Localizing a global culture

10 10.11

I had an interesting talk with a fellow marcher the other night.

(Hello!  From Delaware, the first of the original 13 colonies.  We’re marching through Newark, then down to Darlington, Maryland, and onwards towards Baltimore.  Our feet are tired and our muscles are sore, but we carry on, carry on, carry on.)

During our skillshare in Philadelphia, one of our crew led a general assembly, modeled after that held on wall street daily to discuss – as open ended as this is – change.  A group of us gathered together and opened up about where we come from and why we are interested in changing this current system we’re living in.  We talked about sustainability, dominant culture, and a wide range of other topics.  I found the whole thing quite enlivening – and very inspiring.

But I noticed that the marcher, a lovely fellow from Palestine, had remained silent throughout most of the discussion.  Once we broke the group, I asked him for his perspective.  It was like I’d burst a bubble – he immediately began talking and sharing, seemingly unable to stop the volley of thoughts pouring out of him.

His main problem with our discussion was our focus on localization.  We spoke of that a lot in the circle; for many of us in America, the land of globalized everything, that seems a wonderful response to the current state of affairs.  Bring it back; shrink it.  Close the gap between production and distribution to reduce the amount of fuel used and re-instill a feeling of personalization – and thus, accountability.  It’s much easier to harm the earth when your trash is out-of-sight-out-of-mind than it is to throw your waste into your own community – or your neighbor’s yard.

To me, this sounds like an amazing start to solving the many issues that plague us today.  But to Adley, this sounded like it would only perpetuate the problems.

“There are companies that have an overstock of rice, so they dump it into the oceans to keep prices stable,” he said passionately, “while in other parts of the world, people starve.  That’s thinking local.  That’s not working as one unified entity.”

I had never thought of it like that.  I tried to express to him that when I talk about going local, I assume that the other part of the thought is there as well: to think global.  That’s the term we all know, right?  Think global, act local.  Part of the very reason for localization is because of a regard for global issues – reducing our impact so that everyone has a chance to enjoy this earth (and for generations to come!), not just those who are privileged.

Still, Adley had a point.  I mentioned using our resources that are nearby; he countered with the fact that often, we have to trade resources, simply because of our climate and geography.  Through it all, he was insistent upon the fact that thinking in local terms leads to not helping others and turning a blind eye to the problems outside our little bubble.

It’s especially poignant – if not downright heart-wrenching – when you consider where he comes from, a land that has been ravaged by war and violence for decades.  For him to hear talk of shifting our perspectives ever-smaller must be torturous, for it’s that sort of outlook that has, at least partially, led to the Israel-Palestine conflict being as tenuous as it is.  Had people looked into their neighbors’ communities and seen themselves reflected back, had they worked as one unified group instead of so many fractured ones – or if we could begin to do that now – it would have made, would make, will make all the difference.

This doesn’t discredit or debunk the fact of localization, in many forms, being a good one.  We need to start relying on nearby resources more, for getting so much of our supplies (food, anyone?) from so far away is having an enormously detrimental impact on this fragile planet.  Localizing our production and distribution of resources is a fantastic way to begin reducing our impact, overall, as a species.


We also absolutely must work together as one creature, one movement, one planet, just as Adley said, lest we lose sight of the fact that we are undeniably and inextricably linked.  The human race is an ecosystem, one that, like any other system, only works best when all its parts are functioning at their full capacity.  As we turn our focuses on our own communities, let us not forget that we are still part of the wider community.  We must still help our neighbors, even if they are neighbors half the world away.

Perhaps this all goes without speaking – I suppose I thought it did, considering how surprised I was by Adley’s response.  Nonetheless, even if it’s redundant, it’s a good thing to remind ourselves of again …. And again.  And again, and againagainagain, until it finally, finally becomes a reality.

I’ll be thinking about this all as we march through Amish country tomorrow.  Where do you stand?

See you on the road –


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