Enabling Globalization: The Container

Nat Geo Education Blog

By Seth Dixon, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Geography, Rhode Island College

When you think of technology and globalization, does your tablet or smartphone come to mind?   While smartphones and tablets play a part in reshaping global economics and culture, the backbone of the modern global economy is actually something that goes unseen by most people, despite its size. In fact, this thing is so ordinary that we fail understand how it has helped to create the network of relationships that enable global corporations and individuals to forge transcontinental linkages.

A container ship being loaded by a portainer crane.

So what is it?

Containers. The ships, railroads, and trucks that transport containers worldwide form the backbone of the global economy. The pace of globalization over the last sixty years has accelerated due to containers; just like canals and railroads defined earlier phases in the development of a global economy. While distance used to be the largest obstacle…

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