We are seeing an inspiring resurgence of progressive action at the local level, even as reactionary nationalist movements in Europe and beyond seek to position themselves as the true voices of a renewed localism. What are the prospects for such locally centered political engagement in a time of rising political polarization and conflict? How can local action help advance personal liberation and social justice? More broadly, how can it further our goals for global transformation? The current upsurge of local action by both progressives and radical municipalists is fueled by several complementary impulses.
Today we are seeing an inspiring resurgence of progressive action at the local level, even as reactionary nationalist movements in Europe and beyond seek to position themselves as the true voices of a renewed localism. What are the prospects for such locally centered political engagement in a time of rising political polarization and conflict? How can local action help advance personal liberation and social justice? More broadly, how can it further our goals for global transformation?
By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig - SANTA ANA, Calif.—All resistance will be local. We will have to dismantle the corporate state, piece by piece, from the ground up. No leader or politician is going to do it for us. Every community that bans fracking, every university and institution that embraces the boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) movement, every individual who becomes vegan to thwart the animal agriculture industry’s devastation of the planet and holocaust of animals, every effort to build self-sustaining food supplies, every protest to halt the use of lethal force by police against our citizens, especially poor people of color, every act of civil disobedience against corporate power and imperialism will slowly transform our society. Those who rebel, once they rise up, will build alliances with other rebels.
The dominant message was that local governments and citizens should have the power to embrace or reject an energy infrastructure project planned by corporations for private gain. As proposed by Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC, a joint venture of EQT Corp. and NextEra Energy, the 42-inch diameter, 300-mile buried pipeline would transport natural gas at high pressure from West Virginia to a delivery point in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Mountain Valley has consistently emphasized that the pipeline could yield economic benefits for communities along its route, as well as the state and nation.
Activists are leading the initiatives, and early-adopters are participating, but most people are not typically getting involved. Without widespread participation in these initiatives, at the local level, the benefits to the community remain marginal. The fact is that most people are not willing to spend their time with idealistic pursuits, and most people don’t think it’s realistic to expect to change society by our own grassroots efforts. If we want to get more people involved in our initiatives, we’ve got to find a way to offer people a reason that appeals to their immediate self-interest. If our localization initiatives could offer significant economic benefits, we can bring in those who aren’t motivated by idealism.
“They’re beautiful,” she coos as she shows off the colored bills, which are unlike any other. “You can take pride in spending them.” Maggio frowns on dollars, preferring something else, called a BerkShares. The currency is available only in the Berkshires region of western Massachusetts. The area, which long ago embraced the organic and shop-local movements, decided in 2006 to take it a step further by creating its own currency. Town leaders hoped it would encourage people to shop only in stores in Berkshire County. “When you have BerkShares in your pocket,” Maggio said, “you might not go to McDonald’s. You might choose to go to a locally owned restaurant.”
In late 2006, Hopkins, who taught permaculture, came up with the seed of an idea that has grown into something wild and beautiful: the Transition Network. It started as one Transition Town in Totnes, England and the concept has replicated across 44 countries and thousands of towns and neighborhoods. The initial idea is simple: “To support community-led responses to peak oil and climate change, building resilience and happiness.” The organization now helps communities connect with each other, learn how to reduce CO2 emissions and decarbonize, and implement plans for a whole new kind of economic development. That’s where the idea of resilience comes in. According to the Transition Network: ‘Resilience’ has been defined as “the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change, so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks.”
The economy has stalled and so has the war on climate change. But a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance describes how dozens of cities are boosting their local economies while dramatically reducing greenhouse gases. City Power Play: 8 Practical Local Energy Policies to Boost the Economy reports on how Chattanooga, TN, is adding over $1 billion to the local economy in the next decade by implementing one of the most advanced smart grids while delivering the fastest internet service in the country. Sonoma County, CA, has created nearly 800 local jobs retrofitting over 2,000 properties for energy savings with city financing. Babylon, NY, repurposed a solid waste fund to finance retrofits for 2% of the city’s homes, saving residents an average of $1,300 a year on their energy bills at minimal cost to the city.