Globalisation has mostly negative connotations with market forces and free trade as the driver of the economy and with major influence over policy and culture. But as Prof. Simon Bush, professor of Environmental Policy, contends in his inaugural address to Wageningen University & Research on 7 September, globalisation can also have a positive impact on the environment.
The term ‘globalisation’ is associated with unchecked capitalism and uncontrollable global market forces that are dragging the environment worldwide in a race to the bottom, leaving increased social inequality in its wake. Or globalisation is seen more generally as modernisation in support of effective production and consumption. ‘Leaving things up to the market’ – for instance via a quality mark for sustainable and certified fish, coffee or palm oil – would also only accumulate capital and not necessarily lead to more sustainable processes, in fishing methods for example. ‘The negative impact of globalisation has certainly been demonstrated in many cases’, says Prof. Bush. ‘But you cannot directly attribute this to neoliberal globalism. Then you fall into the exact trap you are trying to address.’
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Prof. Bush, leader of the Environment Policy chair group, is researching environmental governance: how do individuals, companies, NGOs and government authorities work together to identify and resolve environmental issues on a global scale? And how can that process be improved? To this end, researchers are focusing on connections between different countries in a variety of sectors. For example, tuna, a global favourite, is caught in the world’s oceans by both industrial fishing companies and small-scale fishermen alike, in hundreds of different ways, and then transported, processed and traded almost everywhere. ‘As is often the case with environmental problems, the sustainability of tuna starts with socio-scientific questions’, explains Prof. Bush. ‘Can consumers make their buying and cooking habits more sustainable? How can you encourage the fishing industry to invest in sustainable practices? And can certification, such as MSC, induce authorities to regulate where, when and how much tuna may be caught?’
In his inaugural address Towards Environmental Globalisation, Prof. Simon Bush poses the question whether globalisation can be used for a better global environment. ‘Globalisation tends to cover the themes of the economy, culture and policy. The environment is included only as a side issue in that stream. I advocate adding the environment as a fourth pillar of globalisation’, says Prof. Bush. ‘With globalisation of the environment, we see how relationships are becoming interconnected worldwide: government authorities, NGOs, companies and consumers are all committed to exploiting and simultaneously safeguarding biological resources, such as fishery stocks, for future generations.’
Prof. Bush’s research therefore focuses on the process of drafting agreements, laws and regulations of government authorities, institutions and market sectors.