Geographical Sources

Economic disruptions have made people more aware of the sources of products and materials.

Whether the subject is auto parts, sunflower oil, wheat, or rare earth metals, large-scale interruptions in commerce have made products scarce long enough to take notice of the geography involved.

The greatest concentration of sunflower farms, for example, is in Ukraine, where closed ports have called into question whether some brands of sunflower oil will be available where I live in Pennsylvania.

The world mostly did not know that Russian tank factories depend on auto parts made in Italy until we got word that the factories had closed, with those parts no longer available. Similarly, the search for alternate sources helped us notice how much the world depended on mines in Siberia for rare earth metals used in automobile electronics.

Part of the globalization trend was that consumers and business managers stopped thinking about where in the world things come from. It was only when the channels of commerce broke down that we had to be aware of geography. As the world becomes less stable, we are forced to think geographically more often. Eventually we may reach the point where we expect to know where everything is coming from, so that we are prepared — or at least not so surprised — when circumstances change again.

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