My global sense of place
I wrote this essay a while back for a geography paper at school. We were supposed to write about globalization and how it had affected us. I get sort of nostalgic when I read it, so I thought I'd share it with you all...
I was born in the wonderful era of synth-pop and legwarmers. On an island approximately 130 kilometres south of the Norwegian capital, Oslo, an old quarry island with some forests and some elks. And little did we see of Depech Mode or the infamous neon coloured legwarmers. My non-paved gravel road into the woods on a small island off the Norwegian coast was not the music or fashion capital of the 1980s. Little impact did we have from globalization on this little gravel road, or so we thought.
As far as can be traced back my family has lived on this island, my grandfather was born on a farm there. When he was young he travelled the world as a cook onboard a whaling boat and brought back marvellous stories from the southern hemisphere. Apart from this adventure, he worked his whole life on the farm. The farm was quite self-sufficient in those days, the hens laid eggs, the cows produced milk, the horses ploughed the fields, and the pigs became nice steaks and so on. When my grandfather became old and weary it was time for my father to take over, but times had changed drastically since my grandfather’s early days, and it was no longer possible for my father to live solemnly off the farm. Because of the European Union’s free trade agreements it was very hard, and still is, for a small farm in Norway to compete with the low priced products of the eastern block countries, people have realised that for a few Norwegian crowns less you can get tasteless Belgian strawberries and other groceries, the domestically higher priced products were therefore no longer desirable.
There were only wheat crops left on the farm that gave any income, so it was important to uphold the productivity of the wheat crops to keep the farm alive. In the 1950s and 60s the miracle came from Switzerland in the form of DDT, it worked magic, weed was no longer a problem in the wheat fields, and the purer the wheat is, the more money you get. However, during the 1970s an American scientist discovered that DDT caused cancer, had it not been for the global market of pesticides many animals and even people would still be alive, including my grandmother’s uncle. When DDT was taken off the market a new wonderful chemical came, Roundup, it did the same trick as DDT, it kept the weed away, but also; it was not harmful to animals nor humans, how wonderful was that? However, recent research has shown that polythoxylated tallow amine, the surfactant used in Roundup, can kill tadpoles, which would explain the drastic decline in the frog population in our small creeks and waters on our island.
My father works as a buildings engineer and builds shopping malls and warehouses for a transnational company, and keeps the farm as a hobby. The sentimental value of the farm is far greater than the economic value of it, keeping up with old traditions is still important even though it is more work and sweat doing so.
My mom’s favourite hobby is knitting, an old tradition which she learned from her grandmother. It is not unusual to find my mother knitting a traditional Norwegian sweater, with Scottish wool on ‘Made in Taiwan’ knitting needles while she is watching Eastenders on TV. Knitting is an old tradition in Norway, people used to knit their own sweaters to keep them warm in the winter, it was in a specific patter and is called a ‘lusekofte’. However, these days you can get one in every tourist shop in Norway, with a tag saying ‘Made in China’. As these days it is cheaper to have them produced in China and shipped them back to Norway again, and in a globalized world, everything is measured in money.
Back in the 1980s and early 90s my brother and I were very occupied with football, his favourite team was, and still is, Tottenham Hotspurs. As a younger sister, the sibling rivalry was on when I declared my love for Liverpool. Norwegian football did not concern us much, it was far more interesting watching the Saturday matches from England on TV, following football stars such as Robbie Fowler, Teddy Sheringham or Gary Lineker. The idea of something foreign was much more appealing than the Norwegian society that we already knew. An alarming factor of how globalization is able to penetrate new society with ideas and glorifications.
When my grandfather was a young boy, the families were a lot bigger than they are today, a small football team was a reasonable size for the average household. It was necessary for parents to have a lot of kids to help them with the farm and take care of their parents when they got old, high infant mortality rate made it necessary to have many children as well, because some of them would probably die from diseases, infections and accidents, it was the cold hard facts. However, society has changed, infant mortality rate has dropped, urbanization is taking over the countryside and having reasonable sized football teams are no longer desirable nor necessary.
We cannot escape the phenomenon of globalization even if we want to, it is everywhere in all shapes and forms. Globalization is also the reason why I sit in New Zealand at this very moment. Because of globalization, the time-space compression has made it possible for people to travel to the other side of the world and back again in just three-four days. With travel also comes the issue of communication, it is getting more and more important for people to communicate with other cultures and languages, which is the reason that all kids in Norway have to learn English at an early age, and later on German or French, and the reason why I am able to study in an English speaking country.