Molly Williamson to discuss Global South’s role in environmental issues for CLS


Sophia Neilsen
copy editor

Molly Williamson, who has served as a Foreign Service Officer for six U.S. presidents, will discuss the Global South’s role in environmental issues, returing to Chautauqua to open a week on “The Global South: Expanding the Scope of Geopolitical Understanding.”

At 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, Williamson  said she will talk about what defines the Global South. During the lecture, Chautauquans can learn how the term came to be, from the ending of World War ll and the Cold War.

The global East-West conflict, during the Cold War, originated from the rivalry between Moscow and Washington, she said. 

This, in turn, gave rise to a non-aligned movement among countries that sought to avoid being “used” by the geopolitical tension between the two sides.

Williamson said other countries’ concern, instead, was to do with “the development of their economies and their societies.” Their priority was not the East-West conflict, but an internal North-South one.

“That then became known as the North-South dialogue,” she said, “in terms of the United Nations and global negotiations … to be distinguished from the East-West competition.” The “Global South” refers not to a geographical location, but this distinction.

“The two largest countries of what we call the ‘Global South’ are China and India, and they lie entirely in the Northern Hemisphere,” she said. “It’s not about geography. It’s more about the rejection of being swallowed up by an East-West competition and saying, ‘No, we are independent of that competition. We have concerns of our own that we want to have addressed.’ ”

These concerns include economic disparity, developmental challenges, concerns about growing debt, food and energy security and climate mitigation, she said.

“It’s not about Eastern West. It’s not about Washington versus Moscow. We have a different focus,” she said. “The term ‘Global South’ really is more tied to a more economic-based series of concerns and frustrations.”

Williamson added that these concerns regarding industrialization, economic structures and global economic systems, are of importance to the entire planet.

“That is essential because none of the big issues that they’re talking about, … lend themselves to just country to country. Boundaries and borders are irrelevant to issues like a global economy; to issues like energy security, environmental responsibility, global economic frailties,” she said.

Williamson will discuss a broad group of concerns that the developed world and developing world’s expanding economies must jointly address.

She stressed the need for unity: “No one country can do anything to magically fix stuff.”

These concerns are presented with demographic shifts, which show that simultaneously, “the planet has huge youth bulges and global aging.” 

The challenge is that industrialized economies are more commonly found in aging cultures worldwide. And the growing economies in the Global South are typically those with the largest youth bulges.

“Another (consideration) is the combined issues of energy security, environmental responsibility and economic fragility. These are all global issues. So we think of them, we try to take them apart when we talk about them, but in fact, they’re all happening together,” she said. 

People must understand that the earth depends on more than 101 million barrels of oil being consumed daily, for instance, while discussing the issue of energy security.

“It’s overwhelmingly fossil fuels that make up more than 80% of the world’s fuel mix,” she said. “Fossil fuels are always coal, oil and natural gas. That means we’re talking about burning fossil fuels, and that means we’re talking about evermore growth of environmental degradation.”

Additionally, there has been a center-of-gravity shift in terms of energy consumption and pollution from industrialized economies to emerging ones.

The West, particularly the United States and Europe, has produced the majority of the total carbon dioxide emissions for the past 150 years, and they have also consumed the bulk of the fossil fuels, which are now increasingly being used by the growing economies in the Global South.

“They are now consuming increasingly more fossil fuels and thereby also producing increasingly more of carbon dioxide that is harming the economy harming the planet,” she said.

Williamson wants the audience to be more equipped to understand how these three concerns are related to one another and how the industrialized and rising economies interact.


The author Sophia Neilsen

Sophia Neilsen is a senior at Ohio University studying communications with two minors in psychology and sociology. She studies her minors because she wants a better understanding of society and environments while grasping how different people think and the reasoning behind their behaviors. Sophia is creative and uses her curiosity and persistence in several school organizations, such as Thread Magazine, Variant Magazine, and Kappa Alpha Zeta. She joined these outlets to express herself creatively through academics and art.