Friday, May 29, 2009

How does globalization affect people, and how should I, the civil community, transnational corporations, and governments respond as global citizens?

The aspects of globalization have broadened the ideological perspectives on “community” and affected the quality of life of citizens worldwide. Communication technologies and the speed of transportation allow people to connect with others from all over the world, and have created a global neighborhood composed of people who identify with others, whether in person or electronically, through shared views and interests. Virtual communities have become nearly as influential as traditional communities in shaping people’s identity, though critics express the concern that virtual communities weaken some people’s capability to share in real-world interactions.

A community’s quality of life is affected by transnational corporations, and people have widely differing views as to whether the influence is constructive or detrimental. Those who support globalization point out that transnationals strengthen communities by stimulating economic expansion through the construction of factories and businesses, such as Wal-Mart, which provide employment opportunities as well as less-expensive services and opportunities that did not formerly exist. However, in my opinion, transnationals such as Wal-Mart have caused more harm than good, as high-paying jobs are replaced by low-paying “McJobs” with few benefits to workers. Smaller, locally owned businesses are forced to close, unable to compete with Wal-Mart transitional marketing techniques and low wages. This reduces shopping and employment options and destroys the livelihood of many small company owners. The typical location of Wal-Mart stores on the outskirts of a city or town encourages vehicle-oriented shopping patterns, thus contributing to the emission of greenhouse gases and pollution.

Worldwide connections that exist because of globalization inform people in today’s society of harmful or unfair circumstances in countries around the world quicker and in more detail than ever before. As global citizens, it is our responsibility to respond to and influence issues that arise from globalization as individual consumers as well as part of a larger civil society, corporation, and/or government. It is our responsibility as consumers to make informed decisions about where and how we spend our money. Quality of life for all people can be promoted by buying and endorsing fair trade products or boycotting consumer goods manufactured in sweat shops or by exploited workers in underdeveloped and developing countries. Civil society – community groups, non-governmental organizations, faith-based groups, universities, and so on – plays a significant role in shaping globalization by influencing the decision-making policies of governments and powerful organizations such as the United Nations. Because transnational corporations are in a fundamental position to resolve problems worldwide, corporate citizenship provides a prominent opportunity to influence the response to global issues. Corporations have the ability to promote sustainable development and quality of life by adopting International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards that make the manufacturing and distribution of goods and services more proficient, safe, and environmentally sustainable while protecting consumers and workers. Another example of a response to global issues is the establishment of federal laws by governments to uphold fairness and equity in all areas of life.

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