By Tim Heydon
The Globalised Utopia
The Globalised Utopia envisaged by ‘Progressives’ requires the integration of the world through trade as encourage by new technologies. Thanks to the powerful universal solvent of computerisation and the internet, we will all become so interdependent through the mutually beneficial exchange of goods and services and so deracinated through the free flow of Capital and Labour, that all the apparent differences of race, culture and religion will disappear. The people of the world will live in harmony forever in a state of total sameness. This dream is of Utopia for some. For the more realistic it is not so much a vision as a nightmare of never ending, inescapable tedium and cultural atrophy.
The Reality of Tesco
Well, so much for this essentially Marxoid theory. What is the reality? For the Utopian Globalisers there was a chilling foretaste of a far more likely future in the news this week from Tesco’s that like-for-like sales over its first quarter fell by 0.1% excluding VAT and petrol.
The Daily Telegraph (14th June) reported a Tesco spokesman as explaining these results thusly: ‘High fuel costs continue to mean that customers have to direct some of their spending to petrol at the expense of their normal shopping and this remains a drag on both industry and our own like-for-like growth’.
According to Laurie McIlwee, Tesco’s finance director, 70% of the company’s customers say that the high price of petrol is their biggest concern. Of these 30% are trying to cut down on car usage.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold: Out -of - Town Mega Markets and Shopping Malls
The Daily Mail (14th June) reported that, ‘Tesco said that spiralling cost of fuel was changing the way consumers shopped with many making more frequent trips to smaller city centre stores rather than using the car for one weekly shopping trip’.
Significantly, one line which saw increased sales was bicycles. Sales of these rose by 15% as ’customers looked for cheaper ways of getting about.’
Fuel Costs and a Change in the Way we Live
We can see that escalating fuel prices are rapidly changing people’s way of living. Shopping Malls and supermarkets depend on the motor car. The huge car parks with which they are invariably surrounded underline this fact. And it is not just the supermarkets but what’s in them that depends on oil. High –value produce such as flowers from Kenya depend on cheap air transport but as has often been pointed out, everything else depends on some form of oil-fuelled transport . And oil –based fertilisers and pesticides are of course essential in the production of just about all the food most people eat.
The Long-Term Implications
Oil prices in the international markets are subject to a great deal of manipulation. But the long-term term trend is clear – a rapid move upwards. The impact of exorbitantly high transport costs signals the end of the ’era of mobility.’ This is already dealing a death blow not just to the way of shopping we have come to take for granted in recent decades but to the current urban landscapes and expansive ways of living based on personal motor vehicle ownership and cheap fuel. We are already witnessing the beginnings of a retreat into much more compact, almost pre-industrial communities where everything will have to be within easy reach, quite possibly on foot or by bicycle.
Nuclear Power the Answer?
Nuclear power is thought of as the solution to the oil conundrum. But most of our needs are for things that electricity can’t do very well, if at all. For example, you can’t fly aeroplanes on electricity or make the fertilisers and pesticides we currently make out of hydrocarbons with it. Nor can electricity replace the diesel-powered industrial scale farming we currently enjoy. In any case, many of the items used in nuclear power – and the goods that use electricity such as computers and other electrical goods, including batteries, depend heavily on oil – based components in their production.
Local and Global
This already –occurring shrinkage of people’s personal horizons will be projected globally. As international trade and travel atrophy, so too will the drive to One World by the Globalising Visionaries and International Big Business. Thanks to rising oil and food prices the world of the future and we in particular will be lot poorer than has been hoped. And instead of a global village we will have a world of villages.
It’s an ill wind…