Monday, November 02, 2009


As I posted at Greater Youngstown 2.0, I'm dedicating November blogging to issues of international migration and globalization in anticipation of Richard Herman's book release party in early December. I feel inspired to write more about globalization, a subject about which I'm passionate. The world system is at a crossroads, like it was 20-years ago when the Berlin Wall fell, and there is no shortage of visions for the new order of things:

In tomorrow’s economy, distance will cost money. Globalization was the product of cheap energy. Deglobalization is the economic face of triple-digit oil prices. The whole notion of sourcing supply from halfway around the world to save on labor costs will no longer make any commercial sense. From making our own steel to building our own furniture to growing our own food, the soaring cost of oil-fired transport will bring production back home to the local markets it once served.

To some extent, I agree. But the dearest commodity will not be oil. It will be, already is, trust.

Globalization was the product of distance-trust. Homogeneous central business districts popped up in the darnedest places, a familiar landscape used to greet ambitious cosmopolites. Localization has little to do with steep increases in energy costs:

Now, supermarket chains are paying attention to Eataly, which Atlantic magazine called "The Supermarket of the Future." Coop Italia, a large Italian co-operative supermarket chain, took a minority stake in Eataly in a bet the concept has strong growth potential.

Eataly hopes to turn its niche into big business, building on consumer demands for high quality and more locally produced foods. Eataly Torino, for example, gets 90 per cent of its products from Italy, and about half from the Piemonte region around Torino.

Torino is a model of sustainable globalization, its brand popping up in cities such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit. The attraction of slow food isn't inexpensive prices thanks to low transportation overhead. The issue is the opacity of our global supply chain of food:

First in a list of four main risk factors was "increasing demand for animal protein," which is a way of saying that demand for meat, eggs, and dairy is a "primary factor" influencing emerging zoonotic diseases. This demand for animal products, the report continues, leads to "changes in farming practices." Lest we have any confusion about the "changes" that are relevant, poultry factory farms are singled out.

Similar conclusions were reached by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, which brought together industry experts and experts from the WHO, OIE and USDA. Their 2005 report argued that a major impact of factory farming is "the rapid selection and amplification of pathogens that arise from a virulent ancestor (frequently by subtle mutation), thus there is increasing risk for disease entrance and/or dissemination."

Breeding genetically uniform and sickness-prone birds in the overcrowded, stressful, feces-infested and artificially lit conditions of factory farms promotes the growth and mutation of pathogens. The "cost of increased efficiency," the report concludes, is increased global risk for diseases. Our choice is simple: cheap chicken or our health.

We don't want cheap, non-gasoline dependent chicken. We want chicken we can trust. That's the new paradigm of globalization, brought to you by Eataly. (Coming soon to a Torino near you.)

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