Localism is too superficial

Some of my friends are localists. By that term I mean that they believe most or all of our problems would be solved if we just lived in local communities instead of nations. Know your bioregion, your local ecosystem, your watershed. Form a bond with it, an affection for it, a deep knowledge of it. Then you’ll be a much better farmer, and a much better member of your community. These people refer to Wendell Berry’s notion of “a sense of place,” and Derrick Jensen’s belief that living in a large population society cannot be sustainable.

I disagree almost completely. It’s true that localism would address some superficial problems, and it would reduce the energy spent on transportation, but that’s about it. The excess carbon in the atmosphere doesn’t stop at the edge of the watershed. And company towns and Jim Crow laws are two examples where local government was horrible.

We have a worldwide culture. Certainly there are local variants in it, but the main parts of it pretty much are universal. The people of the different continents may see themselves as very different, but (except for a few isolated tribes in the forests and deserts) we all drive cars on roads and talk to each other on telephones;

we all sell our labor to buy material  
possessions which we own separately.

Those similarities shape our lives and our thinking, so that what we have in common is far greater than the little ways we differ. The world’s main problems are caused by some of those things we have in common.

Ecocide is inherent in our present way of life. It will kill us all soon, unless we all turn to other ways of life soon. There are other ways of life, you know. We need a worldwide change in culture.


2019 Jan 10.