The environmental nonprofit Local Futures announced its new International Alliance for Localization, a global network promoting local-first green efforts, during an event at Cooper Union on Nov. 8.
The new initiative will link together diverse groups concerned with protecting community and the local economy, create new localization initiatives and shift policies away from economic globalization toward localization.
Helena Norberg-Hodge, the founder of Local Futures, began the keynote at the “Voices of Hope in a Time of Crisis” event by discussing the United States’ inability to understand the workings of the global economy.
“Strengthening local economies worldwide is essential for rebuilding the fabric of connection,” Norberg-Hodge said. “We must not stay caught in a theater of politics.”
Norberg-Hodge emphasized that the right to fresh food is a fundamental human right, and he said the United States can preserve this right by putting diversity, natural resources and small communities at the center of its policy agenda.
“Mother Earth is diversity; it breathes diversity and can only survive with diversity,” she said. “But global giants in the form of big unaccountable businesses cannot respect diversity.”
Norberg-Hodge also examined specific problems caused by a lack of localization, such as local food in Mongolia, Tibet and Kenya that is twice as expensive as foreign, chemically infused food. Another example is the unemployment in small Tibetan communities created by globalization.
Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, said he was worried traditional political institutions were no longer in the business of promoting the common good. Instead, he said, the facade of politics is taking over.
“Choreographed and expensive spectacles, devoid of genuine political content, are more prevalent than true reform,” Hedges said. “Clinton destroyed the last vestiges of the liberal system. The left became so far right it became insane.”
Hedges added that individuals can make strides to reverse this trend.
“Our change will begin with personal, radical choices, such as eating a plant-based diet, to reclaim power over our own lives and our communities,” he said. “We need a re-education of what it means to be a citizen.”
Other speakers, including GRITtv host Laura Flanders, discussed a similar idea, stressing that individuals can make a difference.
“Our economy is dependent on bigotry and war,” Flanders said. “When we talk about hope, the temptation is to project outside of ourselves, that someone else will do it.”
Trina Paulus, an author and advocate for organic farming who attended the event, said she came because she wanted to support the International Alliance for Localization’s efforts.
“I constantly question myself,” Paulus said. “Where should I be? Today, I knew I had to be with these people because that’s where my heart is.”
Stanzin Dawa, a senior at Smith College who attended the event, said she felt that local-first efforts could make a difference, despite the influence of global institutions.
“It’s impossible to completely shut down the corporations,” Dawa said. “But at the local level, it’s possible to bring awareness and to accomplish little things, such as teaching people what can be done to help and how.”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 10 print edition. Email Christine Wang at [email protected]