Are globalization and sustainability mutually exclusive?


Globalization is frequently seen as defining current developments in economy, politics and cultures, but lately it seems to have become a dirty word. When lifting the cloak of negativity, however, it becomes apparent that it remains our choice what to make of it – and how we can apply it to create positive change in the world.

Societies have come closer together and have – between various civilizations and backgrounds – created a new system to interact. Habits and customs are spreading, leaving impressions all over the world. The benefit can’t be denied. The other side of the medal: uneven distribution of wealth and education, economic interdependence, deforestation, global warming.  The list of drawbacks is getting longer, more apparent and the population is on alert.

Sustainability is one of the most used words in recent years – especially when it comes to environmental issues. Awareness for organic thinking in our every-day nutritional choices is increasing. Local food initiatives aim to oppose the process of globalization, moving back to our roots. At first sight, it appears that these values are incompatible with globalization. TEDxVienna sat down with Alex and Tom of all i need – on a mission to find a different perspective.

positive globalisation

“We can’t walk up the hill and drink the fresh water out of a spring anymore. We work in offices, we live in cities, but we still have to drink – and we try to make the best out of that [situation],” says Alex, one of the inventors of an organic tea drink made of natural ingredients from around the world. Initially, they wanted to make a vending machine that offers better, more sustainable beverage choices to a large audience.

The kind of product they wanted to sell didn’t exist – so they decided to make it themselves. Within their creative process, Alex and Tom embraced what they call positive globalization. We both travel a lot and every country has something special on offer.“ Drinking fresh acai juice on Brazilian beaches or the way people celebrate tea in Taiwan – “we wanted to combine our impressions from all those different cultures.”

a different perspective

Supporting local and organic products seems a reasonable approach when aiming for sustainability. Without bad sentiments or judgement towards that line of thinking, Tom and Alex chose a different approach. While awareness for sustainable farming in Europe might be relatively high, countries like Brasil or Mexico lag behind.  “Increased demand in those countries can have a positive impact on their agricultural situation. We want to give the Indios in Brasil the opportunity to cultivate the acai berry in organic, sustainable manner.”

In terms of agriculture, one downside of globalization is farmers in third world countries being driven into vicious cycles of pesticide use because they don’t know any better. Alex thinks that all we need to solve this is education“it is the key to a self-determined life and essential to give children future prospects. Education gives people the possibility to make decisions independently and consciously.” Under the banner of an empowerment mission, they support the organisation ASIA and Roots for Life, providing tuition to those who need it most. At the end of the day, “the profit flows back to where it originates – that’s positive globalization”

changing the world

The two sides of the medal that is globalization can’t be denied.  Due to it’s variety of impacts the concept, will stay a controversial issues and keep raising questions. Somewhere down the road, we will have to re-asses the potential impacts on future developments. The most efficient way of overcoming the negative aspects might just be embracing the benefits.

The world we live in today is a result of a variety of civilizations coming together. By continously engaging in exchange, we can fuel evolution and innovation by creating positive feedback loops. Fair distribution of profit, wealth and education can direct this flow towards an equilibrium, increasing well-being and changing the world for the better.

valuable exchange

Thinking of worth spreading – as an initiative, TED believes in the power of sharing ideas to change the world. It was this attitude that, down the line, connected us with Alex and Tom. It is therefore more than reasonable to finish in their own, optimistic words:

“Our time is characterized by communication – thanks to the media, the internet, and travelling it’s all become very easy. There are so many interesting people, so many interesting cultures out there – and it’s very positive that we’re enabled to connect with each other.”

Header image credits royalty free

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