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The world is a puzzle

rppatel's picture

Rina Patel

Paper 11


The world is a puzzle


Before my freshman year of high school, I was taking a course in world history for the summer. At the end of the course we were all required to do a final project. My last project for the class was about globalization. My main focus was the idea of americanization. I made the class laugh with an endless stream of photos of Mcdonalds and Starbucks in all these countries around the world.  My conclusion was that globalization can be a great thing as long as individual cultures don’t get lost.  Later on towards the end of Highs school I encountered Thomas Friedman, who celebrates the economic freedom that comes with globalization. He is blown away by a technology company in India that collaborates closely with the United States and Australia to continue projects throughout the timezones of the world. He also highlights many advances in technology due to globalization. However four years later, in college, I read a few chapters of the Sixth Extinction  by Elizabeth Kolbert in which she criticizes the borderlessness caused by globalization for removing biological uniqueness and causing mass death amongst certain species. I want to explore the consequences caused by globalization and human travel. Globalization has enabled a lot of good things in terms of economics and innovation but, on the other hand it has lead to mass extinction and loss of cultural and biological uniqueness.

At Bryn Mawr college, 25% of the student body are international students. An astounding quarter of the students that graduate from Bryn Mawr have another place on the planet they call home. At the time of Bryn Mawr’s creation that wouldn’t have even been a possibility. But one of the results of the world becoming borderless is that education isn’t limited to where one is located. Globalization has diversified the student body at Bryn Mawr and as a result has fostered new discussions in the classrooms with a variety of unique perspectives.However, the diversifying of human population isn’t just limited to Bryn Mawr. All over the planet people of different backgrounds and cultures are meeting one another and sharing their stories. Humankind as a whole is becoming more diverse. However, while diversifying the human population we’ve caused the opposite with other populations. Elizabeth Kolbert talks about how human travel has lead to a loss in species diversity. The ocean and other land barriers made it impossible for certain plants and animals to travel across borders. But because of Human’s eliminating the earth’s borders, a variety of species are interacting in ways biology didn’t predict, often negatively. Certain organisms are causing the demise of other organisms. The natural world is now looking the same no matter the location. Before human travel, Kolbert explains that is was “the limits of dispersal that made things interesting. These accounted for life’s richness”. (Kolbert 196) Even though different parts of the world had very similar climates, the plant life and animal life was almost completely different. However certain plant life, animals, and other organisms from different parts of the planet are finding the similar climates that they can grow in. The problem is biology never intended for these organisms to find out they can live elsewhere. Today we celebrate the mingling of humankind but interspecies mingling with other organisms can have tragic results. Kolbert paints the picture quite well of a civilization of Bats that unfortunately mingled with the wrong organism. The image she describes of thousands of dead bats on the floors of North American caves is quite haunting. The culprit in this case is a European fungus introduced to the region through tourists. The consequence of humans from europe exploring north america was the mass death of another species. Although Biology determined that the Fungus could survive in this region, Biology didn’t intend for the fungus to make it’s way there. The physical borders of the planet had previously prevented this kind of tragedy. Before globalization different parts of the world had completely different races, ethnicities and cultures. Human travel and globalization has enabled a gorgeous intermingling of humans.  Without travel things like Bryn Mawr’s ‘diverse’ student body and America’s ‘melting pot’ are not possible. But then again the mass death of bats would also be impossible.  

Thomas Friedman calls the globalized world “Flat” and Elizabeth Kolbert calls it the “New Pangea”. Both of these names imply that the world has become one massive unit. And to some extent it has. Humans have created the ability to defy physical  borders. Kolbert criticises the world becoming a single unit whereas Friedman celebrates this. The world being a big flat pangea has proven to be a great thing for humans. Humans can go anywhere on the planet within a day. This is great economically. As Friedman noticed, a company in India is able to work closely with headquarters in America and Australia. A project can continue over the span of 24 hours, with India passing it on to Australia at the end of the day in India but the start of the day in Australia, who then can pass it on to America at the end of their day. Time is almost limitless which allows for great advances in technology and many jobs being created across the globe.  And as mentioned earlier the “flatness” of the planet diversifies the human population, evidence being the Bryn Mawr student body. However while the Human Population has been benefiting tremendously from the elimination of borders, other species have been harmed by the consequences we didn’t foresee. It’s complicated. Humans might be able call the world flat and enjoy the result. Animals on the other hand are are forced to live in the flat world. Humans make the active choice to ignore physical barriers. Animals, however are evolved and conditioned to abide by physical barriers. When Humans ‘remove’ the barriers, organisms such as the european fungus aren’t able to determine where they are. Animals and organisms can’t determine not to interfere with the ecosystems they’ve been intentionally or unintentionally introduced to. For the other populations inhabiting the planet it doesn’t matter that a flat world is advancing technology or creating jobs. It simply introduces more places they can survive. And unfortunately repaints thousands of years of evolution changing the natural landscape to better suit a flatter world.

Despite humankind's great advancement in “flatness” physical borders are still present. Though Humankind has seen the need to create non physical borders with societal impacts. For the other inhabitants of the planet, however, the non-physical borders are nonexistent. And the physical borders they had depended on for thousands of years have now become more or less pointless. Human travel has enabled species to move beyond these borders. Whether the introduction of a certain organism in a new region is  intentional as a ‘controlled’ invasive species or unintentional through the movement of other humans, the biological landscape of the planet is being altered. It might not be up to Humankind to decide to undo what biology has worked on for millions of years to alter it and continue our growth at the expense of others. If we continue molding the planet into the flat pangea it is becoming Humankind can potentially become too flattened to make that conclusion.


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Works cited/ Consulted

Friedman, Thomas L. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. Print.

Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.