The Worrying Issue of Globalization and Tragedy of the Commons

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Globalization as its defined is the process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale, however the word’s used today has developed to include more than just business. It can be used to define the movement of technology, culture, religion, and other aspects of humanity. Globalization over time has been painted in a highly positive light. We have ignored the fact that globalization has many negative effects both on the world and humanity. It has led to overpopulation, environmental damage, and the loss of resources. All of these aspects can be grouped into something called the “the tragedy of the commons”. The tragedy of the commons can be defined as an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action. The rate that these negative effects occur has shifted from a linear growth to an exponential one. This directly impacts everyone no matter your race or social class which is reason enough to begin to notice.

Globalization has brought the world closer than it ever has been before. Most importantly it has spread knowledge and resources to all corners of the world. Knowledge of medicine and health have contributed to the rise of the world life expectancy. With higher life expectancy comes longer lives, which means more people on earth at one given time, leading to overpopulation. Overpopulation is one of the biggest societal issues in today’s world. Poverty stricken nations with little education see the worse of it. India currently has the second highest population in the world and one of the highest poverty ratios. Globalization has placed its feet in India which has led to economic success, however according to Singh “The first major concern is that globalization leads to a more unequal distribution of income among countries and within countries” (Singh, 3). Although there has been success at a national level globalization only contributed more to inequality and the poverty ratio. With the poverty ratio increasing we also see the population rate increase. According to Vinay Lohar, “India is now home to 1.2 billion [people]. Furthermore India’s population is expected to grow to 1.8 billion before stabilizing around the middle of the century, if sufficient measures are taken” (Lohar). Some measures have been taken to relieve this through sexual education, but these efforts can only do so much. Although education is beneficial it doesn’t completely nullify the underlying issue of overpopulation. In poorer nations we tend to see higher rates of birth due to the fact that the death rate is also extremely high and they do not have access to sexual education. The solution in this case would be relieving the poverty levels as well as greatly increasing the health of citizens. This however proves to be easier said than done. In order for poverty levels to be lower Singh says “unless they (rural population) are intertwined into the production process, as service providers, workmen, or producers of intermediate goods/ inputs for the production chain of multinational companies, their poverty can only rise and in no case can decline”(Singh, 3). Right now globalization has made the poor in India the consumer. In order for a solution to poverty they need to make the poor the working class again which will lead into the right direction to ultimately solve the overpopulation crisis.

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As I stated previously globalization can be attributed to overpopulation. As population grows, we need more space, so we change the environment around us to allow for this growth. As McMichael states, “Global growth in fossil fuel combustion, which is seemingly unavoidable, will induce climatic changes and thereby affect human health; continued forest clearance and irrigation exposes rural populations to new infectious organisms; and further pressure on vulnerable agro-ecosystems will increase malnutrition in food-insecure regions and, indirectly, the health risks among impoverished rural-to-urban migrants”(McMichael, 208). When countries begin to develop, the need to expand and the need for resources grows immensely. With this growth it can only eventually lead to a scarcity or depleted resource. When the world’s nations change the environment we see the negative impacts it has, the more we change the more it affects the natural habitats and resources. Environmental damage is caused by the need for resources and as countries begin to globalize the need becomes even more so apparent. This was the case for Spain when it began it first shifted into an industrialized nation.

In the late 60’s Spain’s economic, political, and society advanced in multiple ways due to globalization. They expanded, they gained technology for industrialization, and they became a high-income nation. As countries grow and develop we see that their resources are consumed more and more. In this case Spain’s agrifood expansion had seen its water consumption rise higher and higher. In an effort to slow the consumption down Spain constructed large reservoirs and canals, however with any change to environment comes a negative impact. The construction of these large waterways led to significant environmental impacts such as “the salinity of the agricultural land, the problems of preserving the river deltas (as a result of the decline in the volume of water flows), and the contribution to widespread pollution of water by nitrates and phosphates due to the intensive use of chemical fertilizers and phytosanitary products” (Duarte, 269). Spain’s global expansion gave rise to the loss of resources, their water supply, and the damaging of its natural habitats. Due to globalization they experienced the tragedy of the commons in multiple aspects. We can look back at this example as a direct link between globalization and the tragedy of the commons. When the environment is substantially changed we find that pollution is one of many major side effects.

Hardin talks about the growth of population and how it can be tied to many problems occurring in the world today. One major issue is the massive increase of pollution due to human consumption in the last couple of decades. Population and pollution share a direct correlation, meaning as one grows, usually, so does the other. Back when population was small there were no everlasting effects on the world’s ecosystems, but as we grow and evolve we need to make sure that our morals and ethics do so as well. According to Hardin pollution is considered an example of a “tragedy of the commons” when he says “In a reverse way, the tragedy of the commons reappears in problems of pollution. Here it is not a question of taking something out of the commons, but of putting something in (Hardin, 30). In a way the large amount of pollution we are producing takes away or depletes clean and natural commons. As nations around the world grow and increase their status in today’s global society we see that population and pollution increase as well.

In conclusion, globalization not only leads to innovation and diversity, but it leads to resource loss, environmental damage, and overpopulation. All of these negative effects can be characterized into the phrase “the tragedy of the commons”. It is important that we begin to notice these negative effects because, they are real threats to the world we live in today. The growth and spread of globalization is not the only reason that these tragedies have accelerated. In the words of Wiesner and York “it is our considered professional judgment that this dilemma has no technical solution” (Hardin, 26). The solution to these issues is not so simple because globalization isn’t exactly a tangible source that we can control. The solution lies within a push or a movement to change the way our world consumes. This can be achieved through government policies that limit consumption, protect environments, or even the controversial population control. This may not be enough however and until there are more voices behind the change there may never be one. Globalization will not discontinue and in some ways that is not a bad thing. It is the negative effects that we should focus on so we can have globalization as well as a healthy planet.

Works Cited:

  1. Duarte, Rosa, Vicente Pinilla, and Ana Serrano. 'Globalization and Natural Resources: The Expansion of the Spanish Agrifood Trade and its Impact on Water Consumption, 1965–2010.' Regional Environmental Change, vol. 16, no. 1, 2016. pp. 259-272
  2. Hardin, Garrett. “The Tragedy of the Commons”. The Social Contract, Vol. 162, 2001, pp. 26-35.
  3. Lohar, Vinay. “Impact of Overpopulation on India’s Growth”. International Policy Digest. 19 June 2017.
  4. McMichael, Anthony J., et al. “Globalization and the Sustainability of Human Health: An Ecological Perspective.” BioScience, vol. 49, no. 3, 1999, pp. 205–210. JSTOR,
  5. Mills, Melinda. “Globalization and Inequality”. European Sociological Review, Vol.25, Issue 1, pp. 1-8.
  6. Singh, Lalima. “Globalization and Poverty in India”. Voice of Research, Vol.1, Issue 4, March 2013. pp. 1-4.
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