responding to globalization: small scale on a large scale

There is also a vast and equally important movement toward “going local.” In fact, more and more groups are recognizing that economic localization represents a systemic solution multiplier. At a fundamental level, centralized, top-heavy systems – whether they are capitalist, socialist, or communist – cannot remain democratic. Decentralizing, or localizing economic activity, from finance to industry and farming, can restore participatory democracy while simultaneously renewing the social and ecological fabric. Instead of scaling government up, localization is about scaling business down. Business and banking need to be place-based in order to allow culture and ethics to shape commerce, rather than vice versa.

Localization is not about ending trade, nor is it about acting only locally. For grassroots localization efforts to succeed and grow in the long term, they must be accompanied by policy changes at the national and international levels. Rather than thinking just in terms of isolated, scattered efforts, we must demand government policies that promote small scale on a large scale, allowing space for community-based economies to flourish and spread.

– Helen Norberg-Hodge, Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World (2009)

[NOTE – a UN committee agrees: check out this report that deserves much more attention.]

globalization as universal consumerism

Governments worldwide, from the left to the right of the political spectrum, are signing treaties designed to accelerate economic growth through the deregulation of global trade and finance. The so-called global village – hailed by government and industry as uniting all nations in pursuit of the fruits of the global economy – is in fact a highly volatile monoculture based not on community or connection to place but on universal consumerism.

As trillions of dollars of investment and development aid pull more and more people into the consumer culture, economic power is concentrating in fewer and fewer corporate hands. Those corporations are driving a speculative economy in which ever faster technologies accelerate environmental destruction, as they speed up and scale up our lives – creating anonymity, competition, and poverty in the process….

My experience of working with government and business leaders leaders and academics in dozens of countries convinces me that policymakers are not really aware of the destruction they are inflicting on natural and human communities. What we face is not so much a conscious conspiracy as a de facto, structural conspiracy. In other words, interlocking structures “conspire” systemically to further a development path that threatens life itself.

– Helen Norberg-Hodge, Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World (2009)

[Next week something more hopeful!]

stepping back to see what we’ve created

[the first of three posts suggesting that we need to wake up in order to see that the current path to globalization is neither life-giving nor inevitable]:

The experience of Ladakh convinced me that the primary cause of our crises is neither human nature nor evolution, but rather a relentlessly expanding economic system that is steamrolling both people and the planet. Unfortunately, this system has grown so large that it has become difficult to recognize it as human-made: the tendency is to view it instead as some kind of irresistible evolutionary force. Only by stepping back and looking at the big picture can we discern the links between the global economic system and the problems we face. This broader view makes it clear that what we need to change is policies and human institutions, not the nature of our species or evolution. We can also see that the most effective way to alleviate a whole range of seemingly disparate symptoms – from deforestation to pollution, from poverty to ethnic conflict – is to change the dominant economy. Most important of all, countering the pressures that separate us from one another and the natural world would resonate with our deeper human needs, contributing to our well-being, to our happiness.

– Helen Norberg-Hodge, Ancient Futures: Lessons from the Ladakh for a Globalizing World (2009)