Monday, January 24, 2005

Beneficial Globalization
For the last several years globalization, shorthand for an incredibly complex and loosely-connected set of trends and actions, has taken a lot of hits for promoting environmental and damage and threats to endangered species, among other complaints. But here's a wonderful example of several key components of globalization--global finance and the application of global standards to local projects--being used to protect those same interests.

The proposed trans-Siberian pipeline project is of major importance to Russia and to energy consumers on both sides of the Pacific Rim. However, it will not be built without international financing, most likely from Japan, and that financing is much less likely to materialize if the local Russian authorities insist on locating the pipeline's terminus in the middle of a pristine tourist destination and wildlife habitat. They might not see it that way, yet, but I would put money on their having to revise their plans before the first Yen, Euro, or dollar is transferred.

What I find encouraging about this story is the apparent attitude of the environmental groups involved. The Japanese branch of Friends of the Earth--no friends of oil development in general--appear to understand that the project as a whole will likely go ahead and are focused on the terminal site decision. The executive director of Pacific Environment sums it up nicely in his quote, "The pipeline will be a test case of whether or not Russia can meet the top level environmental standards that the public expects from oil and gas projects around the world."

The potential of globalization to distribute human rights and environmental protection--as well as prosperity--much more widely makes it more of a blessing than a curse. I have a lot more sympathy for those who focus their criticism on specific facets or manifestations of globalization than for those who claim to be against it as a whole.

No comments: