The Green Scene

The Change we hope to see for the U.S.

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelb21 on December 13, 2008

President-Elect Barack Obama has chosen Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu as his Secretary of Energy. So what does it mean to be the United States Energy Secretary? (more…)

Posted in Uncategorized by Teresa on December 11, 2008

Nike is a brand that in modern times represents both sides of globalization. While they seek to engage in positive corporate behavior, their participation in the global economy has often shown otherwise.

As Pieta Rivoli of “Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy” wrote, “problems arise not with the market but with the suppression of the market.” Similarly with the Nike brand, manufacturers and importers with tax breaks are able to do better if they avoid the risks and competition of global trade. But this means that countries are forced to reduce prices to compete.

Because of the escalating interconnectivity of the global economy Nike began outsourcing shoe production to lower-cost Japanese producers. By thrusting the burden of production onto their contractors, who find ways to make production happen as cheaply as possible, companies like Nike try to escape the blame for outsourced labor and the low wages and poor working conditions that come with it. This includes everything from the formation of unions being illegal to mandatory overtime hours to nonexistent job security — for example, as Nike’s presence in Indoneisa increased, its plants exploited the workers, not even paying minimum wage and overworking them.

Later, due to harsh criticism by NGOs, Nike formed a Code of Conduct that its suppliers were responsible for enforcing — a first step toward fair labor policies. Now, they must also have inspections with Nike staff to ensure these are being enforced. Companies like Nike raise the question of whether the symbol and brand that is created within America — of sportsmanship, for example, is the same representation we find in the countries that are actually manufacturing the products.

Nike’s global impact can be translated in two of its definitions: universalization and westernization. The question remains of whether U.S. companies are actually benefiting countries by our apparent modernization, or if our standards being placed onto other countries damages their economies.

Coca Cola Culture

Posted in Uncategorized by Teresa on December 9, 2008

Coca Cola is a symbol of the United States worldwide. It represents freedom, refreshment on a hot summer day, choice, and more.

Behind the brand, however, Coca Cola has a history of poor environmentalism and violation of business practices such as animal testing. Like the branding behind water bottles that we explored, people drink Coca Cola for the brand, not for the taste. The subconscious marketing message strongly affects our perceptions of taste, even.

Coke is closing in on free trade, and perhaps most fits into the “universalization” definition of globalization as defined by Mark K. Smith — we have in effect spread this brand, the drink, and the experience to all corners of the world. Like the branding of water bottles as a certain type of democratized choice, Coca Cola also becomes brand content that, by choosing, we can confirm our own identities.Another issue that often arises is the way Coca Cola attempted to consume the public sector by leveraging public institutions as investment opportunities, using corporate globalization at the expense of the health of our citizen

Even though we often hear about Coca Cola’s poor practices and the consumer backlash that comes with it, has that really stopped us from drinking the nation’s favorite soda?

Chicken of the Many Seas

Posted in Uncategorized by Teresa on December 9, 2008

Prior to the 1980s, US fishers were located primarily in the Eastern Pacific where tuna and dolphins swim together. During this time, over 400,000 dolphins were killed in the US tuna hunt.

In an interesting way, this ties into our study of “nature on display.” It was only after a documentary was filmed documenting the killings of dolphins that fishing in these areas was banned. VP of Heinz said that “Tuna is a fun food — if it’s associated with harassment and killing of a noble creature like the dolphin, that’s not right.” This demonstrates the value of brand image to the consumer. It wasn’t about whether the dolphins were killed; it was about whether consumers would still see tuna as a fun food.

Later on, Mexico grew to have the largest tuna fleet in the world and exports to Europe and Japan. However, US ban over Mexico for producing dolphin-destroying tuna slowed their profits. How does tuna travel across the world today? Now, the tuna from your canned Chicken of the Sea comes from the South Pacific most frequently. It is canned, labeled, and distributed at different locations.

Globalization of the tuna industry grew in 1990s, when firms from Asia bought out the major companies, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea — even though today’s tuna comes from the South Pacific, US and major Asian countries maintain a monopoly over the fish supply. Like my original post about globalization suggests, globalization at times ends up being a race for the worse due to differing regulations across the global economies.

The Paradox of Globalization

Posted in Uncategorized by Teresa on December 9, 2008

As we read in Week 1’s “What is Globalization?” we can define globalization as the integration of economic, political, and cultural systems. The Americanization of world affairs. A force for economic growth and prosperity. Tens of thousands of foreign investors from Taiwan, HK, South Korea, Japan, and the US are building production facilities of increasing complexity and capacity, and so it seems as if we are indeed pushing for industrialization, but in doing so, there is the development of big-box retailers like Wal-Mart, which starts to squeeze labor costs in the U.S. and abroad. At what cost is industrialism paving its path? The wage for a Wal-Mart factory worker in Shenzhen, China, is 25 cents an hour, compared to the $13 in Chicago. It is undeniable that corporations like Wal-Mart have made a global supply chain and have really revolutionized industrialism—4% of the growth of the U.S. economy between 1995 and 1999 was credited to Wal-Mart alone. The company has also increased the nation’s overall productivity since it makes other competitors try and keep up. Because they bully smaller retailers and reduce the quality of life for those who have to experience the low wages and horrible factory conditions as a result of their anything-goes, no holds barred approach—big companies like Wal-Mart epitomize just as much a regression as a progression in world society.

Even though these manufacturers run under the impression of helping to boost third-world economies and provide jobs in places in which there were none to begin with, how much of the impact left on these countries is actually positive? The powerful and supposedly law-abiding multinational corporations are going back to the traditional exploitation patterns—even as we are increasingly globalized, competition between manufacturers to drive down prices leaves the workers with the short end of the stick, making us wonder if and how industrialization has really improved the world market for the better.

In my next few posts, I’ll be exploring brands and products through a global lens. As Thomas Friedman says, the disappearance of boundaries on all levels—between politics, culture, technology, finance, national security, and ecology means that while our connection to the rest of the world expands, the world is shrinking “from a size ‘medium’ to a size ‘small.’” I will argue that globalization is representative of a world of paradox in that despite its intent to push the world forward both socially and economically, the steps taken in the development of globalization instead create competition and obstacles that in actuality hinder our overall progression. To support my thesis, I will examine the contradiction in the pretense of globalization’s goals for communication enhancement, international integration, and industrialization, when juxtaposed with the reality of our world situation—much of which is left unseen to those who only experience or acknowledge the progressive face of globalization. How do we make sure our fair trade and equal rights are not lost?