Who would ever think of making a comparison between the hijacked planes slamming into the WTC and the day-to-day pollution created by SUV exhausts? Yet, this is the starting point of Singer's investigation into the ethics of globalization. For Singer they describe important aspects of globalization. He argues that despite the trauma created by 9/11 for people in the US, it was a short, sharp, shocking event killing fewer people than children dying each day around the world from poverty and disease. In the longer term it also pales against the ongoing destruction of our ecosystem threatening humanity's survival as a consequence of our rich lifestyle.
Many books examine the different aspects of "globalization", from the pro- and the anti- perspectives to everything in between. While Singer does not question the realities of an increasingly integrated world, he argues the case for serious scrutiny of the motives underlying the current state of affairs. He urges an overhaul of the principles and standards of globalization politics so that everybody might benefit from it. He is aware of the difficulties in achieving the ideal, and outlines the obstacles candidly. He pleads the case of the 1.2 billion people who live in abject poverty. Their aspirations for a better lifestyle is as legitimate as ours, yet its realization will remain in doubt as long as the industrialized countries refuse to make adjustments to theirs. Singer places his arguments for fairer international systems within historical and moral contexts and suggests practical solutions.
He asks appropriate, pragmatic questions under each of four major themes that define humanity's "one world": environment, economy, law and community. We all share one atmosphere where overexploitation of the environment in the industrialized countries can result in ecosystem destruction in developing countries. We are also increasingly interdependent in the trade and economic systems that may be "free" but not necessarily fair. We claim to have one workable international legal system, but it requires that all states participate to make it effective. Finally, we are all part of a human community, so we need to consider our actions accordingly. Singer challenges our assumptions while dissecting the effects of laissez-faire attitudes among policy makers and corporate leaders. In the chapter "one atmosphere" he elaborates why the US government's refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol is morally unacceptable and totally unethical. His analysis of the reasons is followed by a proposal that builds on four principles of fairness. The thrust of his critique is addressed at the power brokers in today's globalized world and less to the average citizen who is treated more or less as an observer. Still, he provides his readers with solid arguments that they can apply in their dealings with their representatives. His call for engagement in the global ethics debate culminates in the chapter "one community". Here, Singer asks us to contribute towards building a fairer world by very practical means. He analyzes why humans tend to be more caring for those close to home and in their own country. However, he argues that the concept of the 'nation state' may become obsolete as global communities develop. He urges the reader to empathize with those in need wherever they are and share of what they can spare with those less fortunate than themselves.
Most of the content of the book was written in 2000 following a lecture series. Singer updated the text prior to publication in the light of 9/11 and recent trends in international trade and politics. While his questions on international trade, focusing particular on the WTO, are relevant, some of his conclusions have been superseded by current developments. His cautious optimism of a fairer trade system for developing countries in the context of the WTO was evidently premature. Similarly, his expectations that the US will in the end join the International Criminal Code and the Kyoto Protocol appear doomed. His hope for a "more democratically controlled system of regulation that promotes minimum standards for environmental protection, worker safety, union rights, and animal welfare" may remain a dream for some time. One World presents a useful overview of the different aspects of ethics and morals that an interdependent globalized is required to confront if it wants to survive and thrive in the future. Read this book for a solid overview of the ethical aspects of globalization. [Friederike Knabe]