Globalization defined by the economist Helena Norberg Hodge
By Fiorella Carollo
In 2000, Helena N. Hodge published a book that was read worldwide. Under the telling title “Ancient Futures”, it told of her experience and testimony as a Westerner who lived for more than twenty years in the strip of land at the foot of the Himalayas called Ladakh. In the first few years of their stay, this region still lived according to a thousand-year rhythms that enabled its residents to lead a dignified, albeit spartan, life. Life was shaped by agricultural activities and the crops provided for the livelihood, community life, redistribution, barter with neighboring communities, the spirit of the community. With the arrival of globalization even in this remote area, this life was not only messed up, but replaced by a less sustainable one.
In 2011 Helena co-directed and co-produced a documentary entitled “The Economy of Happiness”, which was a huge international success. The award-winning documentary is an in-depth and well-documented review of the effects globalization has on our world. Helena was part of a pool of experts appointed by the King of Bhutan with the aim of studying and implementing an economic system that stood up to that proposed by the Western democracies. Instead of measuring GDP – gross domestic product – this new economic system will take into account IPH, the internal product of happiness and well-being of all citizens.
Much criticism of the effects of globalization comes from the experiences of scientists like Helena Norberg Hodge, a Swedish economist, analyst and linguist who spent 35 years in the Himalayan region of Ladakh. At the end of the 1970s the western economy reached these remote areas in the Himalayas, over a long period of time the Swedish scholar was able to do
Witness with your own eyes the transformation of an isolated rural society that is completely and fortunately sustainable and becomes untenable through contact with globalization. The influence of the West on these communities was so great that the Swedish scientist questioned herself and the assumptions of the Western economic system that she took for granted. She also began to question the Western approach to globalization for remote communities. In the course of this transformation, Helena could not overlook how it actually had a negative impact on communities that lost their cultural identity, their traditional ways of life and, unfortunately, also the younger generations. Indeed, under the extremely fascinating influence of the material goods that could be obtained after adopting a Western education and a totally different way of life from their communities, young people began themselves, their communities, their way of life through the eyes of Westerners and suddenly a happy, simple and sustainable way of life poor and without comfort, without material goods and without money.
Over time, even these young people had to admit that it was an illusion: material well-being did not come for everyone, only for a select few. In addition, drugs were completely absent from traditional communities but were widespread in the western world. Drugs left a trail of victims and devastated generations of youth.
There is no doubt that globalization was and is an extremely successful economic system, but what is globalization?
The definition in the dictionary says “a universal system in which goods and finances can move easily without rules”, but when did it all start?
We could describe it as a new form of colonization when 500 years ago European ships colonized and enslaved most of the world; today this happens through the debt policy for them, often disguised in the form of development aid
Countries of the non-industrialized world. But what are the uncomfortable truths of globalization? Mental illness is certainly a visible effect that will inevitably increase, depression has become endemic in England and in some parts of the United States, including Australia, due to the persistent drought over the past decade. Consumption has damaged the planet’s natural resources, but globalization tirelessly promotes it, producing a lot of rubbish that cities cannot handle. In poor countries, rural-to-urban migration is inexorable, increasing poverty rather than reducing it. Globalization triggers climate change with its system of transporting goods from distant countries to consumers. Rich countries export the same amount of each product as they import. At any given time, our planet is traversed by products moving from one country to another. It is perfectly normal for a European country to produce enough butter to export and import the same amount, the same amount for meat, milk, etc.
Since globalization promotes life in the cities, smallholders in rural areas initially lose their jobs, who become unskilled, precarious workers in the service of industry. The loss of land, of their livelihood, has led tens of thousands of Indian farmers to commit suicide, the same thing has been happening for several decades in Australia, in Europe, in the United States, although it is a silent reality.
The polluting companies can only act because they benefit from government subsidies, without which they could not survive in the free market to which they constantly refer. The big polluters are those who want globalization, who demand not to pay taxes, who demand not to pay tariffs on the exchange of goods, who, thanks to this tax exemption, compete unfairly with local producers who pay them instead. These large polluting industries can only exist thanks to continued support from the state, which is preventing states from helping small businesses, artisans, small business owners, and smallholders who instead
forced to pay the taxes that corporations do not pay, which instead are forced to face the unease of climate change, pollution, garbage produced in industrial quantities by urbanization and polluting companies.
Exactly for what I said above, the solution that many support is localization against globalization, which involves the abolition of the tax breaks now enjoyed by the giants of finance and economics. Localization means reducing dependence on imported products and instead relying more on one’s own production, measures that are declared isolationist, protectionist because they protect domestic markets. Governments will have to stop giving most of their support to big corporations and flipping the money.
The big food companies claim that in an increasingly dense world, the food industry is the only one that can meet the needs of a growing population. But the reality is that the small producer has a flexibility on its side that is impossible for the large corporation. Small-scale producers in particular employ more workers because small-scale farmers are not mechanized like large-scale industry, but rather use machines because of their need to save manpower. In addition, few people know, but in fact the smallholder is able to produce many more vegetables per square meter than the big industry. The reason? The fertility of the soil is greater because fertilizers and herbicides are not used in industrial quantities, as the large producers have to do. The biodiversity on small plots is greater, they are not grown in monocultures as in agriculture. The productivity ratio is 3, 4, even 5 times higher. Energy sources also work better if they are decentralized and localized and can thus cover the required amount of energy.
The UK transition cities movement has been described as the fastest experiment to implement in terms of the local economy. So far it has spread from the UK to Europe, the US and Australia.
Source: “The Economic of Happiness” video co-producer Helena N. Hodge 2011