Economic localization offers multi-faceted solutions to the problems created by globalization.
In Local Futures’ learning guide on globalization, we sketched the outlines of the current economic system, in which corporations rule and people are increasingly deprived of the deep connections with community and with nature that they need to thrive.
Now, let’s imagine a very different world, one in which most of your food comes from nearby farmers who are part of your community and who ensure food security year round. Imagine children being free to play and explore their world safely under the watch of neighbors who you know and trust. Imagine the money you spend on everyday goods continuing to recirculate in the local economy, building community wealth along the way. Imagine local businesses multiplying and providing ample, meaningful employment opportunities, instead of your hard-earned cash being immediately siphoned off to some distant corporate headquarters. Economic localization can make these visions a reality for all.
In this learning guide, we’ll cover what economic localization is and why it’s so beneficial for human, societal, and ecological wellbeing.
What is Economic Localization?
Ultimately, economic localization is about re-scaling the economy back to a human level. It is the process of building economic structures which allow the goods and services a community needs to be produced locally and regionally whenever possible. Localizing economies can strengthen community cohesion and lead to greater human health and material wellbeing, all while reducing pollution and degradation of the natural world.
From community gardens to credit unions, from alternative learning spaces to small business alliances and co-ops, local economies create networks of place-based relationships that affirm our human desire for connection to each other and to the earth. By creating this structural basis for community, local economies make caring for one another and for the land into guiding principles of daily life.
Watch the video below for more on why localization is so beneficial – and so necessary.
An important point to note is that localization does not mean total isolation. It isn’t about eliminating all trade; communities can still export surpluses once local needs are met, and they can still import goods that can’t be produced locally. But localization allows local, regional, and even national self-reliance to replace dependence on distant, unaccountable corporations.
Localized economies are created by and for the people who live there. Rather than subscribing to a global monocultural model, localized economies respect local cultures and needs, while allowing for the free exchange of knowledge and ideas across borders. In fact, localization requires international cooperation and collaboration to address global problems like climate change, and to forge agreements to scale back the rapacious power of global corporations and banks.
Bottom-Up and Top-Down Actions
Another key point is that any systemic shift towards localization will need to be driven by a combination of bottom-up grassroots initiatives and top-down policy changes.
Millions of local and regional enterprises are already demonstrating that they can do a better job providing for basic needs – including the fundamental human need for community – than the handful of giant corporations that currently dominate the world’s economy. We’ll talk about this in more detail further down the page, in the section “Benefits of Localization”.
But as those initiatives build a new economy from the ground up, we also need to pressure our governments to make policy changes, such as:
- Shifting taxes and subsidies to support local, sustainable businesses instead of global corporations.
- Renegotiating trade treaties so that they protect the rights of countries to support their local business sectors and conserve natural resources.
- Changing regulations in the finance sector so that our financial security, as individuals and nations, isn’t dependent on the risky gambles of financial institutions that are falsely considered “too big to fail”.
- Modifying food, health, and land-use policies so that they support local projects rather than multinational corporations.
This kind of strategic restructuring of economic supports and policies would create the conditions for grassroots localization initiatives to flourish and multiply. For example, ending subsidies for fossil fuels, pesticides, mechanized agriculture, and long-distance trade would enable healthy local food to become the cheapest and most accessible food on the market. Just imagine what that one change could do as far as helping community-based livelihood opportunities to become widespread and abundant.
As we often say, there is no single blueprint for localization. Instead, there is a set of core guiding principles and common threads: supporting small-scale enterprise, embracing diversity and connection, and prioritizing the wellbeing of people and planet over corporate profits. But because localizing inherently means adapting economic activity to a specific place and culture, it will look a little different wherever you go.
Local economies cover a wide spectrum of needs, and the range of possibilities for local economic initiatives is staggering. In our Planet Local library, we’ve collected numerous examples of successful projects happening right now, all over the world. You can view a selection of the most recent additions to Planet Local here: