Global economy covers the worldwide transactions involving goods, people and investment as well as all the players, organizations, and countries that play a part in this practice. There has been an increase in market integration leading to a rise in international trade and high rates of labor relocation. Economies have formed alliances in order to achieve a common goal. The current environmental problems have come as a result of industrialization, urbanization and population increase. The incidence of environmental problems such as greenhouse gasses emission, soil erosion and petroleum spillage, gas flare up, acidification of land and surface water bodies as well as floods has increased globally. This has resulted in emission of green house gases in to the atmosphere, clearing of forests for cultivation and release of toxic waste from industries as well as urban sewerage systems in to the environment. The green house gases such as Carbon Dioxide and Methane destroy the Ozone layer exposing the earth to harmful radiation from the sun. This has caused the problem of global warming that has become an issue of major concern internationally. The consequences of global warming have adversely affected human life. It has caused immense changes in rainfall and temperature resulting in more water and food stress. The ice sheets of West Antarctic as well as Greenland have melted permanently. Oceans have become acidified and the global temperature circulation has been affected. Desertification is extending to regions that were previously habitable (James Robertson 2006: 112-117).
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Environmental problems are closely linked with poverty. Many economies globally have been unable to satisfy all the human needs, which in turn have compelled them to exert a lot of pressure on the environment in a bid to acquire basic needs. Competition for the available natural resources is also a major cause of environmental degradation. The world population is increasing at a high rate. Global economies have been facing recession there by reducing their production capacity. This deficit in production is normally compensated through exertion of undue pressure on the environment. With the rising population and reduced financial capacity, governments turn to conversion of more forest land for farming to feed the citizens. Mining is also a major source of income globally. It has led to enormous land degradation accompanied by high emission rates of green house gases. Inequalities exercised by governments in the distribution of the income earned from exploitation of natural resources leads to further environmental degradation as the marginalized groups tend to satisfy their needs. The poor groups tend to encroach on areas meant for biodiversity conservation and protected areas such as wetlands river banks and forest land. Governments have always tried to prevent such encroachment, but they are faced with difficulties because in the political context, for a regime to survive in prolonged governance, it has to secure the support of the poor command the largest percentage of votes to keep the regime in power. This leads to governments especially in the developing nations to ignore the impact of these activities to the environment. It has led to lowering of the water table in many parts of the word as well as reduction in forest land, thereby decreasing the ability of forests to sequester carbon in the atmosphere.
The revenue earned from activities such as mining and extraction of forest resources such as paper production are hardly used for environmental protection. In the event of governments’ initiative to support environmental conservation programs, there happens to be more economic problems that need funds, to improve the standards of living of citizens. For example, the first priority is normally given to health matters rather than environmental protection. On the other hand, when poor people are exposed to funds for environmental projects, many cases are reported concerning misuse of funds as people divert the money towards other issues deemed more urgent. A lot of money is spent without achievement of objectives especially when the wrong report is made as having utilized the money for environmental projects while it has been used for other activities.
Environmental degradation is attributed to the incapacity of the global economy to eradicate poverty which is the major cause of these problems. According to estimates of the United Nations Development Program, the Sub Saharan Africa had the largest poverty level, with 40 percent of the population living in abject poverty. This hurts the environment as economies turn to liberalization of the market to encourage investors in to the developing nations. Foreign companies are allowed to exploit domestic natural resources in order to assist in poverty reduction through employment creation and tax remittance. Since multinational companies aim at making the most out of the available opportunity, they have a tendency of overexploiting the domestic natural resources regardless of the impact of their activities to the environment. So long as they conform to the policies of the host country, they have the liberty to extract as much as they can. Political conflicts in many economies have also led to environmental problems. Conflicts lead to use of explosives and fires that have detrimental impacts on the environment. Establishment of military governments discourages environmental projects and campaigns by environmental activists and Non-governmental organizations that are viewed to be against the ruling regimes. Conflicts between militias and government forces can also hamper environmental projects due to displacement of people and fear of attacks.
Governments are normally inconsiderate in relation to any civic objection or expression of disapproval regarding government activities towards fast economic development. The political economy emphasizes unrestrained economic development which neither considers well-organized energy use or protection of natural resources. A lot of energy goes to waste in the manufacturing processes and biodiversity is downgraded while the plants growing on the lands are usually made to be of inferior quality and value. The global political economy can not be triumphant if wealth is to be achieved at the expense of the environment. The extent of degradation may reach irreversible levels that may adversely affect the lives of future generations. Globally, economies have realized that the capability of the ecosystem to support life is becoming destroyed in the bid to acquire wealth. Livelihoods are being destroyed due to environmental degradation. Fishing which supports many communities globally has been adversely affected, and communities are conflicting more often while they compete for fishing in the few unpolluted areas in the global waters. Fishermen from different countries have also been engaged in conflicts as they venture in to the less polluted offshore waters. Many inland waters globally have lost their capacity to support aquatic life (James Robertson 2006: 81-84).
Most of the environmental problems are caused by lack of empowerment of people globally, who no longer contribute in the protection of natural resources. Poverty has reduced their chances of accessing important resources. Environmental integrity brings forward the question of principles in the use and protection of natural resources in the global political economy. Human morals or principles regarding the environment and problems that it is facing are significant in the appropriate protection of natural resources. They may assist in determining how government policies and resolutions are made on exploitation of the natural resources. The significance of citizens in world economies and their decorum cannot be ignored from the starting point in the bid to environmental conservation. Uncontrolled and fast population growth together with unprincipled natural resource exploitation and management practices has contributed to the poor living standards in great section of the world population. Regrettably, there is little acknowledgment in the global political economy on the dangers caused by unprincipled natural resources exploitation (O’Brien, Robert & Marc Williams 2007: 65-71).
The world is experiencing social unfairness, financial inequality, environmental degradation, disagreements and infringement of human rights. The role of international companies such as oil drilling companies in environmental degradation is a sign of negligence and lack of responsible investment. These companies and the governments are normally unwilling to implement the principles of responsible environmental protection in their actions. Amongst the majority of the world population the moral principles of protecting the environment have become eroded due to extended periods of poverty and inaccessibility of essential commodities. Poverty, reduced agricultural output and environmental degradation are harsh interconnected global problems especially in less developed countries. These have been increased by the absence of public environmental morals in natural resource protection.
The incapacity of the global political economy and its breakdown in relation to the environment is seen in the current environmental predicament facing economies world wide. Industrial and agricultural development have resulted in enormous and extensive utilization of natural resources and the devastation of natural components such as plant and animal species in the ecosystem. All over the world today, practically each individual would have the same opinion that it is important to be environmentally accountable in the day to day actions. An international ethic of good practices to steer sustainable economic development while conserving the environment is fundamental in a bid to develop on the global economy. There exist many influential social, financial and political encouragement incentives in most of the less developed nations which uphold resource exploitation.
Political deliberations over and over again take precedence over the communal interest of the public as their political leaders undertake development ventures for the sake of scoring contemptible political achievements. Their projects do not at all times advantage the people and may perhaps even result in substantial damage to the environment. Managing environmental problems are normally interfered with and politicized by many governments. The experts who are given the task of scheming environmental protection arrangements or procedures over and over again decline to take an opinion from other specialists in particular areas e. g. experts in geomorphology, climatology and hydrology. These specialists could assist in the estimation and analysis of the necessary measures and their impact to the environment. Inappropriate decisions due to lack of consultation and politicization of conservation activities have led to the breakdown of environmental conservation measures in many countries since they are normally based on insufficient information and knowledge. Many governments globally have appointed agencies to spearhead the control environmental problems such as proper disposal of industrial waste, reforestation soil erosion control and green house gases emission. Their efficiency is normally hampered by lack of proper coordination. The main underlying issues affecting the kind of political economic situation of many developing countries include; inequity and poverty, conflicts and unsustainable economic and societal development practice (O’Brien, Robert & Marc Williams 2007: 72-77).
The global political economy is extremely susceptible to economic crisis and the vulnerability of the economy also affects the public and the natural system resulting in downgrading of environmental conservation and sustainable growth. Debts in poor economies especially in the developing countries mainly accelerate the exploitation of natural resources as governments endeavor to repay. Poor policies for environmental management are set in order to ensure that environment activists are prohibited from challenging the government’s actions. People are estranged and their living condition deteriorates since the strategies that are set towards environmental protection do not take in to account the lives of the poor citizens. Rather they take care of the elite as well as multinational companies that exploit the natural resources while causing environmental degradation.
Interventions have cropped up internationally in a bid to solve the environmental problems. Highly industrialized are the major contributors to global warming through emission of large quantities of green house gases. Agreements have been reached in order to curb this problem. One such agreement is the Kyoto protocol which was signed countries that are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in a bid to curb global warming. Sensitization campaigns on climate change are going on in many countries world wide. Tree planting is being emphasized due to the role that trees play in carbon sequestration. The one billion tree campaign is aimed at planting one billion trees worldwide. However, funds are needed in order to solve the problem of global warming. Sensitization campaigns as well as tree planting require funds for the activities to be carried out. Third world countries have a potential of tree planting, but lack funds to support these projects. Funds have to be pooled globally in order to assist the les developed countries to assist in solving the environmental problems.
Financial globalization led to the formation of global institutions such as International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization with policies that transcend political boundaries. States have to adhere to the regulations of these organizations which put across a hierarchy of control in the global political economy. These global institutions assist nations that are unable to counter the major economic challenges they are facing (Bessant Josphat 2003: 21). The institutions are supporting the current interventions by nations in order to help them achieve the solution to environmental problems. Through global institutions, world economies world have been pooled together in forums such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPCC) formed under the United Nations Environmental Program and the World Meteorological Organization in order to assess the impact of global warming and the necessary interventions that every economy needs to undertake (James Robertson 2006: 64-66).
Within the contemporary global political economy, there is a possibility of solving environmental problems. This is because many nations have been sensitized, and the reverting the environment to its original state has been identified as a major assignment for all. The global political economy is largely associated with the escalating environmental problems. Poverty is the major cause of environmental degradation since the poor turn to overexploitation of the natural resources in order to satisfy their daily requirements.
Multinational companies that are viewed by many governments as a solution towards economic development end up overexploiting the domestic resources in an unethical manner. Their contribution to economic growth normally overrides the harm caused to the environment. They therefore assist to solve one problem while on the other hand they create a more severe one. With the current awareness and interventions globally, it may be possible for the problem of environmental degradation to be dealt with if every economy participates in the process. The global political economy can succeed in environmental conservation if poverty is reduced especially in the developing countries where it is the major course of degradation. The developing countries can produce labor for the purposes of activities such as tree planting while the developed nations provide funds for these projects.
- James Robertson 2006, Political Economy, Natural Resources and Society, 4th Edition, Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
- Bessant Josphat 2003, Climate Change: Measures for Determination in Contemporary Global Change, 11th Edition, Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
- O’Brien, Robert & Marc Williams 2007, Global Political Economy: Evolution and Dynamics 2nd Edition, Basingstoke, Palgrave.