As news from Dash.com reports that Birmingham (UK) is looking to its local workforce and supply chain, Helena Norberg-Hodge’s TedX talk on localisation takes us much further.
Many concerns, including climate change and the global financial crisis, show the need for fundamental change to the world’s economy. Helena has seen the ravages of globalisation worldwide, first in Ladakh, as subsidised food entered the country on subsidised lorries, travelling on subsidised roads and running on subsidised fuel. This destroyed the local market and led to widespread unemployment creating friction between people who had lived peacefully side by side, for generations.
Creative Commons: by babasteve at http://www.flickr.com/photos/babasteve/43265922/
Helena meets economists, environmentalists and anthropologists from every continent who report findings similar to those in Ladakh and she stresses the need to shift from globalised to localised economic activity.
Localisation is a ‘solutions multiplier’ which offers a systemic far-reaching alternative to corporate capitalism and communism; it reduces CO2 emissions, energy use and all kinds of waste, creating meaningful and secure employment for the entire global population and rebuilding the connections between people and between people and their local environment – the ‘economics of happiness’.
Worldwide, a trend towards a split between the interests of people and their governments pursuing an outdated economic model can be seen. Their formula for prosperity requires more trade, more production for export and more foreign investment.
This formula is not working
Governments say they are so impoverished that they have to cut, cut, cut spending on basic needs, while spending billions on global infrastructure for transport trade and weapons.
The reason for this, in her opinion, is ‘distancing’ – what she calls the ‘drone economy’. Distance between our actions creates a blindness, a heartlessness, whether killing a child in Afghanistan, or ruining a farmer at the other side of the world by speculating in wheat.
As she says: “our arms have grown so long we cannot see what our hands are doing”.
When eyes open they can see that around the world there is a move towards shortening those distances in producing the essentials needed to provide our food, clothing and shelter.
The local food movement is the most powerful and heartening, demonstrating multiple benefits. Helena cited thousands of initiatives shortening distances, including school gardens, permaculture, urban farms and farmers markets (we add community supported agriculture). An Australian farmer who previously ‘felt like serfs’ under pressure to reduce costs, lower standards and standardise products making them the right size to fit the harvesting machinery, said that as after moving to sell through farmers’ markets was like ‘entering new galaxy’.
Increasing prosperity reducing ecological impact
Students of architecture, law and medicine are deciding that they prefer farming and are earning a good salary in diversified farming adapted to the local climate, which gets more out of each unit of land – many studies show that ten times more food is produced on small diversified farms – increasing productivity and reducing the ecological footprint. By shortening the distance the waste of food, refrigeration, preservatives, packaging, energy, irradiation and advertising, the farmer earns more and the customer pays less. Reliance on expensive imported toxic chemicals is increasingly reduced. All this applies to fisheries and forestry, meeting our need for food clothing and shelter.
In the supermarket economy, the farmer gets 10% of what we pay, or less, but in the local food co-op he gets 50% and in the farmers’ market he gets 100%.
You won’t find a country in the world where people are not increasingly frustrated as their governments swing backwards and forwards from left to right, not realising that left and right is not the issue, the issue is global versus local
The global economy is responsible for poverty, for widening the gap between rich and poor in every single country
Localisation is not about ending international trade or some kind of isolationism, on the contrary, because of our global problems we need global collaboration more than ever before to link up to bring about this transition. This is not just about food, but in business and banking – 7600 credit unions have outperformed the big banks; in 130 US cities, 30,000 small businesses have linked up into alliances, some becoming part of larger networks, such as the Business Alliance for Local Living Alliances (BALLE).
It might seem difficult to take on big captains of industry but they are few – less than I% actively promoting globalisation – and there are 99% who are not benefitting. It’s not a question of good guy and bad guys it’s about structures and blindness
The drone economy does not let us see what’s going on but localising – reducing the distances and increasing our comnnection to the natural world – this is the economics of happiness.