Magazine article The American Conservative

Localism Means Security: Resilient Communities Are the Answer to Globalism's Weakness

Magazine article The American Conservative

Localism Means Security: Resilient Communities Are the Answer to Globalism's Weakness

Article excerpt

Through the modern age, communities have found themselves increasingly looking to the outside world for their needs. This began with security. As the state rose and asserted a monopoly on armed violence, communities no longer had to man their walls. Eventually those walls disappeared.

In the 20th century, the trend broadened. Instead of relying on local agriculture for food, it was shipped in on national networks such as the rail system. Local electric-power companies, which often began as streetcar lines that sold surplus power, were absorbed into regional systems. Travel became far-ranging with the advent of the railroads; now, in the auto age, it often depends on fuel from halfway around the world.

Globalism has made us dependent on foreign countries for many things. This is true even of finance. The money to sustain our debt-based economy and government mostly comes from abroad.

With dependence comes vulnerability. Much of the world's oil originates in unstable regions. Obscure diseases from Asia can launch pandemics here. Cyberwar or solar flares can take down our electrical and communication grids. What happens to life, which is still lived locally, when massive failure hits globally?

A new movement called "resilient communities" is addressing this question. The basic answer is that through a combination of new technologies and revived old ways of living we can relocalize the systems our lives depend on. The concept's foremost advocate, former Air Force officer John Robb, wrote on his website, Global Guerillas:

   Our global system is composed
   of intermeshed and tightly
   coupled networks. These interlinked
   networks enable our system
   to be efficient and relatively
   robust against random shocks.
   However, large shocks can overwhelm
   this type of network design,
   causing it to either act erratically
   (turbulence) or break
   apart (into smaller clusters via
   cascades of failure). ...

   In either case, system recovery
   could be catalyzed and the
   damage largely mitigated, if our
   global system was scale invariant.
   Basically, this means that if
   we had communities that could
   produce at the local level many
   of the essential products and
   services produced at the global
   level, handling disconnection or
   buffering turbulence would be
   of little consequence.

"Fortunately," he continues, "we are seeing movement towards scale invariant resilient communities. These communities can and would be able to operate autonomously regardless of availability, pricing, or quality of external goods/services for extended periods of time. …

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