Globalization of Knowledge, Localization of Production: Driving a Wedge between Information and Materials to Promote Sustainability
Outline: Globalization is underpinned by mobility. In a sustainability context though, it is important to distinguish between the movement of physical or material objects and virtual or informational products. The principal impacts of transporting physical goods and people are environmental, while global information flows have predominantly social and cultural ramifications. Environmental sustainability requires physical mobility to be constrained. Driving a wedge between the movement of materials and information creates an incentive structure to localize the production and transaction of physical goods based on a globalized knowledge base. Social and cultural sustainability can benefit by maintaining the sharing of ideas, best practices, knowledge, processes, and traditions, but by applying this information to diverse local physical circumstances. Current trends already evidence a decoupling of the information-based and material-based components of production. Should physical transport rise significantly in cost, material-based components of production would seek out not just cheap factor inputs but also local markets, providing employment and satisfying local demand, and allowing products to be tailored to local circumstances, preferences, traditions, and geographies. To mitigate risks of homogenization from indiscriminate application of globalized technologies and knowledge, strong forms of local control, ownership, governance, and accountability are required.
Keywords: Globalization, Environmental Costs of Transport, Local Production and Markets, Global Information Economy, Sustainability
Researcher, Sustainable Development Research Initiative