by Rick Hood
I've just finished reading an excellent book, "Local is our Future" by Helena Norberg-Hodge. Philosophically I connect to this book because of its premise that localization is a logical reaction to the economic globalization that characterizes contemporary life. This relates to all aspects of food economies. She explains that it is the economy and specifically the globalized economy that causes the income equality, climate change, and environmental degradation that the world is experiencing. It's insane that world leaders and economists continue looking to economic growth with its "trickle down" benefits as the solution. The direction often only works for a select few. The reality is that the majority of the population must work harder and faster just to provide their families with shelter, education, and medical care. Localization is a process of economic decentralization that enables communities, regions, and nations to take more control of their own affairs. Helena describes in detail what others have said how food localization shortens the distance between producers and consumers striking a healthier balance between local and global markets. But additionally she explains how trade policies over the last 30 years have unleashed unregulated capital formation held by the largest corporations and banks to expand gaining more and more financial and political power. Large food distributors, grocery chains, and now tech giants with the help of large banks grow bigger and stronger constantly squeezing out smaller local players in their way. This phenomenon results in huge loss of community and even greater human isolation. She explains that direct farm subsidies in most countries favor large scale industrial agribusiness (more on this in my next blog) and how governments have to shift gears and support smaller local farms and vendors. Her chapter on local food further argues that instead of monoculture we should encourage biodiversity for the good of our planet. It's healthier for farmers, their workers, and consumers. The book ends with a transcript of a recent interview conversation between Helena and the farmer/writer Wendell Berry. Although the book is short and easy to read, it's inspiring and educational.