I have decided to start a Book Review section of my blog. This is my fisrt entry.
I just finished reading Thomas Friedman´s book. At first I was resistant to his school-boyish eagerness, bragging about the wonders of Free Trade and Technology. But by the end, I found his argument convincing. I do not share all of his ideas, but, like I said, I found it convincing.
Friedman´s thesis is that, since 1492, the world has become "flatter" through globalization, technology, and the liberation of markets. His idea of "flatness" is a "leveling of the playing field" where individuals can compete and gain power in a more open market. He traces this thread through the technology boom of the late 90´s, outsourcing of jobs, and the rise of India, China, Al-Queda, and Osama bin Laden.
Friedman likes to categorize and number things. There are the "Ten Flatteners", "Globaliation 1.0, 2.0, 3.0", the "5 anti-globalist forces", etc. What caught me off guard was that he placed me along with other "serious, well-meaning environmentalists" in the fifth anti-globalist force group he calls the "how-we-globalize" group. While he has "a lot of respect and sympathy for this group", he believes that we have drowned out or have been pushed to the periphery by anarchist WTO protestors and the other four anti-globalist forces. Well, Mr Friedman, as a spokesman for the "how-we-globalize" group, let´s talk about how we do it. Let´s start with coffee.
While the world ushered in "Globalization 3.0" at the turn of the millenium, and the world was becoming flatter, our community of Aguabuena was completely crushed by the global coffee market. Around the time that oil prices starting going up, skyscrapers going down, the price of coffee bottomed out to the lowest in history. What Friedman does not write about, is the how the flattening of the world affects the environment. Now the price of coffee has gone back up, but the farmers here are fed up with the volatility of the market. They are flattening their farms, cutting down their coffee and shade trees to raise cattle. In the past 4 years, over 50% of coffee farms in our area of Costa Rica have turned to cattle ranching. Cattle ranching is one of the most degrading land-use practices in moist tropical ecosystems. It destroys biodiversity, washes away nutrient-rich top soil, and contaminates water supplies.
Where I think we can take Friedman´s ideas further is to see how the small-scale farmer responds to this "flattening" of the market. I do not consider my self an "anti-globalist", but I am very concerned in "how we globalize". Coope Pueblos, the coffee cooperative here, uses the the "flattening" tools of the internet to create a direct market with consumers in the US. I think this is an awesome accomplishment, but I also think that we must be weary at the speed that technology advances us when it is at the expense of our ecosystems.