Globalization of Knowledge, Localization of Production: Driving a Wedge between Information and Materials to Promote Sustainability

Charlie Wilson
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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
Stream: Environmental Sustainability
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A Strategy for Sustainable Mobility

Charlie Wilson

Researcher, Sustainable Development Research Initiative
Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia


I am currently a researcher (as part of a PhD programme) at the University of British Columbia, focusing on sustainable energy issues. I have recently completed a project using gaming tools to stimulate public understanding of sustainable futures and the trajectories that are needed to reach them. I am a UK citizen, and prior to coming to Canada in 2003, I worked in the private sector in renewable energy financing and project development, and with or for the government in climate change policy. Pursuit of a sustainble future has motivated by career path to-date.

Ref: S06P0141