The aim of this assignment is to evaluate the hyper-globalist perspective on globalization using examples from the obesity. The first part of the assignment will define globalization and then briefly summarise what the hyper-globalist perspective says on globalization. The second part of the assignment will critically analyse the hyper-globalist perspective on globalization with reference to obesity and compare it to what other perspectives say about globalization. Several related cases from newspapers and journals will be used to make points as well as statistics as evidence to support the arguments and then finally incorporating all the information to make a conclusion.
Globalization is defined “as a process or set of processes which embodies a transformation in spatial organization of social relations and transactions, assessed in terms of their extensity, intensity, velocity and impact, generating transcontinental or interregional flows of networks of activity, interaction and the exercise of power,” (Held, 1999 pp. 16). However, there are several other definitions of globalization because it believed to be difficult to define for some reason (Zadja and Rust, 2009). In 1998 alone, globalization had 3000 definitions (Zadja et al, 2008).
There are different approaches to globalization and these are globalist (optimist or pessimist), inter-nationalist and transformationalist, however the author will stick to the optimistic-globalist approach on obesity. Optimistic globalist also known as the hyper-globalist approach welcomes the idea of globalisation but focuses on the potential of interconnections and stretched social relations to bring people together, improve the quality of everybody’s lives, ‘global village’ promoting the sharing of cultures and intermingling of peoples’ across the world in cities and towns, so that we are all become ‘world citizens’ through global communication, travel and work flows. They admit that there are global problems too, but believe new technologies and global ideas can reduce the threat of global pollution. They say that global structures can do a better job at tackling big economic and social problems than nations and countries (Stiglitz, 2008). Obesity can be defined as having a body weight more than 20 per cent greater than recommended for the appropriate height and an individual can be at risk from several serious illnesses including Diabetics and Heart Disease (Nice Guidelines, 2009). World Health Organisation (2003) defines it as the presence of high levels of stored body fat.
From the globalist perspective, globalization potential benefits are ‘to improve the quality of everybody’s lives’. This is not so on the subject of obesity because statistics show that between 1988 and 1999, percentage of total energy intake from fat increased from 23.5% to 30.3% and between 1984 and 1998, purchases of refined carbohydrates increased by 37.2% (Rivera et al, 2002; Rivera et al, 2004;). Although the absolute increases of fat were higher in the wealthier north and Mexico City (30-32%), the poorer southern region also experienced a significant increase (22%). At the same time, trends in obesity and diabetes are reaching “epidemic” proportions. Overweight/obesity increased 78% between 1988 and 1998, from 33% to 59% (Rivera, 2002). Obesity is now quite high in some poor rural communities (Sanchez-Castillo, 2001): the greatest relative changes occurred in the poorer southern region (81%) compared to the wealthier north (46%). More recent figures estimated overweight/obesity at 62.5% in 2004. While the obese clearly consume sufficient energy, the same cannot be said of micronutrients: women who are underweight, normal weight or overweight/obese are equally likely to suffer from anaemia (Eckhardt et al, 2005). Obesity is also giving rise to an epidemic of diabetes which is rising fastest in the poor regions (Jimenez-Cruz et al, 2002). Over 8% of Mexicans now have diabetes, which the WHO estimates costs the country US$15 billion a year (Barcelo et al, 2003; Martorell, 2005). In 2001 Obesity was estimated to impact about 1 billion people in the world (WHO, 2002) and in 2010, it was still viewed as a global epidemic with its prevalence increasing in both developed and developing countries (Meetoo, 2010). Recently, globalization has been applauded for increasing people’s wealth but also increasing their waists lines (www.hsph.harvard.edu). An estimated 500 million adults worldwide are obese and 1.5 billion are overweight or obese (Finucane, 2011) and if recent trends continue unabated, nearly 60 per cent of the world’s population, 3.3 billion people could be overweight (2.2 billion) or obese (1.1 billion) by 2030 (Kelly et al, 2008; Popkin 2006).
It is evident that globalization has created a toxic environment (Brownell, 1994; Battle and Brownell, 1997). The term ‘toxic’ refers to the unprecedented exposure to energy-dense, heavily advertised, inexpensive and highly accessible food, and this, when combined with a sedentary lifestyle, results in obesity (Gortmaker et al, 1996). Examples of the toxic environment include fast-food restaurants (Harnack et al, 2000; Nielsen et al, 2002), large portion sizes (Harnack et al, 2000; Smiciklas-Wright et al, 2003),fast-food franchises, buffet restaurants, minimarkets in petrol filling stations (Foreyt and Goodrick, 1995) and the use of microwave ovens to cook relatively cheap prepared meals with high fat and caloric content (Mintz, 1996).
From the above statistics it shows that hyper-globalists are not wrong to say globalisation ‘improves the quality of everybody’s lives’. Internationalists agree to this statement by saying “there have been increases in global flows of money and trade around the world,” (Hirst & Thompson, 1999).
It has improved people’s lives to some extent by increasing their wealth but as Gotmaker et al, (1996) says it has created a world of cheap food, therefore increasing people’s waist lines. Statistics still show that obesity is on the rise therefore the statement that globalisation improves the health of people’s lives is not exactly true. Transformationalists suggest that globalization ‘is real, important and should not be underestimated’ (Held and McGrew, 2003), this is somehow true because if the statistics ate showing that obesity is a global epidemic, then it means the effects of globalization cannot be underestimated. The fact that there is cheap fast food everywhere around the globe according to Gotmaker, then it means globalization is real and very important and should not be underestimated because the cheap fast food it created is causing obesity around the globe.
Pessimistic globalists believe that ‘there are many groups and individuals who are the victims of globalization, such as women, unskilled manual labourers, and local tribal people, amongst many others’ Bauman, 1998. This seems to be true according to (Jimenez-Cruz et al, 2002) who says obesity has given rise to an epidemic of diabetes which is rising fastest in the poor regions. Pessimistic globalists are right to say some regions are ‘victims of globalization’ because the poor regions mentioned by Jiminez-Cruz et al (2002) are affected by globalization and therefore; their health is not being improved but being made worse, which goes against the statement of hyper-globalists of ‘globalisation improves the health of people’s lives’.
Transformationalists suggest that the impacts of globalization are ‘uneven and distinctive’. This is true when looking at the statement by Finucane, (2011) who calculated an estimated 500 million adults worldwide are obese and 1.5 billion are overweight or obese. One could argue and say 500 million is a distinctive number of people living with obesity and even the 1.5 billion people who are overweight. The unevenness of globalization is what has been already discussed in the paragraph above whereby poor regions are victims.
It seems hyper-globalists have exaggerated the goodness of globalization by saying ‘new technologies and global ideas can reduce the threat of global pollution’. Looking at microwaves (new technology) they have been accused of making life easy for people to heat ready- made high calorie food causing obesity, diabetes and hypertension as mentioned above. They also said ‘global structures can do a better job at tackling big economic and social problems than nations and countries’. This statement is difficult to digest because obesity (health hazard) is on the rise which shows that globalisation has not done a better job at tackling this problem. To summarise, transformationalists are right to say they ‘want new and progressive structures to evolve at the global level that are not present now’. New and progressive structure that may deal with obesity will be ideal because obesity will not just end as obesity but will bring a lot of complications in peoples’ lives such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension which is not healthy. Internationalists support transformationalists by saying that the global structures can be challenged to do a better job in tackling problems like pollution, trafficking and poverty, amongst others (obesity).
In conclusion, globalization has improved the quality of life for many people in the developing world by increasing their wealth; however, it has also increased access to cheap, unhealthy foods and generated more sedentary, urban lifestyles. From a public health perspective, the combination of these changes is creating a “perfect storm”, a catastrophic and costly rise in obesity and obesity-related diseases in countries that, at the same time, are still struggling with malnutrition and high rates of infectious diseases.
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