The world no longer consists of far-off lands about which we know little. As we move into the twenty-first century, our world is clearly becoming more of an interconnected whole than simply the sum of our parts. As this sense of "one world" strengthens, so does the understanding that what is happening in one geographic realm is inextricably related to what is happening in others. It is no longer possible to carry out a social, political, economic, cultural or environmental activity independently and at one particular scale but not at others. Hence, everyday occurrences in 'far-flung regions' encompass a myriad of issues and affect local residents and world inhabitants alike.
Local events historically dismissed as insignificant beyond their immediate consequences are now being seen as contributions to and consequences of a global-local nexus. For example, the over-exploitation of resources in the Amazon is not simply a local, geoenvironmental problem of pollution and damage to biota. Instead, it encompasses many other local issues, such as geoeconomic problems of decreased soil fertility, geosocial issues resulting from migrations of local residents now forced in search of better conditions, geopolitical issues of the community's lack of political might, and geocultural consequences such as the formation of social movements in defense of land rights. Moreover, this exploitation does not exist in isolation, but is related to many global issues. Given the global interconnections within environmental systems, if some states fail to implement environmental protection, eventually all states will be harmed. This notion that 'their problem is our problem' illustrates the geopolitical need for international governing bodies to regulate environmental issues. Yet governments are often unwilling to participate, fearing restrictions may sacrifice local economic advantage. Clearly, issues and scales beyond the immediate local ,environmental problems are involved.
Conversely, events at the international level can also have significant global implications beyond their intended realms and scales. For example, while the US, EU and Japan created GATT, sub-Saharan Africa was the region most negatively impacted by the provisions. Additionally, NAFTA, created to improve Mexico's international economic position, has been called a "death sentence" for the country's poor, widening already huge economic disparities. And while the term global implies worldwide universality, the reality is that globalization is often quite uneven. In the communications revolution, the majority of humanity is 'out of the loop." Likewise, many Asian countries are achieving rapid industrialization due to direct foreign investment, yet sub-Saharan Africa received so little investment as to almost slide off the economic map during the 1980s.
Clearly, the world of today is a complex mix of individual events and their
accompanying multiple effects, all of which are interconnected and important
in creating today's world. It is therefore only through studying
the interrelations of these geographies of global change that we will better
understand this 'new' world in which we live.
*This paper was prepared for a California State University Fullerton Graduate Seminar.