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The Globalization Volcano - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A few weeks ago, it did not occur to anybody that rising smoke from a volcano in the most northern part of the earth could affect the people and economies of countries all over the world in a situation that is worse for the air travel industry than after the 9/11 attacks when transatlantic flights were stopped for a number of days.

But nature, which holds many surprises in store for mankind, is testing people to see how they deal [with the situation]. In the case of the Icelandic volcano, which caused a suspension of flights to and from European countries, the biggest economic groups in the world are beginning to think about the effects of the volcano on the anticipated [economic] growth following the financial collapse and the recession, and on trade activity from and to the continent and the global tourism industry if volcanic activity continues and the volcanic ash floods European airspace for a long period of time.

Natural disasters on such a large scale are not unknown to humankind and are not unprecedented as earthquakes, tsunamis and floods caused major losses in terms of lives and material possessions. Although the Icelandic volcano has not caused any deaths, it has harmed the concept of globalization and interdependence, which has become a fact and a foundation upon which the world built ties, economies and diplomacy over recent decades.

In the 21st Century, the [countries of the] world became more reliant upon one another whether [in the fields of] trade, media, communications, information, capital movement, and air travel, which has become a fundamental part of human movement.

There are many critics of globalization who see it as evil and harmful for ideological reasons. However, in reality they cannot live without it, as the lack of all these methods and tools would take the world back to the 19th Century and reduce the level of economic activity significantly, which would mean job losses and [decreases in] luxuries and income. They also deny the fact that interdependence has existed since the beginning of history in some way or another through tradesmen and convoys that used to follow the Silk Road or journeys by ship between East and West.

Reading reports on the suspension of flights and the stories of stranded passengers demonstrates the extent of interdependence in the world today. Thousands of workers in Kenya who pack up fresh vegetables and fruits to be transported to Europe everyday by plane to be stacked on supermarket shelves for consumers are claiming that the clouds of the volcanic ash have disappeared so that they do not lose their jobs whilst Kenya’s economy is losing millions of dollars everyday because of that. In tourist resorts in the Middle Eastern countries whose economies rely on the tourist industry, which in turn millions of people rely upon for their livelihood, they are counting the days until flights resume as normal and waves of tourists return. The same goes for Asian countries that export some of their products to European markets by air or vice-versa. Basically, we live in a world of interdependence and it is not possible to go back to anything else.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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