While globalization processes have operated for centuries, the present era of globalization has given rise to extremes of income inequality and wealth, capital and information transfer, and resource consumption and consumerism with attendant environmental consequences. Behind contemporary globalization lurks the question: for whom? The distribution of the costs and benefits of globalization has been highly uneven, both amongst nation-states and within them. Moreover, globalization processes have been controlled and advanced in large measure by states and corporations of the global North and their proxy institutions of global governance – the IMF, World Bank, and WTO. The problematic nature of contemporary globalization has given rise to a variety of responses, including defenses of the status quo, left-wing anti-globalization movements, and right-wing anti-globalization movements laced with xenophobic populism. In contrast to responses that either embrace or reject globalization in its present form, alter-globalization movements (sometimes called ‘global justice movements’) do not seek to end globalization through a return to an imaginary golden era of national autarky. Rather, they seek global engagement and exchange on a basis that protects and advances values of social, economic, and environmental justice. Interestingly, the very idea of just forms of globalization requires the rethinking of norms of justice, which can no longer be tied to the Westphalian nation-state. Moreover, strategies for creating a more just world may take a variety of geographical forms, focusing on different geographical scales. Alternative projects of globalization recognize the relationship between the global (which is always ‘somewhere’) and the local, creatively experimenting with new forms of organization along the local-global continuum.
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Climate change is an increasingly urgent matter of global politics, a consequence of the huge success of the fossil-fueled global economy. The longstanding discussion of the Gaia hypothesis, James Lovelock’s ideas of earth as a self-regulating life system, and the dangers that rising greenhouse gas concentrations present to this system, foreshadow contemporary earth system science discussions. The formulation of earth as now in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, has added forcefully to Lovelock’s contentions, and made it clear that globalization now needs to be understood as a driving force operating at such a scale that it is transforming the planet in ways that are very dangerous for the future of humanity. Current attempts to tackle climate change are only the beginning of what needs to be done to shape the Anthropocene in ways that will be benign to humanity’s future.
This chapter argues that the development of large-scale seawater desalination over the last two decades has been intimately linked to the privatisation, commercialisation and commodification of water services in general, and urban water in particular. It contends that a desalination “plant” should be more accurately understood as a desalination “factory”, which creates a manufactured product (potable water) in a pre-arranged quantity and with a pre-specified quality. The chapter provides a detailed analysis of the convoluted development of desalination as a decentralised and local water supply for San Diego, California. It focuses on two plants on the North American Pacific coast: the 189 ML/day Carlsbad Desalination Plant in San Diego County, which opened in 2015; and a larger facility currently under construction south of the US-Mexico border at Rosarito Beach, Baja California, which is heralded as the first ever “binational” seawater desalination project. My core contention here is that desalination is emerging as an important technology in political and ideological shift towards the neoliberalisation of municipal water supply.
Suraya Scheba and Andreas Scheba
Desalination is being adopted in South Africa as an emergency ‘quick fix’ to drought crisis. Despite public opposition over potential social and ecological negative effects, small- and large-scale desalination plants are growing in numbers across the country. In this chapter we use a relational Marxist ontology and draw on the case of desalination adoption in the Knysna Local Municipality, Western Cape, South Africa, to argue that proponents’ representation of the drought as nature-induced, urgent and devoid of history created the political space for desalination technology to emerge as the best solution. Powerful actors used a range of communication and legal tools to discursively produce the drought–desalination assemblage, which resulted in the material manifestation of the technology. We then trace the historical materiality of the drought–desalination assemblage to counter the dominant narrative, providing instead an alternative explanation of how human and non-human actors produced the crisis materially.
Paul C. Adams
Digital media contribute to globalization through several interlinking processes. First, global infrastructures permit communications to move faster, farther, and more often between distant parts of the world. The proliferation and diffusion of devices such as mobile (cell) phones and computers are integral to this process, as are the complementary signal relay systems provided by satellites and optical fibres. Second, these media and the digital signals they carry facilitate globalization insofar as they support visual and auditory forms of engagement between widely separated locations. People increasingly experience ‘the world’ via media, but this world differs in significant ways from place to place. In effect, people encounter a range of contrasting globalized visions, depending on whether they live in a place that is urban or rural, more or less developed, in the Global North or the Global South. Third, a phenomenon called mediatization folds global forces and processes into everyday life, reworking daily practices in ways that respond to global influences. A familiar activity such as driving now involves long-distance data streams coordinated by an on-board device and its embedded algorithms, all of which mediatize the act of driving and rework the cognitive skills of the driver. The chapter concludes by applying the three dimensions of globalization to the case of Rwanda. This example demonstrates that even where a small percentage of the population actually uses digital communications the diffusion of digital media may have noticeable effects on labour conditions, commodity handling, social power relations, profit distribution and economic vulnerability.
Maria Christina Fragkou
Desalinated water production has been celebrated by some as a solution to water scarcity and the barriers this means for social and economic development, as it produces water from an infinite source, the sea. Political ecology studies on the other hand, have now long been concerned by the possible social implications of this technique, but without any tangible evidence so far. In this chapter I critically analyse how the production of desalinated water for human consumption has permitted the growth of the mining sector in the world’s main copper supplier, the Chilean region of Antofagasta, while undermining the quality of life for the urban residents who consume it. The results are based on a survey which examined the perception of potable water quality and the uses of tap water in households, over 10 years after the plant´s functioning. Drawing on these, I demonstrate that the gradual introduction of desalinated water in the city’s metabolism has deepened existing socio-ecological inequalities within an already heavily segregated city, and has failed in overcoming tap water quality concerns for the residents of Antofagasta, maintaining perceptual and economic water scarcities, especially for lower-class households. These analyses do not only advance findings on desalination’s social impacts on the urban scale, but also disclose the importance of examining urban water inequalities at the household level, as the formation of daily practices and uses of tap water generate unequal conditions for urban dwellers, which cannot be grasped by city-wide analyses, usual in the urban political ecology tradition.
English is widely acknowledged as the language of globalization and the growing hegemony of English has been seen as a main cultural outcome of globalization. This process is shaped by contradictory forces towards linguistic harmonization but also towards diversification, and is geographically uneven. The chapter introduces the hegemony of English driven by globalization before discussing the debates about the impact of globalization on English (Globish vs. World Englishes?) and the future of English. It then turns more specifically to language use on the Internet to show how the technology, originally a vector of Anglicization, has also become a powerful instrument for the expression of linguistic diversity. The prevalence of English and other languages on the Internet is discussed, as well as its possible impact on offline language geographies. The conclusion offers some directions for research agendas regarding the impact of globalization on languages and more specifically the strategies of states and local communities to cope with English, migrants languages and the erosion of the territorial monopoly of national languages.
Robert C. Kloosterman and Pieter Terhorst
In this chapter we assess the specific contribution of economic geographers to the debates on the economic dimension of globalization. We present key characteristics of geographical thinking on globalization and emphasize how this is deeply anchored in a particular understanding of social reality which stresses both a rich ontology (of places and actors) and the role of a wide variety of social structures (from capitalism to ethnic solidarity) in determining drivers and outcomes of concrete economic processes. This ontological viewpoint is very much intertwined with a pluralistic epistemological position allowing drawing theoretical notions from a wide set of (sub)disciplines and an openness towards methodologies (which encompass quantitative as well as qualitative methods). These scientific-philosophical underpinnings distinguish economic-geography approaches to globalization from those in mainstream economics. We will illustrate this by looking at how economic geographers have dealt with the relationship between globalization and, respectively, the institutional set-up of the nation state and the role of regions and their cross-border linkages. We show that a rich understanding of both places and actors is essential to get to grips with concrete processes of globalization.
Alex Loftus and Hug March
In this chapter we explore the encounter between finance and desalination using the case of Britain's first experiment in desalination technologies, the Thames Water Desalination Plant (TWDP), inaugurated in 2011. On the surface, the plant appears to be a classic example of the successes of normative industrial ecology, in which sustainability challenges have been met with forward-thinking green innovations. However, the TWDP is utterly dependent on a byzantine financial model, which has shaped Thames Water's investment strategy over the last decade. Understanding the development of the TWDP requires a focus on the scalar interactions between flows of finance and water that are woven through the hydrosocial cycle of London.
Elena dell’Agnese and Giacomo Pettenati
Food-related practices are among the more pervasive of human life, from either the individual, social, cultural, political and economic points of view. Their relation to globalization is complex. On one hand, they are still largely place-based, according to the variety of local names, they have and the diversity of the ways of identifying, producing, transforming and consuming food, including between not so distant places. The diffusion of references to the regional or national origin as the main attribute of the food people eat or restaurants serve also testifies of the close relationship between food and places. On the other hand, though, food and globalization seem nowadays to be ‘inseparable’ and what is more, long-term flows of food products and of culinary ideas have been crossing the oceans for centuries and the desire for tropical food products, such as tea, coffee, cocoa, sugar, was one of the triggers of colonization and for the subsequent transformation of colonized lands in plantations and food reservoirs for the colonizing powers. So, the quest for certain kinds of food may offer early examples of globalization but, at the same time, deserves to be analyzed as a trigger for colonial expansion, slave trade, and globalization itself. The chapter aims at presenting the more significant dimensions of the globalization of foodscapes, starting from its historical roots. The chapter specifically focuses on the economic aspects of food globalization, addressing the international circulation of food products as commodities, the transnational expansion of food-based corporations, and the emergence of a global food governance. Finally, social and political aspects of food globalization are taken into account, considering the practices of opposition to the negative externalities of the globalization of the food system and the relationships between food and global and local cultural identities.