Some Ideas Towards a Localized Economy

CHERYL LYON – We all feel it every day: rising food prices, lower quality goods. Big fossil fuel companies quietly moving to renewables while continuing to pump oceans of oil out of the ground and onto the Market and the air. Corporate greed destroying its own storehouses in Nature. Big Box stores gutting small and medium hometown businesses and downtowns.

Let’s face it: the climate crisis is moving us through a big transition on so many fronts, but let’s just talk about The Economy for now.

Think of how border closings due to Covid19 and truck convoys provoked so much angst.

Crises and emergencies have a way of showing us how more affluent each generation has become since the advent of fossil fuels into daily living; how consumerism is killing our planet; how small, local businesses and farms struggle. Invariably, such crises trigger a necessary pullback from norms of daily life (wartime food rationing, self-isolation as in Covid19, greater simplicity of purchasing.) These are the times for soberly re-assessing the values we live by, including those underpinning our Economy. But history shows us that these self-examinations have not lasted, because the Almighty Market, shored up by cheap energy, roars back and we return to ‘normal.’

Localization is not self-sufficiency.

100% localization is not possible; many goods cannot be produced locally. It’s about increasing the provision of local needs through local production, where possible, and creating substitutes for imports. It’s not about cutting connections with the world economy, but trying to meet as many of our essential needs locally, and in the process, create new, local employment and making our community more resilient. Capitalism from the bottom up!

This time is different. This time ‘normal’ isn’t working. We cannot return to it. So we ask:

Is the existing, globally-based economy really meeting our needs? What exactly are our needs? What kind of economy can meet them? How can we create it here?

In the Great Transition brought upon us by climate change, we see the global economy hostile to what we need now in the biggest crisis of all – the very climate that sustains life on Earth.

So what do we need now? How’s this for starters:

  1. co-operation and mutual responsibility for our common wellbeing,
  2. a different understanding of Prosperity, and
  3. a localized economy, socially and ethically financed in new, local ways.

Co-operation and mutual responsibility for our common wellbeing. Local urban and rural communities have shared values of helping one another, coming together to problem-solve and make public policy for the common good. Citizen, neighbourhood, farm and not-for-profit groups actively partner with municipalities for social good. Why not focus those traditions more energetically on our economic good too?

Municipal governments – so accessible to citizens – are uniquely placed to support economic co-operation and localization in policies and practices e.g. fostering neighbourhood initiatives; supporting skill development, family-and age-friendly policies to attract business and services; social procurement for community betterment; housing assistance; and directing and supporting their Economic Development bodies toward strategies that localize the economy.

Redefine Prosperity: Peterborough’s urban and rural wealth isn’t primarily measured in money but in our natural endowment of land and water; then in the abundance of people’s skills, civic services, networks of co-operation, social infrastructures, non-profit sector capacity, small businesses, neighbourhoods and ideas. How about moving the definition of prosperity away from accumulating wealth to sharing wealth?

Create new ways for financing a localized economy: How can we share our local wealth and our local resources in new ways within local control? Begin, for instance, with our household and our municipal purchasing. Add to that, new ways of investing and borrowing to sustain ourselves in life essentials (water, food, energy, wellness, public services) from our own capacity in such things as Social Bonds and a Public Bank.

All these things can put more of the Economy in our hands and less at the mercy of global forces. And build a more resilient community.