, founder of the International Society for Ecology and Culture
, gave a lecture titled "From global to local: Solution to our social, environmental, cultural, and economic crisis" today at the Asia Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics
, located in the floor above the office from which I am blogging this.
She began by equating localization with decentralization, and calling for "the need for an identity that is place-based and rooted." She called for business and capital also to be place-based and rooted, and thereby accountable. She noted that such thinking is often dismissed as isolationist, or unrealisitc and utopian.
She noted the success of both Michael Pollan
and Barbara Kingsolver
in the U.S. as indications of a growing concern for food and farming, which where the main themes of her talk. Economists, and even ecologists, do not take farming seriously, she said.
She described how in Mongolia, with its 25 million milk=producing animals, local dairy products cannot be found in the capital. In Nairobi, she said, Dutch better costs half of what Kenyan butter costs. Local people, she observed, cannot afford local food. Such absurdities, she said, came about not from markets or greed but through economic policy, more about which she spoke later.
She described monoculture as highly inefficient, extolling the efficient of small-scale farming, especially when animals are included. A positive trend she noted was that in England, people were moving away from centralized organic labelling to an "open gate" policy in which local people could verify the organic nature of the produce at any time. National monitoring bodies, she said, were unable to halt cheating as effectively as local groups could.
Things get spoiled when they go global, she said, saying that locally, biodiesel could be well and good in certain places. She called for a "bottom-up economics" focusing on food production.
One of the most salient points she made was a description of how small business were encouraged through taxation not to employ people but rather to employ technology and energy, with tax burdens placed on business that choose the former and tax breaks given to those that choose the latter.
She spoke of the family, saying that the decision by parents to force three-year-olds to learn reading and computers before they could speak was motivated by ungrounded fears of competition resulting from overpopulation. She said that economic woes have nothing to do with overpopulation and scarcity, welcome words from an environmentalist to these Catholic ears.
She spoke of health. Korea, she said, had a "huge advantage" in that she has managed to maintain a healthier diet than almost any other industrial country. This gives Koreans both physical and mental health. Korea's stronger family ties and connection to community give Koreans emotional health.
She then suggested that any idea or book with big funding behind it is probably not good. "Look at the budget behind any idea," she said. Sustainability, diversity, decentralization, and "real individualism" are all interconnected, she said.
While she called for regulation, she advocated "truly free trade" through the regulation of monopolies. (The Austrian School
, I wanted to say, suggests that monopolies are created by
regulation.) She suggested this as a "way to talk to the right wing." Most interestingly, she called for deregulation at the local level, saying that a British farmer had to fill out more paperwork to move a cow to another field than he would to get his child a passport. Decentralization "transcends left and right" she noted correctly.
She decried the "world-wide trade in identical products," noting how America in one year exported the same amount of beef that she imported. This situation arises, she says, from "hidden subsidies." She called for importation of things "you can't produce."
She concluded by calling localization the "economics of happiness."
Labels: Agriculture, Corea, Localism, The Dismal Science