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Saturday, March 11, 2006

ANTONYMS: Cooperation and Globalization

Jonathan Marcus of the BBC recently presented a program on globalization and its unintended consequences. Listed among the various topics was the ease with which epidemics take hold in our now borderless world. Marcos mentions that unlike the plague of 1665 that hit much of Europe, globalization today really works against the slowing the spread of diseases. What was critical of the 17th century plague was that cooperation was the active ingredient that suppressed the spread of illnesses. Churchyards and villages were closed and all agreed that this was a necessary means of containment to slow the spread. .More than three hundred years later, cooperation has become exponentially more difficult. No longer are we speaking of a few hundreds or thousands of villagers but rather millions each year who make intercontinental travel one of the deadliest weapons today. After all, pandemics really mimic our ability to travel.

One easily recalls the health rather than military conquest of the Native Americans as they were wiped out by the Europeans armed with small pox and measles. Today, our mega-cities or megalopolises are the agents for public health disasters and pandemic spread. Urbanization of these megalopolises have changed significantly, from 2 in 1950 to 27 in 2005. Each of them boasts an international airport thus further globalizing the spread of diseases, covertly or not. Globalization continues to be about flows. Air travel remains the "life and breath" which sustains this political psuedonym.

I return to the idea that cooperation will be paramount in controlling the spread. The real test for globalization and its continued discontents remain whether countries will be able to rise to the challenge of controlling its borders. Like the villages of the 17th century plague, it may be as extreme as no one in..no one out. One need only imagine what crippling effects this would have for world economies. This is where the true test of cooperation among governments will lie... whether or not there can be such a glocalized and unified sacrifice for the case of a greater good.


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