The Global Village
January 2006
In 1962, Canadian Marshall McLuhan originated the expression “global village” to describe the expanding use of electronic media and their increasing influence on the planet as a whole. We’ve gone beyond the image. Today, global commerce, company outsourcing, migration, all lead to shrinking the planet’s boundaries and moving men and women, from here and elsewhere, towards a shared destiny if not a planetary commune. Just recently, the avian flu affair gave us all somewhat of a scare. This disease could cross the species’ barrier and spread to us. That’s what a global village is all about. From now on, we can no longer allow ourselves to ignore the fate of other people: we’re all related, more than yesterday and less than tomorrow, brothers and sisters in spite of ourselves inside an amazing network being woven together tighter and tighter.

If the avian flu truly represents a threat to public health, it also serves to reveal a more fundamental symptom. A latent problem, which is always, and very skilfully, being pushed aside like dust under the carpet: poverty. Like a cul-de-sac for entire nations. Poverty, which the United Nations Programme’s Human Development Report exposes with frightening detail. When poverty hits so hard that minimum sanitary conditions cannot be guaranteed and, what’s more, there is no access to clean water or health services, when minimum quantities of food critical to building the least amount of bodily strength isn’t available, then there are a lot of things for which we aren’t answerable. We would be well-advised to remember this and offer some compassion, because as long as poverty is part of the landscape, we’re all condemned to share its many perils: disease, violence, environmental degradation, political instability and everything else that goes along with it.

However, the business community recognizes that healthy risk management allows for certain costs to be reduced, for goodwill value to increase and to ensure its longevity. But until now, the only thing that seems to worry our governments in this new global environment, is the end-of-year trade balance. That’s fine, but it’s definitely not enough. I have the impression that it’s going to take a lot of lobbying on the part of the people if we want globalization to be this extraordinary opportunity to open ourselves to other cultures and to initiate large-scale projects that would make us all proud.

Thankfully, the leaders of industrialized countries are starting to open themselves up to other dimensions of the global village. In fact, they don’t have a choice but to take cognizance of demonstrations that pressure groups are making louder and louder, and pay a little more attention to the passionate messages being expressed by those we refer to as altermondialistes. These militants aren’t against globalization – they want it differently. They want a global development. Development that takes into account social and environmental factors. Intelligent development that can negotiate the fight against poverty and environmental protection. More and more people are joining their ranks. Obviously.

As for myself, I must say that we need to increase the number of cooperatives in the global village. Cooperatives are known for ensuring wealth distribution. To put it simply: a single person cannot, when part of a cooperative, take all the wealth, because it is a democratic business and only gives back its riches in the form of dividends that correspond to usage. Do we know of a better way to ensure adequate division among the people who actually contributed to the creation of this wealth? I don’t. And as such, we need more cooperatives in the global village. First, say yes to Mankind. And then to money. Not one or the other, but one and then the other. Let’s keep our values in the right place and the chickens will be well protected.

Colette Lebel, agr.
Director of Cooperative Affairs
La Coop fédérée
Fax: (514) 858-2025


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