The world finds itself in the midst of a growing pandemic, and it’s faced with a variety of challenges as it tries to move forward. Trade, travel, business, exposure to other cultures, and so much more has been hobbled, if not completely halted, and the effect is felt from the local grocery store to the stock market and all levels of government to the fight for equal rights.
As many of our personal worlds have become smaller due to social distancing and COVID-19 concerns, it’s more important than ever to understand how challenges on a global level can affect each individual, and vice versa.
“We’re all touched by the forces of globalization that have undoubtedly been present for some time, but are now really only being realized in very powerful ways. At the same time, it’s also important to be mindful of the fact that our own actions or inactions at the local level impact what’s happening globally. COVID-19 has demonstrated very clearly that the world is very interconnected and interdependent, perhaps, now more than ever,” said Arianna Nowakowski, academic director of the Global Community Engagement program, University College at the University of Denver.
Nowakowski served as moderator on a recent webinar dedicated to examining how global is local during the pandemic. The webinar, hosted by University College, was part of a Quick Connection series that looked at different aspects of our society in relation to coronavirus challenges.
During the talk, a panel of professionals identified three ways that the global pandemic is affecting the local environment.
Global Trade and the Local Market
Trade and the shutdown of businesses has been at the forefront of the news since COVID-19 was discovered. It is probably the most talked about effect of the pandemic, outside of health concerns.
According to Karen Gerwitz, president, World Trade Center Denver, one of the biggest industries hit has been the airline industry, which has, in turn, affected many, many others.
“The hit is substantial for not only the aviation industry but also everybody who supports the aviation industry or everybody that’s shipping on by air, and a lot of our goods come by air. Colorado exports about $8.5 billion in goods a year, so our services are impacted.” she said, adding that we also need to be aware of all the local industries that can’t now access needed goods from global markets.
In addition, travel restrictions are keeping local firms from traveling and working overseas. As importantly, travel and health concerns have combined to shutdown conventions and trade shows, which is often where many global connections are made.
However, the pandemic has also provided opportunities for the local market. Companies that are resilient and have been able to modify manufacturing to create more locally needed goods have been able to succeed in the tough economy. From a ceramic company that shifted to making ventilator parts to distilleries that pivoted to making hand sanitizer, there are several examples of companies who have innovated in the face of diversity.
Pushback Against Globalization
Another result of the pandemic has been a resistance to the global community. As part of this, there is also a rise xenophobia and racism, as is evidenced by the push to blame China for COVID-19, the inappropriate targeting of Asians across the world as being at fault for virus spread, and recent social justice events in the U.S.
“I think in America it’s this kind of retreat into a sense of wanting to be isolated,” said panelist and University College Professor David Buyze.
However, current events highlight the critical need for people to move from nationalism to, what he calls, cosmopolitanism.
“It’s a different kind of attitude, or perhaps worldliness, that encompasses building resonance with people that seem very different than who we are. And I think one of the ways to go about doing that is through knowledge and through education,” he added.
Spotlight on Inequality
The global pandemic has also uncovered a wide variety of disparities in the United States, from access to healthcare to racial inequality, and it’s all interconnected.
“In terms of access to our healthcare system that’s simply is an unacceptable situation that we find ourselves in in this country and is disproportionately affecting our Black and LatinX communities,” said University College Professor Darryl Meekins. “What this pandemic is showing us is the ugly side of our own systems that we have created.”
Panelist Nadia Belkin, Colorado state director, America Votes, discussed the ways that job loss caused by COVID-19 has affected communities of color, as well as how socio-economic disparities have put many people of color and people of low income in the path of the virus without a choice.
The wealth gap has increasingly left these populations vulnerable, as they are more often than not among those considered essential workers.
“They are going to work because perhaps their health care is associated or distributed through their employer or perhaps they are waiting for a paycheck,” Belkin said, adding that global practices like universal healthcare and paid family leave as just a few possible solutions to disparities in our local systems.
“It is incumbent upon us, particularly in in the times in which we exist currently to acknowledge there has to be a radical overhauling of how we see our country being. And because we are a country made up of so many types of people, cultures, and diversity, it’s incumbent upon us to show the world that this is indeed possible,” Meekins added.
You can watch the entire webinar, as well as other Quick Connections webinars, on the University College Vimeo page.