There is no doubt that global interactions come with opportunities and threats which could be technological, social, economic and/or environmental. In this unit, we shall examine these risks at the local and global levels and attempt to identify management strategies adopted by various governments, institutions and individuals to overcome them.
The strategies to build resilience could be to reject globalization altogether (which seems impossible), find ways of controlling the risks of globalization (mitigation) or adapt to the risks by implementing mechanisms to manage them in the event of their occurrence. This can be applied in the case of climate change, where we either have to find ways to mitigate it or adapt to the effects of climate change after it occurs.
The success of international civil society organizations in attempting to raise awareness about, and find solutions for, environmental and social risks associated with global interactions
Definition: Civil society organization (CSO) is any organization or movement that works in the area between the household, the private sector and the state to negotiate matters of public concern. CSOs include faith-based organizations, academic institutions, trade unions and community groups.
Case studies: Detailed examples of one environmental and one social civil society organization action:
- Greenpeace – managing environmental issues
Shell and Ogoniland, Nigeria
A CSO attempting to create environmental awareness is Greenpeace, which is campaigning against the negative effects of the exploitation of oil by the oil giant, Shell, in the Ogoniland (Niger Delta) in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Government gains much of its revenues from oil, which accounts for 80% of its exports and 90% of its revenue. Shell is the major multinational oil company on the site (Niger Delta). Civil societies such as Greenpeace, The Body Shop International, Friends of the Earth and Chaos Communication decided to raise awareness of the environmental degradation caused by Shell in an article titled “Dear shell, This is the truth. And it stinks”
Issues raised by Greenpeace and the other civil societies include:
- Water pollution in the Niger Delta due to oil spills. This kills fish and reduces the fish stocks for the Ogoni people (occupants of the Niger Delta) who are mainly fishers and farmers
- Atmospheric pollution due to the burning of oil and the use of machinery during oil drilling, releasing tons of toxic fumes into the atmosphere.
- Land pollution: Besides fishing, farming is the other activity the Ogoni people rely on for their livelihood. Destroying the land puts pressure on their source of food and income to meet their socio-economic needs.
To what extent were these CSOs successful in creating awareness of this problem? Discuss this with any member of the class.
2. Amnesty International
Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 7 million people who take injustice personally. It is campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.
Over the years, human rights have moved from the fringes to centre stage in world affairs. Amnesty has grown from seeking the release of political prisoners to upholding the whole spectrum of human rights. It protects and empowers people – from abolishing the death penalty to protecting sexual and reproductive rights, and from combating discrimination to defending refugees and migrants’ rights. It speaks out for anyone and everyone whose freedom and dignity are under threat (Amnesty International).
Examples of activities undertaken by Amnesty:
- Raif Badawi was jailed in Saudi Arabia for 10 years and sentenced to 1,000 lashes last year after setting up a website for social and political debate. When he received the first 50 lashes in January, campaigners across the world united in outrage. His flogging has not been carried out since for unknown reasons, but he is still not free and at risk of being flogged again as long as his sentence stands. (Amnesty International)
- The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. When Amnesty began its campaign, a mere 16 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or in practice – today, that number has exceeded 100. On Friday 15 March 2013, Maryland became the latest American state to pass a death penalty repeal bill. It is the 18th state to abolish the death penalty – and the sixth state in six years. (Amnesty International)
- After years of campaigning, Amnesty helped bring about justice for 15,600 farmers and fishermen in Bodo, a community in the Niger Delta region. In January, Shell announced a £55m settlement to help rebuild the lives and livelihoods devastated by two large oil spills in 2008 and 2009. The fight for an environmental clean-up goes on(Amnesty International).
Despite the attempts made by these NGOs to create awareness and find solutions to the problems resulting from global interactions, there is evidence to prove that some of these problems may never be solved in our lifetime. Such problems are called wicked problems.
By definition, a wicked problem is a challenge that cannot be solved easily with a single solution, because it is complex, with multiple stakeholders and must be examined from different perspectives (places, people, issues, ideas etc).
An example of a wicked problem is climate change:
One of the causes of climate change is the increasing use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. This has led to an increase in the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It is easy to assume that since fossil fuels contribute to global warming, it will make sense to ban their use, after all, renewable energy sources can provide safe, sufficient and environmentally friendly energy.
This assumption is easily said than done – many industries cannot rely solely on renewable energy sources for power. Thermal plants will remain the most efficient (though environmental ‘unfriendly’) source of energy for large-scale manufacturing for some time. To ban its use might mean other heavy industries might have to be closed down. This may lower industrial output and cause GDP to fall due to unemployment. In fact, some politicians may lose badly needed votes if they attempt to ban the use of fossil fuels. It is therefore not surprising that the United States is refusing to sign the Paris Agreement on Climate Change as it requires a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
This is a wicked problem because it is multidimensional, complex and involves different stakeholders and the enormity of the problem is not often realized until a solution to the problem of climate change is beginning to emerge. The video below gives further details on wicked problems.
More on wicked problems: What are Wicked Problems?
Discuss examples of wicked problems that may result from global interactions.
Strategies to build resilience:
Building resilience has become the catchphrase these days. We first discussed resilience when we studied sustainable cities under Urban Environments. In this context, resilience is defined as:
the ability of individuals, organizations or governments to recover quickly (bounce back) from challenges resulting from natural hazards or other forms of shocks.
Building resilience is important for individuals, civil society and governments. However, it is not always easy to bounce back after going through some shocks. We will focus this discussion on overcoming economic shocks only.
Examples of building resilience include:
a) Re-shoring of economic activity by TNCs
Re-shoring involves TNCs returning productive functions from an offshore destination to the home country of the TNC. Some offshore destinations for western TNCs include China, India, Bangladesh etc.
Reasons for re-shoring – the high cost of labor in the offshore country, high taxes, low skilled labor, issues with intellectual property rights, rising oil prices, thus increasing production cost, high cost of transporting goods to the home market and sometimes disruptions to supply chains. The benefits of re-shoring include the creation of jobs at home, a large market for customized goods, quick delivery of goods to consumers etc and increasing the country’s GDP.
Examples of re-shoring companies:
- Adidas has just finished setting up an automated production plant in Atlanta, USA, where it is returning its productive functions.
- Problems with supply chain management as well as high labour costs and control by the Chinese government have contributed to Apple’s desire to re-shore some of its operations to the USA.
- Vacuum cleaner maker Gtech is planning to shift some production functions from China to Worcestershire, UK.
- The shoemaker Clarks is also bringing manufacturing of its desert boots to Somerset, UK, from Asia.
- In Europe, Le Coq Sportif, the sportswear maker, is bringing production back to France from Vietnam.
- General Electric has also spent close to a billion dollars revitalizing its abandoned production plant in Kentucky, with plans to return production from China.
It is important to note that re-shoring might not be a long-term solution to the problems facing TNCs today. Profit levels might fall as a result of re-shoring, as most TNCs admit that a large share of their profits come from Asian countries, like China. With Brexit looming around the corner, one cannot predict the fate of TNCs that have re-shored their functions to the UK. The solution might seem to lie in near-shoring, a backup resilient strategy to face the threats of global interactions.
Assignment: Discuss the costs and benefits of re-shoring for TNCs.
b) The use of crowd-sourcing technologies
Crowdsourcing is the use of the internet to obtain support from users in the form of goods, finance, ideas, services etc. There are many forms of crowdsourcing: crowd searching, macrotasks, microtasks, crowdvoting, crowdsolving, and the popular one is crowdfunding: i.e online fundraising that requests internet users to make a small financial contribution towards a cause.
Crowdsourcing has been used by governments, civil society organizations and individuals as a strategy for building resilience because it offers the opportunity of gathering the opinion or support of the public in finding a solution to a challenge or risk, without necessarily depending on the institutions responsible for managing the issue.
Various platforms are used for crowdsourcing, including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc. Sometimes, special websites are set up to provide detailed information or justification for the issue needing public support. Examples of crowdsourcing include:
- PepsiCo-in response to declining sales, PepsiCo (UK branch) solicited the views of its customers (teenagers in particular) on new potato chips flavour. The name “Cheesy Garlic Bread’ was chosen among over 14 million submissions. This led to an increase in sales by about 8%. Read: Crowdsourcing appears to boost brands perception about Lay’s
- LEGO: Lego used crowdsourcing to invite the public to design Lego sets as well as provide feedback on entries submitted. The winners get the opportunity of working with LEGO for a year to ensure that their concept becomes a reality. The platform Lego Ideas saw over 10,000 entries and gave birth to the brands ‘Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Yellow Submarine’.
- AMAZON: Through Amazon preview, the company’s Amazon studios used crowdsourcing to invite the public to submit scripts and video concepts. Selected persons were invited from the crowd to provide feedback on the entries. Their suggestions have led to two successful episodes: Transparent and Mozart in the jungle.
- Tel Aviv-based SuperMeat raised about $230,000 on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to produce chicken cultured from animal cells (nanalyze.com).
- The Boston Police Department has used crowdsourcing to solicit videos from the public on Boston Marathon terrorist attack in 2013.
- Former President Barrack Obama used SAVE, a crowdsourcing website, to ask the public for their views on how best the government can save money.
- During periods of natural disaster, individuals use crowdsourcing to appeal for funds to assist needy victims. For example, crowdfunding was used by Haitian Americans to mobilize support for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. It was also used to raise $20 million in just two months after the earthquake in Nepal.
- People also use Twitter and Facebook to share videos of crimes committed by people which later resulted in their arrest.
- In Ghana, Farmable.me is a crowdfunding platform that aims to create a new form of global collaborative farming called ‘Crowdfarming’. It works this way: you start a new cow, name it, give the cow a personality, get your friends and family to lend support & get your cow farmed! If you successfully get 20 people to join your cow, you will get to work with the Farmable cow illustrators for your cow to be created and placed in the cow shop. Every purchase from the shop contributes to the capacity-building activities of Farmable in Ghana (Farmable.me).
- The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has started the Waste Recovery Innovation Challenge as a means of developing sustainable waste management practices as well as promoting the circular economy concept in waste management in Ghana. It is using the Waste Reduction Platform to crowdsource for research and advocacy proposals from the general public.
- 9 Great examples of crowdsourcing in the age of empowered customers
- How crowdsourcing is changing every facet of society
What are the strengths and weaknesses of crowdsourcing as a strategy to build resilience?
Project initiative: In what way can you use crowdsourcing to build resilience in any socioeconomic challenge facing your community?
New technologies for the management of global flows of data and people
Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting computers, servers, mobile devices and all aspects of technology/ internet-related systems from digital theft or malicious attack. Cybersecurity has become an important issue in the world today as more and more people are getting connected to the internet and finance as well as security data is transferred over the internet like never before.
The common forms of cybersecurity include:
- Malware – often described as malicious software (including virus, worm, spyware or ransomware), they are commonly used to attack a network system by obtaining information transmitted from the hard drive (spyware) or by blocking certain systems from functioning on a network (ransomware)
- Phishing – the practice of sending false information over the internet, usually via email to deceive a person into believing that it is a genuine email, in order to steal sensitive or personal information such as passwords/credit card details or install malware on the victim’s computer.
- Man-in-the-middle attack (MiTMA)- also called eavesdropping – it happens when an attacker intercepts internet communication between two computers, usually over an insecure WiFi network, in order to filter and steal information.
- Denial-of-service (DoS)- is where the hacker floods a system or network in order to exhaust its bandwidth, leading to the collapse of the network.
- Others include Zero Day Exploit, and Structured Query Language (SQL)
Examples of cybersecurity:
- WannaCry This started in the UK in 2017. It was ransomware that infected public computers and encrypted their hard drives and then demanded ransom in Bitcoin before it could decrypt them. It significantly infected the UK’s NHS computers and spread to other institutions in Europe and N. America. This became one of the serious technological threats in 2018 because of the scale of the attack.
- In April 2011, Sony’s PlayStation Network was hacked and information containing personal data, including banking information of 77 million users was leaked.
- In 1999, a 15-year-old teenager, Jonathan James penetrated the computers of a US Department of Defense and installed a ‘backdoor’ on its servers which allowed him to intercept thousands of internal emails from different government organizations, including ones containing usernames and passwords for various military computers. He then used the information to steal NASA’s software, which controlled the temperature and humidity of the International Space Station, thus causing the system to shut down for three weeks. He was caught and charged but later committed suicide when accused of collaborating with other hackers to steal credit card information.
- In 2018, the privacy of 500 million customers of Marriott Hotels was compromised – payment information, names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers, and even details about the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) account, a high-end card recently launched by the American Express credit card issuer for regular travellers.
- In 2009, Google China was attacked and the private information of millions of Gmail users in the US, China and Europe was compromised. This led Google to relocate its servers from China to Hong Kong, as it suspected the Chinese Government of the crime.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of cybersecurity resulting from increasing global interactions?
An E-passport has a chip which contains personal information about the holder, including facial recognition, fingerprint and iris information. Also called the biometric passport, the introduction of the e-passport is meant to control the flow of people around the world with fake passports. This is important in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, France, Belgium, Libya, Pakistan, Mali and in many other parts of the world.
The anatomy of an e-passport:
The African Union has started introducing the e-passport as way of promoting the free movement of people in Africa as well as facilitating trade between member countries.
The advantage of an e-passport include:
- faster checking-in at airports
- faster border control checks
- Easily to combat crime as the passport can help match the fingerprints obtained from the crime scene
- it is difficult for anyone to travel with a forged passport
- lost passports can easily be retrieved
- The personal information of the holder could easily be hacked
- the holder does not have immediate access to their information when it is needed