first book ever published on globalization—before the term was even coined.
We recently unearthed a 30-minute television discussion Lester gave shortly after the book was published. This black-and-white film might seem dated, but just listen to the subjects discussed. A world without borders is one “which recognizes the common destiny of all mankind.”
The following is an excerpt from the book—as true today as it was then:
The nation-state with its sacred borders brings with it a concept of territorial discrimination which is increasingly in conflict with both the emerging social values of modern man and the circumstances in which he finds himself. It says, for instance, that we can institutionalize the transfer of resources from rich to poor within national societies, but not among societies. The poor on the other side of a national border are somehow less needful or less deserving than those inside the border. If we consider ourselves as members of a human family, can we continue to justify territorial discrimination any more than religious or racial discrimination?
The dimensions of the problems confronting late twentieth century man are unique in their scale. Man has always experienced catastrophes—famines, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions—but they were local and temporary. Over time, more and more crises have become global in character. Only in this century have wars been world wars; only in recent decades, with such scientific “breakthroughs” as the detonation of the atomic bomb, has man acquired the capacity to threaten the entire species.
We live in an age when problems are increasingly worldwide—the world food problem, threat of world inflation, world population problem, world environmental crisis, world monetary crisis, world drug problem, and so forth. Few, if any, of mankind’s more pressing problems have purely national solutions. They can be solved only through multinational or global cooperation. No country can protect the value of its currency or the health of its people without the extensive cooperation of other countries. Even our daily weather can be influenced by man’s activities elsewhere in the world. The earth’s ecosystem will continue to support human life only if countries can cooperate to eventually limit the discharge of waste materials.
As rapid population growth in much of the world continues, mankind’s backlog of unsolved problems is growing. Questions of global poverty, rising numbers of unemployed and massive rural-urban migration in the poor countries, and a global ecosystem showing signs of acute stress, emerge before our expanded consciousness. Each promises to worsen in the years immediately ahead.
Given the scale and complexity of these problems, the remainder of the twentieth century will at best be a traumatic period for mankind, even with a frontal attack on the principal threats to human well-being. At worst it will be catastrophic. At issue is whether we can grasp the nature and dimensions of the emerging threats to our well-being, whether we can create an integrated global economy and a workable world order, and whether we can reorder global priorities so that the quality of life will improve rather than deteriorate.
Reah Janise Kauffman
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