|Diversity, Globalization, and the Ways of Nature (IDRC, 1995, 234 p.)|
Today, when someone speaks about natural diversity, the image most often evoked is that of the tropical rain forest. On the subject of globalization, the first image might be the logo of CNN, the first worldwide television network. In this book - Diversity, Globalization, awl the Ways of Nature - Danilo J. Anton shares with us a different perspective that of a geographer. He teaches us that the rain forest is not alone: there is also diversity in the savannas, in the oceans, and in the myriad of cultures that have developed as humans interact with their ecosystems. He shows us that globalization is a process much more dangerous than has been suggested by some contemporary prophets, who promise a new world transformed into a happy and well-connected global village.
Antons vision is, indeed, global. It encompasses all the planet, a large part of which the author knows personally, not as a tourist or neutral onlooker but as an actual agent of transformation and sustainable development. And what Anton sees in all the comers of this diverse world is a systematic aggression against diversity, both natural and cultural - a destructive and impoverishing trend toward uniformity, which hides its threatening face behind the name globalization.
This book is not a conservative discourse against progress; nor is it a romantic defense of an idyllic past. With scientific accuracy, Anton studies the extraordinary conditions that made possible life on Earth, which were also largely the result of life itself. Our living planet produces the oxygen that makes life possible, while preventing the accumulation of excessive oxygen, which, left unchecked, could result in a planetary inferno. In much the same way, diversity is a consequence of adaptation to the environment, and, at the same time, promotes new adaptations through continuous cross-fertilization. Without their wild cousins, the domesticated and genetically impoverished plants that we eat would be unable to resist new plagues or environmental change. In a culturally uniform, happy world, the birth of new ideas would be impossible. Diversity is life; uniformity, therefore, is synonymous with death.
Globalization began about 500 years ago with the conquest of America by the empires of Europe. Whereas other global empires - such as the Chinese, Incas, and Romans - predated this period, it was the European empires that first opened global markets, reoriented local production, and altered cultures and natural environments to a degree and depth never dreamt of by Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan.
Danilo Anton explores this history from new vantage points:
· The thirst for gold of the conquistadors has been transformed into the thirst for water in the megalopolises of the developing world.
· Irrigation and hydroelectric plants in Africa, the cradle of humanity, promote desertification instead of helping development.
· In South America, Australian trees may feed the hunger of computers and fax machines for paper, but they also modify the water cycle and provide nesting places for deadly plagues.
With rigour, erudition, and an entertaining style, Anton demonstrates how globalization is the main contemporary force producing uniformity and, therefore, ruin. However, he also illustrates how the same informatics revolution that promotes globalization provides new methods for public participation, the rescue of traditional knowledge, and the defense of the natural environment. This book and its author, therefore, are hopeful. After demonstrating that change is essential, Anton conveys, in the final chapter, his confidence that it is also possible. Strategies for the future should be based on three pillars decentralized decision-making, community participation in designing activities affecting the environment, and the recognition that global problems affect us all.
Finally, it remains clear that the principal responsibility for these problems falls to the richer countries, which have been the main contributors in their creation. In other words, the thirst for justice must also be quenched.
· Executive Director, Third
· Editor, Third World Guide December 1994