Brenda B. Pulido
Based in Downey/ Long Beach, CA
It comes to no surprise that last March a U.S. district court ruled, of course, that a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron, a multinational U.S. Corporation for violating human and environmental rights of the people in Ecuador was unenforceable. Despite this legal setback, the human and environmental rights violations claims by low income, indigenous communities in Ecuador against Chevron have gained unprecedented international attention and sparked a much needed dialogue about corporate accountability at an international level. How can people in a South American country with limited economic and political power sue and garner international support against a mega U.S. multinational corporation like Chevron?
Power relations have changed. We live in a time when new forms of resistance to unequal power relations are rapidly emerging. Globalization is faulted for the spread of U.S. sponsored neoliberal or free market capitalist ideas and policies around the world. The main objective of free market policies is to deregulate trade between countries so that capitalists can maximize profits. These terms of trade, however, result in unequal terms of trade between rich and poor nations and happen at the expense of exploiting and/or violating human and environmental rights of low income people in poor countries. Nonetheless, globalization has also connected people across the globe as it has linked nations and regions in new ways. These new connections allow information and ideas to travel instantly across channels such as social media. The rapid spread of information and ideas has created a global consciousness waking people up to the growing inequality and deteriorating living conditions of oppressed groups of people around the world due to unequal free- market capitalist international trade relations. More people in more places are becoming aware the similarities in their experiences and are uniting in their efforts to resist the negative effects of neoliberal globalization.
Global resistance efforts are increasingly visible in many developing countries at the state and at the grassroots levels. Political resistance at a state level has expanded in South American countries such as Ecuador. This country, historically was seen as non- threatening to the existing world order because its government often adopted policies that benefited U.S. economic and political interests. Today, however, the Ecuadorian state, under the leadership of President Rafael Correa, is challenging unequal power relations with powerful nations such as the U.S. and Europe. Moreover, Ecuadorian grassroots movements, such as the indigenous movement have engaged in global campaigns through social media to achieve corporate accountability at an international scale. This indigenous movement garnered international support in countries like Canada against human rights and environmental rights violations caused by Chevron. These newly formed resistance collaborations between people in the global South (developing nations) and the global North (developed nations) is evidence that global consciousness is uniting people across the globe through shared concerns about human rights and environmental rights violations that result from free market capitalist approaches to globalization.
Social media has become imperative in creating global consciousness among youth world-wide and enabled their organization and collaboration to achieve common social justice-based goals. Global consciousness through social media has sparked revolutions in countries like Egypt and enabled oppressed communities to hold governments accountable and to enforce corporate accountability. Power relations are changing; global resistance movements are achieving great successes by joining efforts with people around the world who want to achieve social justice. The indigenous movement’s international successes are a great example of how globalization can empower people to take a stand to end human and environmental rights violations. Resistance movements are challenging dominant world order in unprecedented ways. Moreover, global consciousness is challenging us, as world citizens who live in the most powerful nation, to decide how we want to experience globalization. Reflecting on this article, two of the many options we have are either to be passive consumers in an unjust global economy, or to join global movements that are successfully resisting injustice and inequality.