Approximately 335 million years ago, the continents of the world assembled into a larger super-continent called Pangaea. During this time, the Earth was not divided by either natural constructs like oceans, or artificial constructions like borders.
Much has changed over the ensuing eras. Over several hundred millions of years, the world’s landmasses split apart by way of continental drift. Approximately 315,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens came onto the scene. Beginning as small tribes of hunters and gatherers, humanity eventually began settle down and organize into small communities. Those communities organized into kingdoms and empires, which eventually turned into versions of the modern nation-states the dominate the international stage today. The identities, missions and borders of these nation-states are constantly in flux, but one trend that has been becoming increasingly evident over the last half-century is that the human race as a whole is becoming increasingly more connected with one another, regardless of oceans and national borders.
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Thomas Friedman penned the groundbreaking book: “The World is Flat” in 2005. His work was not an ode to the fringe “Flat Earth” movement perpetuated by celebrities like rapper B.o.B., but instead was an analysis of the impact of globalization on the world economy since the fall of the Berlin Wall. He specifically relates the ways in which the advent of the internet, global outsourcing of labor and manufacturing, and digital communication, has forever changed the way in which the global economy operates. It is virtually impossible for any developed country to engage in economic isolationism or large-scale trade protectionism, despite the rhetoric from far-right politicians in the U.S. and Europe claiming otherwise. Globalization is not only in the national interests of the United States, but it is simply an inevitable reality of increased connectivity.
With that said, globalization left unchecked can lead to economic and environmental exploitation of developing countries and widespread human rights violations. After all, Capitalism as a system has never been known for being inherently compassionate. For example, China saw rapid economic growth from the 1980s and onward by becoming a low-cost manufacturing hub. However, this development came at the expense of worker rights and the environment: China currently leads the world in Greenhouse Gas Emissions by a large margin.
Since there are very few compulsory global trade, banking, and environmental regulations, globalization tends to drive companies to invest in areas with less regulations rather than more. This has led to worker exploitation, widespread income inequality, and authoritarian government repression of human rights. Saudi Arabia’s strong economic growth as a result of it’s oil exports has been marked by authoritarian repression and widespread opposition to democracy. It has led to communities being displaced from their homes, losing access to clean drinking water, and not having access to adequate sewage systems. It can also wipe out local industry. For example, globalization of the agriculture trade in Haiti in the 1980s and 1990s led to an increase in imported rice, which almost completely wiped out domestic rice production. Afterwards, import prices rose, leading to even more global poverty in an already impoverished state.
This is where the international development and aid community comes in. The work done by our industry increases access to infrastructure, food, clean drinking water, and education in developing countries. It spreads democratic values and discourages violent extremism. It provides relief to victims of war and natural disasters. It promotes the internal growth of private enterprise in developing countries. It promotes reproductive health and decreased spread of deadly diseases like HIV.
The Pangaea First blog has four main aims:
- Tackle the toxic “America First” ideology that has recently permeated far-right politics in the United States. Certain forces in our government (including the current POTUS) continually echo the sentiments that when the United States is engaged in trade deals or international agreements with foreign countries, we are by definition receiving a raw deal. They further like to make the argument that when American government agencies or nonprofits provide aid or development efforts to development countries, we are somehow putting the interests of other countries before the United States. This could not be further from the truth: the United States government does not engage in international aid simply from the goodness of its heart. It is done largely to maintain complex international relationships that serve the economic and social interests of the United States. This blog advocates for a form of “compassionate globalization” that works to increase the economic prosperity of both developing countries and the United States while working to minimize the negative effects highlighted above.
- Highlight some of the great work being done by international aid workers and organizations. This blog will emphasize the impact of work done by international aid organizations around the world, with an focus both on the direct beneficiaries of the aid as well as how America benefits from the programs.
- Discuss transparency and visibility in the international aid sector. As in the nonprofit sector as a whole, much concern is voiced by the public about how their donations or tax dollars are used in order to support the stated goals of aid organizations. This blog will discuss ways in which the public can research the impact of the organizations they support, as well as new and unique trends that organizations are following to increase their own transparency.
- Promote global citizenship: the fact of the matter is that borders are artificial boundaries. When the sanctity of borders are elevated to a higher level than even basic human rights, it reflects a major deficiency in our society. It reflects the willingness to let children starve and suffer as long as they do not live within our borders. It reflects the willingness to force families to stay in war zones where every day is a constant lottery to stay alive. It reflects the willingness to allow other societies to descend into extremism because they do not have access to good education or infrastructure. This is a mindset that needs to be reversed. We need to begin looking at and treating people as “human beings” rather than “others.”
The name Pangaea First is meant to evoke international unity. Even though we are divided by oceans and borders, the world is arguably the most interconnected it has ever been. We should seek to embrace this inter-connectedness rather than shun it.