Editor's Note

Volume (Issue): Vol.3 No.1
Peer-reviewed Article

Nation-states founded in Europe during the eighteenth century formed their own economies, political institutions, and societies. Although the interdependence between states deepened through trade, in the twentieth century these states still basically functioned as distinct economic, political, and social units. In the latter half of twentieth century, the global economy expanded to involve developing countries that had gained independence, further reinforcing the mutually dependent relationships between economies. Moreover, the end of the bipolar political structure following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s resulted in the expansion of the market economy on a global scale, across national boundaries. Globalization often means the expansion of market mechanisms, both internationally and domestically—in the style of the economic superpower, the United States. It also means that the American-style rule of law is becoming a dominant political principle in many countries.

Under economic globalization, every state, whether an advanced or developing country, is compelled to seek freedom of cross-border investment, freedom of trade, the easing of domestic regulations to ensure this freedom, and a more transparent legal system. The pro-globalization theorists claim that through the creation of domestically and internationally unrestricted markets, developing countries can expand their economic activities, increase national income, and eradicate poverty. On the other hand, doubts are being raised: an unrestricted economy may bring about a situation in which the weak are victims of the strong, thus increasing the disparity in wealth, domestically and internationally. Further, there remains the deep-rooted criticism, as demonstrated by the 1987 Asian monetary crisis, that highly fluid international financial flows can damage economies in developing countries, and that free trade may only benefit advanced countries that import cheap raw materials from developing countries and export expensive industrial goods. Thus, debates continue about whether globalization will ensure sustainable development, including the environment, in developing countries or damage regional societies, and deny cultural diversity in developing countries.

As a result of discussions at the World Trade Organization ministerial conference about free trade, the Doha Declaration was issued in November 2001, aiming for reconciliation between trade and environment issues. Regarding international investment, the International Conference on Financing for Development, held in Monterrey in March 2002, declared commitments for the sustainable development of developing countries. Despite these outcomes, the arguments regarding globalization are still fierce. In the fourth World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) preparatory committee meeting held in Bali this May, the conflict of opinions between advanced and developing countries regarding globalization were not resolved, and much of the bracketed text was left in the proposed implementation papers, with the hopes that agreement could be reached at the WSSD.

Under such a situation, the International Review for Environmental Strategies requested various specialists to provide papers on how to evaluate globalization for sustainable development, from different points of view. It is hoped that these papers will contribute to future discussions.

This issue of IRES includes original and policy-oriented papers submitted from specialists in different areas of research. The first contribution, by John Byrne and Leigh Glover from the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Delaware, examines the progress of globalization and sustainable development since UNCED, finding they are not the polar opposites frequently depicted; rather, both share a common emphasis on development and efficiency as tools of sustainability. But the convergence of the two has placed both in opposition to ecological justice. Kader Asmal, South African Minister of Education and former chairperson of the World Commission on Dams offers up his experience and thoughts on “globalization from below,” an approach he suggests for consideration at the WSSD by which decision-makers can nationalise the global debate and make it pay local dividends—a way of harnessing inevitable forces within nations in order to avoid costs and maximise benefits. Mark Halle, Director of Trade and Investment from the International Institute for Sustainable Development, explores how a decade of globalization has changed the premises for sustainable development, examines some of the ways globalization has been affected, and reflects on whether the WSSD can help harness the energy of globalization to attain sustainable development. Peter Newell from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex finds that, despite two decades of intense institutional activity, many environmental problems show evidence of getting worse, and that the actions of major institutions, in an ongoing “dialogue of the deaf,” run counter to and often undermine the effectiveness of governments and other UN agencies in promoting models of development that are equitable, just, and environmentally sustainable. Newell points out that policies driven by the principles of subsidiarity, coherence, and inclusivity are more likely to provide the flexible, integrated, and embedded responses needed. Authors Joke Waller-Hunter and Tom Jones of the OECD Environment Directorate in France discuss using international trade and capital flows to contribute to long-term economic growth and development, providing a solid foundation for achieving environmental and social goals, and suggest concrete steps for reconciling the trade and investment elements of the global economy with the broader goal of sustainable development.

In a dialogue between Lester R. Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, and Akio Morishima of IGES, Brown calls for a paradigm shift from the fossil fuel economy to the solar/hydrogen economy—the eco-economy—and stresses the importance of seeing the economy as part of the ecosystem. In his submitted contribution, Brown presents ideas on restructuring the economy for sustainable development before environmental deterioration leads to long-term economic decline. In a world where the market often fails to tell the ecological truth, transforming our environmentally destructive economy into one that can sustain progress depends on a Copernican shift in our economic mindset.

Researcher Alexandra Blanke of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics examines
ecological tax reform (ETR) and develops a positive tax approach, using Germany’s successfully implemented ETR as a case study, in which taxation is depicted as the result of a collective decisionmaking process within a democracy, in order to identify the politico-economic determinants of an ecologically-oriented tax policy. In the article by Md. Salequzzaman, from the Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy (ISTP) at Murdoch University in Australia and the Environmental Science Discipline at Khulna University in Bangladesh, and Peter Newman, a professor at ISTP, the authors examine the prospects of introducing tidal energy projects into an already damaged environment, and assesses the potential to help improve the sustainability of coastal areas in Bangladesh through integration of resources into environmental rehabilitation, economic improvement, electricity generation, diversification of production, and other social gains to communities. A research note by Chinese academics Wang Shijie, Dianfa Zhang, and Li Ruiling draws attention to rocky desertification, the main form of land desertification in the karst mountain areas of southwest China, which is accelerating and has become one of the most serious environmental, social, and economic problems facing the region. They offer recommendations to protect and restore the degraded rural ecological environment.

In the current development category, a paper by Yearn Hong Choi, a professor at the Graduate School of Urban Sciences at the University of Seoul, Korea, provides an overview of the present state of environmental cooperation at the institutional level in Northeast Asia, and discusses ways in which it can be improved in order to develop successful strategies for socially just and ecologically sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific and all regions. Another paper, by Bishnu B. Bhandari, with IGES’s Environmental Education Project, and Osamu Abe, from the Graduate School of Intercultural Communications at Rikkyo University in Japan and project leader of the Environmental Education Project, outlines how the idea of environmental education has come into use, describes efforts under way in the Asia-Pacific region in the educational field, and recommends a number of actions to strengthen the capacity of stakeholders, develop partnerships, review curricula and programs, improve governance, and mobilize resources. Kamal Gueye, with IGES’s Long-term Perspectives and Policy Integration Project looks at the trends and emerging policy approaches in the Asia-Pacific for financing sustainable development, and finds that the financing mechanisms envisaged in Agenda 21 have not substantially reduced poverty or stopped environmental degradation. The author makes recommendations for addressing structural issues that would enable developing countries to mobilize additional resources through trade and private investment, rather than just relying on traditional North-South resource flows. Naoki Matsuo, with IGES’s Climate Policy Project, deals with the U.S.’s Global Climate Change initiatives proposed by the Bush Administration in February 2002, finding inherent theoretical inconsistencies and the question of feasibility unanswered, and points out that what is important now is to make the goal and result of this new initiative effective, and to look for possible links between the U.S. initiatives and the Kyoto Protocol.

In the book review section, Takashi Matsumura reviews Globalization and Environmental Reform: The Ecological Modernization of the Global Economy, which overviews and discusses the current debate on globalization and its environmental implications. Michinori Kabuto reviews the book Global Environmental Risk, which takes on the challenge of examining methods for assessing the risks associated with systemic and cumulative environmental changes generated by human activities at the global level. Hisato Okamoto reviews Human Ecology: Basic Concepts for Sustainable Development, and introduces the concepts needed to understand the sustainability of human society and ecosystems on the earth. Tongroj Onchan reviews Local Control of Land and Forests: Cultural Dimensions of Resource Management in Northern Thailand, a collection of seven articles that focus on the cultural dimensions of resource management, and contributes to a better understanding of how and why community culture and rights are important for improving natural resource management. User’s Guide to Forest Education—Not Just for Foresters, reviewed by Ryo Kohsaka, is a resource tool complete with games and compact scientific explanations for teachers, foresters, and others to enrich the educational experience of visitors to the forest, especially children. Axel Michaelowa reviews and dissects Acquittal for CO2 by climate change skeptic Wolfgang Thüne.

In the last section, Notes from Asia, research developments published in languages other than English and therefore difficult for researchers from other countries to access, are selected and summarized by qualified experts. This issue introduces papers from Korea and Japan.