December 08, 2006


One of the odd things about the "anti-globalization" movement has always been that many, if not most of it's participants are not against globalization per se. After many travel across the world to protest, and some are rather active in campaigns to lessen, not strengthen many forms of border restrictions. It's been a well noted phenomena and sometimes the more accurate "anti economic globalization" phase is used, but never with much media traction, and inaccurate name has stuck. What makes it ironic though is a genuine anti-globalization movement just might be emerging, and out of a stock that overlaps only slightly from with the global protesters now stuck under a banner they didn't quite make themselves.

On can see it clearest in the local food movement, a movement rooted closer to the world of fine dining for rich people than with the anarchist squatters of the semi imaginary black block. It also is starting to show up with increasing vengeance in the writings John Thackara, who is reacting with perhaps unnecessary vigor and irony to the realization of the material impact of organizing international conferences in India has on the world. Of course neither the 100 mile dieters nor Thackara are the first localists, I'm sure it's an idea with century's of roots. But they do represent a crossing of a threshold, a movement of an idea from fringes beyond the pale and into fringes that actually touch base with the mainstream. How far it goes from here? Well you can mark this entry as a bit of radar tuning, it's a trend to watch not because I think it will be big or impactful, but because I have no idea where it goes next...

Posted by Abe at December 8, 2006 01:53 AM


Looking beyond food, there's an interesting overlap of people who favour 'locally based production' for environmental reasons, and those who favour it for reasons of national or local pride.

For example, in the UK (from personal experience), the types of people who consciously go out of their way to buy locally produced items (food, clothes, electrical goods, even cars) seem to be a mixture of people doing it in order to "Buy British" - often older people, or those who've seen their own areas economically devastated by production moving to cheaper economies - and people doing it for reasons of sustainability (less energy used in transportation) and ethical reasons in terms of not supporting sweatshop economies. The second group are from all age ranges, but in almost every other area of endeavour, they would appear to be at odds, the second group much more liberal and less traditional than the first. If they passed each other in the street, they would both consider each other "not my kind of people", yet their thought processes both lead to supporting local production.

Overall, as you say, this is very much a trend to watch out for. Traditional concepts of "opposite points of view" are not longer applicable to so many things, and will be even less so in the future.

Local = less gas = picked seasonally when ripe = more taste = more healthy = less use of chemicals = less middlemen = better economy -- often local is better than an organic tag, as "organic" can simply mean mass produced & at a distance food made in a field beside the one w/ pesticides, yielding little difference at all, in fact (& yah, facts come from a series on CBC's The Current about 1.5 months back).

Re/ globalization -- I've always preferred "alter-globalization movement." Even back at Seattle WTO 1999 and APEC 1997 this was an issue, and it was obvious the mainstream media branded it "anti-globalization" to serve _their_ interests of homogenizing the complexities of issues at stake and making these complex issues appear to be regressive or even Luddite. _tV

Good points Dan, and probably best encapsulated by distinguishing between localism, which is ultimately a geographic thing, and nationalism, which has a complex relationship to geography, but ultimately centers more around language and (imaginary) culture than geography. At the US/Mexico border for instance buying local and buying national would produce radically different sets of products.

Tobias, there is no question buying local can have huge benefits, but I think it gets interesting when you try and mediate between when it's worth it and when not. Jane Jacobs in her mid period work spends a lot of time looking at what she calls "import substitution" as an economic driver of healthy cities. It's basically the process in which a city (she uses bicycle production in post war Tokyo as a main example) takes a product that it imports and slowly turns it into a locally produced good, driving economic growth. But of course if "buy local" is the only coda, there are no real imports to substitute.

I've been trying to keep all my beer drinking relatively local for instance, and it makes sense now in 2006, there are loads of quality beers made in or near NYC. And as such it's pretty much a waste to buy a similar quality beer that has been shipped across an ocean, sometime in a bottle already even. But in say 1986 this would just not be true, the NYC local beers would be limited to Budweiser and company and without having access to Euro imports there would be little way for any local beer industry to improve towards it's current quality. But just when is the import necessary, and when is it not? It's a tricky and murky border to navigate...

I think the crux here is the dependency on global systems that the we anti-globalizationists employ in order to organize and actualize our communication and movement. there exists a fundamental catch-22 insofar as the technology and infrastructure rests largely in the hands of the very multinational that we seek to retake power from. i suppose a coherent plan would involve a simutaneous co-opting of the means and methods of this communication and transport.

the same incongruency exists in the foodie/local agriculture phenomenom that abe refers to- the structure of our production and consumption models prevent all but the economically privledged form participating in what is theoretically a revolutionary act. both top-down and grassroots efforts are necessary to combat this apparent contridiction.

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