We can focus on meeting serious local and global challenges through a rational, practical and affordable process to develop a sustainable future called "relocalization." Relocalization strengthens and supports local businesses and individual efforts that contribute in positive ways to the long-term viability of our communities and the natural environments they depend upon. The vibrant, healthy, and sustainable local economies that result from relocalization then make a significant contribution to the larger vision of a sustainable future--in our towns and cities, and at the county, state and national levels. The concept provides underlying support for anyone wishing to contribute to a just, equitable, and peaceful world.
The underlying philosophy that supports this way of looking at our role in the world builds on natural systems principles and holds that sustainable human societies are those that focus their energy on the qualities and values, such as compassion, cooperation, and nurturing, that work with and support life. Sustainable societies will embody peace, are ecologically wise, socially just, economically equitable, and will be democratic regardless of the economic structure they decide on.
In their daily workings, relocalized communities produce their food, energy, services, and appropriate technologies close to where they are used and consumed. This model not only keeps jobs and money in the community, but it avoids the environmental destruction that accompanies the senseless transportation of goods for thousands of miles and the creation of material goods that serve no other purpose but economic growth. This is where we begin getting into the very important difference between standard of living and quality of life.
Why is the need for relocalization so urgent? Because "business as usual" (BAU) is not an adequate response to the rapidly converging crisis of energy depletion, global warming, economic collapse, and the loss of our democracy--indeed, our very sovereignty--to elite special interests that hide behind the fiction of corporate personhood. In fact, BAU is what brought us to this point. It is useless to expect solutions from the same global corporate and financial interests whose way of being and very existence have created the problem. As they say, when you find yourself at the bottom of a hole, the first rule is to stop digging. Don't believe the story that we should sacrifice in order to return to the normal that has brought us to the edge of so many tipping points.
Relocalization can be effectively applied to many realms, including jobs and other economic problems, water, education, and even border issues.
What is meant by the term relocalization, and beginning steps
Relocalization is a rational, practical and affordable process to create a sustainable future based on ecological wisdom, social justice, economic equity, and participatory democracy. It is both ecologically sound and legally defensible, especially from the perspective of an Earth jurisprudence. It entails moving the production of food, energy, and essential goods closer to the point of consumption, and removing the need for materialism and consumption to serve as substitutes for psychological and spiritual health and well-being.
Relocalization includes the concepts that we must rebuild our local economies; recapture our sense of place; reclaim our sovereignty; and restore our communities. It doesn't fit well with growth, corporate globalization, manifest destiny, or individualism. In fact, it is their antidote. The actual benefits of relocalization leads to the inescapable conclusion that the American Dream as presented by Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Hollywood, and the rest of corporate media really is a dream because one must be asleep--firmly ensconced in the consensus trance--to believe it.
Relocalization uses steady-state economics to create vibrant and resilient local living economies that provide an alternative to growth and centralized control hierarchies, and enables local autonomy within bioregional networks of mutual support. It also requires accepting local responsibility for food and energy security and evaluating all decisions on whether they improve conditions for both people and planet.
Relocalization is a whole-systems approach to creating an alternative public infrastructure that exists within a bioregion's carrying capacity. It is not dependent on infinite growth to deliver human progress and prosperity, but on creating qualitative improvement in cooperative, dynamic economic sectors. Better, not bigger.
As a response to global warming, Peak Oil and corporatism, relocalization provides more than just a band-aid for these symptoms as it addresses and provides viable alternatives to the environmental, social, political, and economic drivers and ramifications at the root of these rapidly converging crises.
As a concrete strategy, relocalization moves production of food, goods and energy closer to the point of consumption, increases food and energy security, and empowers local decisions in the development of currency, culture, and governance. While protecting local economies from the slow drain of an export economy, relocalization goes a step further than localization with a commitment to reduce consumption, waste, and to improve environmental and social conditions.
The long-term goal of relocalization is for human societies to become as healthy, vibrant, and resilient as a climax ecosystem through adherence to the natural systems principles that support the self-organizing tendency of living organisms to create mutually supportive relationships. These principles and relationships have been successfully evolving for billions of years, and as such are a perfectly natural aspect of humanity that must be nurtured and enhanced.
Where are we now?
A global growth economy based on cheap and abundant fossil fuels to both grow and transport our food thousands of miles, and to supply the raw materials for the cheap plastic throwaway goods we've come to rely on, is quickly drawing to a close. We are not going to see an economic recovery, because we are not in a recession. We are at the end of an historic period in human civilization. This period is drawing to a close as the logical consequence of abusing and misusing our planet as both an endless supply of resources and a bottomless pit for waste.
Our future now depends on becoming locally self-reliant for our basic necessities to the greatest extent possible. Fossil fuels are no longer cheap, they're becoming less abundant, and they are the major contributor to human aggravated global warming. Plus, we now have the Gusher in the Gulf and what it may do to the foundation of the ocean's food web to add to our growing list of concerns.
Relocalizing means building community networks of mutual support. It means more family farms (many, many more) and making sure they're not forced to sell out to developers. It means living wage jobs in clean, zero-waste industries that use renewable energy; that focus on rebuilding our local economic base, recapturing the skills and craftsmanship we're lost to overseas off-shoring, outsourcing and the model of industrial efficiency that puts quantity above quality. As an added bonus, living wage jobs also directly address the issues of affordable housing and poverty.
Relocalization means making our cities human friendly and less reliant on cars. Less asphalt and more trees means less urban heat island effect and more natural carbon uptake. Plus, rebuilding, renovating, and remodeling for low-impact, energy efficient homes, businesses and infrastructure will keep local construction industries plenty busy for decades to come.
Rather than trying to be competitive in a global economy that's heading south--in more ways than one--we have the opportunity to become global leaders in sustainable, steady-state local living economies.
Any community that takes the initial steps of creating the necessary coalitions to build a sustainable model, and demonstrate the many ways this improves quality of life, will further benefit from the economic prosperity will come from teaching other communities how to be sustainable.
If we don't have a vision for where we want to go, we will end up somewhere else. Plus we're going to discover the truth in the phrase, "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."