Localization vs. Globalization

Is localization inherently anti-globalization?

I recently came across this video from Local Futures, an international NGO advocating for localization, that pits the two against each other:

Going Local: the solution-multiplier from The Economics of Happiness on Vimeo.

I find myself conflicted by this polarized messaging. On the one hand, improving our communities is in everyone’s best interests and should have mass-appeal. The places that we live are our most immediate realities and we should act to protect them.

I’m unconvinced, however, that globalization is the enemy. Our communities are complex places, made up of a multitude of social, environmental, and cultural connections. And globalization’s effects on those three facets of our society are not all together bad.

Take, for instance, the democratization and spread of information that has come about in the past 30 years, in part due to globalization. It is easier than ever to learn from and share ideas with other people around the world, creating new, global communities. This sharing of information also includes the sharing of models for local action, community to community. The globalization of ideas has even led to large-scale social shifts made possible by local action, through movements like Black Lives Matter and the Arab Spring. And on a more micro level, it has enabled the growth of local resilience initiatives such as the Transition movement.

So what are we supposed to prioritize? The local or the global? My answer is both, and neither. Undoing globalization should not be the goal of localists, in my opinion — especially if it comes at the expense of global communication. Rather, we should prioritize local in little ways, through every day decisions. Prioritize where you live and engage locally first. Support your local businesses. Vote in local elections. Serve on local committees and boards. Run for local office. Learn from other communities and share what you have learned, both locally and globally. Embrace the wealth of ideas that are available to you and use them to better both your community and the world, using local action to catalyze large-scale change. And, most of all, don’t use localism as a shield, closing your eyes to the world at large.

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