"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
April 22, 2008

Key Global And Ethical Issues

A while back I tried to write a series of blogposts on some key ethical issues facing our world today. After first drafts, it just sat there, unfinished, testament of my inability to write extended blog pieces. I love the long essay format, but there’s something about writing in that style that, for me at […]

A while back I tried to write a series of blogposts on some key ethical issues facing our world today. After first drafts, it just sat there, unfinished, testament of my inability to write extended blog pieces. I love the long essay format, but there’s something about writing in that style that, for me at least, doesn’t work on a blog (even when cut into bite-sized pieces). So, I’m taking another pass at the idea of outlining some global ethical problems in a shorter, more notesy format. This is still a draft, but outlines some key points.

Biofuels and Food – Biofuels have been advocated as a way to respond to the geopolitical problems of oil supply and the need for cleaner fuel sources. But, there are real questions about how green such fuels are and to what extent they are being produced in competition with food supplies (which have been steadily rising in cost, both to producers and consumers). Moreover, there are ecological and economic questions that need to asked specifically about the promotion of sugar cane and corn monocultures.

Gender Imbalances in Asia – In many parts of Asia there is a growing imbalance in the number of men versus women. There is a large debate as to the reasons for this, but selective reproduction is clearly playing a part (i.e, abortion of female foetuses). History warns us that gender imbalances can promote significant social unrest. Moreover, such imbalances can put pressure on women to conform to traditional (often subservient) roles and can lead to increases in sexual violence and/or sexual commerce.

Human Trafficking and Slavery – It’s difficult to truly grasp the size of the the global trade in people – From illegal immigrants packed tight in trucks and containers while crossing borders, to the many young woman shipped around the world to cater to the global sex trade.

Pharmacolosation of Emotion – We have now reached a stage where major drug firms are mining the everyday human experience looking for emotions that can be repackaged as conditions, thus creating new markets for their drugs. It is not only alarming that so many everyday states of being are being re-imagined as diseases but in many cases treating these conditions with existing drugs is approved with less stringent testing that would be the case for new drugs. That is, of course, remembering that some companies have been less than honest with their approval research in the first place. Finally, the big question here is what happens to the identity of people who live long term with drugs shaping their emotions, or more acutely, who grow up on drugs.

Debt – If a knucklehead like me could predict a year ago that we were headed for a financial disaster because unsustainable levels of bad debt, then the problem must have been huge. Well, we are now living that disaster and many are only starting to feel the pain. Debt has become such an accepted part of life that many will now find it hard to create long term wealth without access to cheap loans. Moreover, we are experiencing a change in the the psychology of debt and foreclosure as more and more people view debt failure as not carrying social stigma.

Resentment – Barak Obama got in a lot of hot water and was repeatedly misquoted for putting the issue of resentment and the lack of social trust on the political agenda. He may have been wrong to generalise so extensively, but in terms of the trends that drive glocalisation, he was totally right. Resentment is the fuel that drives fundamentalism.

Obesity – We are fast moving from a world where malnutrition meant under-nutrition to a world where malnutrition means unbalanced over-nutrition. In part this is connected to the new wealth of globalisation and in part to the more pernicious aspects of the industrialised food system.

There are a few more issues I would like to throw in at a future revision, but for now I’d be interested to read any comments or ideas.

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Responses
Duncan McFadzean 15 years ago

Fernando, I’d be interested to hear more on your thoughts on debt/wealth and how that’s mainfesting itself in a culture of saving rather than spending, in what is apparently a cash rich country.

Fernando Gros 15 years ago

Duncan, I’ll try to write something more on that point.

But, I’m not sure I’m seeing much of a culture of saving occouring anywhere ther than soverign wealth funds and some companies that are building cash reserves. If anything, our present moment (and finanical crisis) has been built upon a lack of savings and, in particular, a lack of deffered gratification.

One point that is worth clarifying is that home ownership, when driving by debt is not entirely a form of savings. Rising prices, inflation and of course, actual debt repayment (not just interest repayment) and required for any wealth creation to occur.

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