Across the world, a quiet revolution is emerging. Countless grassroots groups, civil society organizations and individuals are coming together to forge a more hopeful path to the future: away from the destructive global consumer culture, towards healthy communities grounded in strong local economies.
From farmer’s markets and community gardens to local business alliances, community land trusts and ecovillages, initiatives have taken off on every continent to reweave the fabric of local interdependence with others and with the land. What’s more, this is happening despite policies that overwhelmingly favour corporations and global supply chains.
To celebrate and strengthen this inspiring movement, World Localization Day was launched on June 21st, 2020. In its first year, people tuned into the program from 172 countries. In 2021, 80 organizations hosted events in 30 countries, on six continents. World Localization Day 2022, builds on these efforts – not just on the day itself. For the entire month of June, groups and organizations across the world will be shining a light on localization as a strategy for systemic change. There will be online and in-person events – from talks, debates and workshops to local food feasts, festivals and community celebrations.
The campaign has garnered the support of prominent figures, including H. H. the Dalai Lama, professor Noam Chomsky, environmentalist Jane Goodall, social commentator Russell Brand, journalist Naomi Klein, author and activist Vandana Shiva, and psychologist Gabor Maté.
Recent crises have highlighted the need for greater regional self-reliance. From the blockage of the Suez Canal to the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine, it is becoming clear that dependence on global supply chains is risky, especially when it comes to basic needs. Meanwhile, the climate crisis demands an immediate shift away from a resource-intensive, polluting global economy – the same economy responsible for the unconscionable gap between rich and poor.
In this context, localization–a way of bringing the economy home – is a systemic way to address our most pressing global problems.
Local food systems in particular demonstrate a powerful ‘solution-multiplier’ effect. They produce fresher, healthier food and local markets stimulate diversification on the farm, which leads to greater productivity and biodiversity. They enable farmers to transition away from chemical-intensive, monocultural production for export. They create meaningful livelihoods, rebuild community, and even help treat depression. In the words of Naomi Klein, “local food economies are essential for restoring our health and the health of the planet as a whole.”
There’s also a political component to the local food movement: civil society organizations like La Via Campesina and the Asian Peasant’s Coalition – representing hundreds of millions of small farmers worldwide – are working towards food sovereignty, which entails more localized control of food production and distribution.
As World Localization Day makes clear, localization is about more than food. Community democracy initiatives and alternative education institutes are also a big part of the movement. So are local business alliances and local finance schemes that keep wealth circulating locally, rather than allowing it to be siphoned off to distant corporate headquarters.
Localization is also making waves in communities grappling with shocks – from pandemics to climate catastrophes. Especially since Covid, community mutual support groups have spontaneously arisen in almost every country – from Brazil to Australia to Indonesia. In many cases, these community groups are proving to be much more responsive and nimbler than centralized agencies in dealing with crises. They also encourage the best human qualities like compassion and altruism, galvanize community solidarity and lift people’s spirits in ways that cannot be achieved by large-scale organizations. Even in the context of devastation and hardship, people have felt uplifted and inspired thanks to the displays of community support and care. All of these examples show us how much we have to gain by decentralizing or localizing our economies.
Wherever you look, things are happening at the local level that testify to the goodwill at the core of human nature. Community responses to the covid pandemic illustrated this perfectly, but even before covid, the number of people actively engaged in volunteering for civil society organizations was estimated to be over 350 million. They prove that there are other ways forward for our future– ways that are superior to the conventional path of ‘progress’ through consumer capitalism.
Localization goes beyond changing our personal behaviour: it’s about making structural shifts in the economy at a macro level.
“To embark on a systemic path of localization, we need to redirect economic support to favor the local over the global, instead of the other way around,” explains Helena Norberg-Hodge, convenor of World Localization Day. “If we can bring about policy shifts, we will see healing, regeneration and transformation more quickly than most of us dare to imagine.”
Therein lies the beautiful and potent paradox of the global movement for localization.