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Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should be able to:

  • understand how the world is in the process of ‘being made’, right down to the earth beneath our feet;

  • consider how islands are shaped by a dynamic relationship between territories and flows;

  • show how human life is entangled with non-human forces and processes in the making of today's globalised world.


Author(s): The Open University

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References

Association of Essex Councils Steering Group (1999) Essex Biodiversity Action Plan, London, HMSO.
Baring-Gould, S. (1983) Mehalah, Woodbridge, The Boydell Press (first published 1880).
Blackmore, R. and Barratt, R. (2003) ‘Dynamic atmosphere: changing climate and air quality’ in Morris, R.M. et al. (eds).

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1.2.3 Climate change: survival at stake

Despite efforts to define it, the boundary between land and sea is constantly changing. In the long run the combination of rising sea level, sinking land and possible major storms, such as the one that devastated the Essex coast in 1953 (Figure 16), indicates a battle that the sea must ultimately win.

Figure 16
Author(s): The Open University

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1.2.2 Change and response in the ‘meadows of the sea’

Midway along the northern shore of the Blackwater estuary lie the Old Hall Marshes on a peninsula three and a half miles long and lying between tidal creeks and mudflats (see Figures 3 and 15a). It is a wild, flat, remote area of mixed habitats of reedbed, open water, saltmarsh and improved and unimproved grass
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1.2.1 Managing risk in conditions of uncertainty

Earlier we considered what is meant by ‘environmental responses’. There are two aspects to this concept. One is the response made by the environment to processes of change, whether brought about by natural or human causes or a combination of both. The other is the response to environmental changes made by humans or non-humans. In this section we shall consider both of these aspects of response by focusing on an issue of particular significance in the Blackwater: how the envi
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1.1.3 Managing environmental risks and uncertainties

The following activity and video clip presents the discussion of the Old Hall marshes in relation to managing environmental risks and uncertainties. It also introduces the key concepts of sustainable development in a period of environmentally uncertain climate change.

Activity 2

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1.1.1 The Blackwater estuary

‘Between the mouths of the Blackwater and the Colne, on the east coast of Essex, lies an extensive, marshy tract veined and freckled in every part with water. At high tides the appearance is that of a vast
Author(s): The Open University

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Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should be able to:

  • recognise the interaction of human and physical processes in the making of environments and the understanding of environmental issues;

  • understand coastal regions as dynamic and contested environments;

  • consider the contested nature of coastal management policies using the case study of managed retreat.


Author(s): The Open University

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Introduction

We begin this unit by looking at an estuary, a place where sea, land and sky meet. We have chosen a particular estuary: the Blackwater estuary on the Essex coast in eastern England. Although the Blackwater has its own unique characteristics, it is used here as a setting, a device for approaching the study of environments. Like any other estuary, the Blackwater brings together a diverse range of processes, elements and issues that constitute the environment. It offers us a way into thinking ab
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Acknowledgements

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Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material in this unit.

Every effort has
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References

Blackhurst, R. (1999) ‘The capacity of the WTO to fulfil its mandate’ in Krueger, A.O. (ed.) The WTO as an International Organization. New Delhi, Oxford University Press.
Finger, J.M. and Schuler, P. (2002) ‘Implementation of WTO commitments: the development challenge’ in Hoekman, B.M., English, P. and Mattoo, A. (eds) Development, Trade and the WTO: A Handbook, Washington, DC, World Bank.

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5 Conclusion

International economic relationships are constituted in large part by international trade and investment. I have argued that the current trade regime, apparently one of voluntary adherence to negotiated rule-making, is actually systematically weighted against the needs of developing countries. This asymmetry is rooted in a context where rich countries are eager to prescribe free trade for others but reluctant to impose it on themselves and able to avoid doing so. Its consequences are exacerba
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4.2 Environmental and labour standards

Question

Look back at Section 1. Why do trade unions in rich countries take up the cause of poor environmental and working conditions in developing countries as they did at Seattle? And why are developing country governments unwilling
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4.1 Uniting the developing countries

Several attempts have been made to form a united front of developing countries to negotiate a better deal at the WTO. They have met with little success because there are substantial conflicts of interest between them, for example between agricultural importers and exporters, and between small countries and those larger developing countries that have been able individually to use the lure of opening their markets to get a better deal from developed countries. Conflicts of interest arise too be
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3.3.4 Dispute settlement

The lack of expertise in the developing countries shows up at a subsequent stage as well. One of the undoubted plus points of the WTO, compared with its predecessor the GATT, is its streamlined mechanism for settling disputes between members – on the whole quite impartially. But although many of the larger developing countries have won cases against the most powerful members like the EU and USA, the smaller ones are hamstrung by their inability to field lawyers specialised in international
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3.2.3 Fighting on too many fronts

Although I have dwelt on the agreements relating to agriculture, textiles, and intellectual property, there are some two dozen others, each involving intricate legal and technical details. These include agreements on:

  • Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures: these are standards applied to imported agricultural products so as to protect plants, animals and humans in the importing country. However, these standards are often arbitrarily used to restric
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3.2.2 The protection of intellectual property: the costs of TRIPS

Apart from the internal redistribution of income resulting from greater exposure to the world economy, the effects of one of the UR agreements in particular have achieved a certain notoriety because the agreement clearly imposes huge costs on farmers and consumers in developing countries, to the benefit of corporations in developed countries. This is the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which strengthens international rules governing patents, tradema
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3.2.1 Social disruption

In return for being granted enhanced market access by developed countries, which turned out to be somewhat illusory, developing countries agreed to open up their own markets. Indeed, for supporters of the UR, this was its biggest achievement. One of the central propositions of economic theory is that under certain conditions free trade is beneficial to a country – but there are inevitably winners and losers. As a country adjusts to free trade, some sectors of the economy advance, while othe
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3.1.3 Tariff escalation

Added to this was the fact that, although the developed countries had reduced the average level of tariffs on manufactures to low levels as part of the UR agreements, this average concealed much higher tariffs on products that were imported mainly from developing countries. Moreover, higher tariffs were retained on products involving a higher degree of processing. In the EU, for example, cigars are subjected to a higher tariff than raw tobacco, processed foods to a higher tariff than unproces
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3.1.1 Agriculture

According to the UR Agreement on Agriculture, import quotas were to be abolished, but since no country was prepared to expose its farmers abruptly to the rigours of free trade, quotas were to be replaced by ‘equivalent’ tariffs, which were to be reduced over time. However, the calculation of equivalent tariffs is subject to wide margins of error, and since it was left to each country to determine its own tariffs, most were set at extraordinarily high levels – exceeding 200 or even 300 p
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