Helena Norberg-Hodge, Local Futures With Noam Chomsky
What is globalization? Economic globalization is a process defined by the deregulation of trade and finance in order to enable businesses and banks to operate globally. Since at least the mid-20th century, national governments and international institutions have been nearly unanimous in supporting globalization, often through policies that prop up large transnational corporations to the detriment of small and local businesses. With the help of these policies, a single world market has emerged.
Corporate-funded think tanks and media outlets would have you believe that this global market is characterized by the free flow of ideas and technology, international collaboration, interdependence, and a worldwide sense of community – in other words, that the global market has created a ‘global village’.
But the reality is far different from this rosy picture. Our global economic system has become so large and complex – with producers and consumers, CEOs and workers, and cause and effect all far removed from each other – that ethical choices are almost impossible to make, and environmental and human rights disasters have become commonplace.
It can be challenging to understand the workings of a system that is so vast, out-of-control, and deeply ingrained into the fabric of our daily lives. But by breaking the global economy down into five key structural elements, and understanding how it came to exist in the first place, we can begin to comprehend it – and, ultimately, resist it.
What is 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.
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.
Helena is a widely respected analyst of the impact of the global economy and international development on local communities, local economies, and personal identity, and is a leading proponent of ‘localization’, or decentralization, as a means of countering those impacts.
Helena is the founder and director of Local Futures and The International Alliance for Localization (IAL). Based in the USA and UK, with subsidiaries in Germany and Australia, Local Futures examines the root causes of our current social and environmental crises, while promoting more sustainable and equitable patterns of living in both North and South. Helena is also a founding member of the International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture, the International Forum on Globalization and the Global Ecovillage Network.
Helena’s seminal book, Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, has been described as “an inspirational classic,” providing insightful solutions to the unintended impacts of development, based on her decades living and working in Ladakh, India. Together with the film of the same title, it has been translated into more than 40 languages, and sold about half a million copies.
Her most recent book, Local is Our Future: Steps to an Economics of Happiness, outlines how a systemic economic shift from global to local can address the world’s social, economic, ecological and spiritual crises. It has been described by author David Korten as “a must-read book for our time”. Helena is also the producer and co-director of the award-winning film The Economics of Happiness, and the co-author of Bringing the Food Economy Home and From the Ground Up: Rethinking Industrial Agriculture.
The Earth Journal counted Helena among the world’s ‘ten most interesting environmentalists’, while in Carl McDaniel’s book Wisdom for a Liveable Planet, she was profiled as one of ‘eight visionaries changing the world’.
Helena has lectured in seven languages and appeared in broadcast, print and online media worldwide, including MSNBC, The London Times, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Guardian. She has written numerous articles and essays, and her work has been the subject of more than 300 articles worldwide.
Educated in Sweden, Germany, Austria, England and the United States, Helena specialized in linguistics, including studies at the University of London and at MIT. Since 1975, she has worked with the people of Ladakh, or “Little Tibet”, to find ways of enabling their culture to meet the modern world without sacrificing social and ecological values. For these efforts she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, or ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’. She was awarded the prestigious Goi Peace Prize in 2012.