The Case for Localization. (Other Voices -- the Logical Alternative to Globalization)

By Norberg-Hodge, Helena | Earth Island Journal, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

The Case for Localization. (Other Voices -- the Logical Alternative to Globalization)


Norberg-Hodge, Helena, Earth Island Journal


Across the world, deregulation is leading to a breakdown of local enterprise and ever-greater dependence on long-distance trade and transport. This in turn means ever-increasing consumption of fossil fuels. So globalization is directly and inextricably linked to climate change.

If we want to avoid the havoc and hardship that further climate change will inevitably bring, we must begin to make a U-turn: away from globalization and toward the strengthening of local and national economies. Since globalization goes hand-in-hand with urbanization, this means actively working to protect and strengthen rural life.

Localization is about shortening the distance between producers and consumers. It is not about eliminating all trade, but rather about reducing to an absolute minimum the exorbitant waste now caused by having everything from butter to raw logs crisscrossing the globe.

Localization needs to happen simultaneously in both the North and the South. As things stand today, roughly 50 percent of the world's population is still rurally based -- the majority of them are in the South. It is vital that everything is done to prevent this proportion from declining.

A common assumption, even among environmentalists, is that the nations of the South need a little more time to catch up with the North (in other words, more access to global markets) before they can be expected to reduce their fossil fuel consumption and begin to localize. But such thinking flies in the face of reality. Contrary to the propaganda, the global economy cannot possibly enable villagers in rural China or Bangladesh to live the life of middle-class Westerners. For the vast majority, it cannot even provide the most basic needs of housing, education, clothing, health care, nutrition and employment. As recent experience has shown, what globalization does do is increase the gap between rich and poor, pulling vast numbers of people away from the land into squalid urban slums.

If, like the North, the South had colonies to exploit, the situation might be different. But they don't -- and simple arithmetic tells us that it's impossible for everyone to emulate a model that allows people to use vastly more than their fair share of the Earth's resources.

In the rural villages of the South, life can be undeniably hard. But villagers can at least grow a few vegetables, maybe keep some chickens or even a cow, and they can rely on friends and family for help with agricultural work. …

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The Case for Localization. (Other Voices -- the Logical Alternative to Globalization)
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