Globalization, Food, and Piracy

A recent post by Mother Jones asked Somali Pirates=Environmental Avengers? The roots of these modern-day pirates, the article suggests, may lie in the shocking levels of pollution endured by Somali coast-dwellers. Not only is European pollution ending up on shore, but European ships are looting the area of its seafood, leading to malnutrition among those who depended upon the seas for their livelihoods.

Of course, there is a lot of chaos in Somalia, and one could make the case for Western antecedents for much of it. The post reminded me of two things that have been on my mind: 1) That developing nations are shielded from feeling the burn that our environmental short-sidedness causes people in other parts of the world and 2) That globalization is a tricky thing. According to the New York Times

Some 50 percent of the fish sold in the European Union originates in developing nations, and much of it is laundered like contraband, caught and shipped illegally beyond the limits of government quotas or treaties.

The increased global demand for seafood affects people in coastal areas who have traditionally depended upon fish for food and trade. The United Nations Environment Program Division of Early Warning and Assessment says,

In many areas, particularly around the Philippines and Indonesia, fish are mostly exported causing local fish consumption to decline by a third. This has contributed to the malnutrition of many children. In coastal communities, alternative livelihoods are rarely available. Injuries and deaths from blast fishing and diving are common. Conflicts provoked as a result of declining fish stocks are frequent among local fishing groups, and with foreign fishers.

Globalization doesn't have to be a bad thing. Some have called fair trade a way of managing globalization, or an alternative model for globalization because it involves a big-picture look at the way international trade affects local populations. 

For an explanation of food policy, poverty, and globalization, see the International Food Policy Research Institute, “Shaping Globalization for Poverty Alleviation and Food Security.”

Tags: Africa, Food, Piracy, Policy, Scarcity, Shortage, Somalia

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