Today the average calorie travels something like 1,500 miles, were told, to reach our tables. Whole fleets of 747s exist just to fly kiwi fruits to the US from New Zealand. It is time to grow locally adapted varieties right at home, or go without.
New regional cuisines would be far wiser and more sustainable and, with not much more effort, more fun. One cachet of a re-localized society might even be its distinctive foods. Seasonal availability can be a pleasure, too. Imagine festivals for the first tomatoes, the first apples, the first salmon of the season, as native peoples often have. Ways of truly celebrating a place, knowing and welcoming its rhythms.
Grow Your Own: Inside and Out
Another step or two down that road would be intensive, compact gardening right alongside intensive, compact human habitation. We could aim to produce as much food as possible, not just "locally" but only steps away from the kitchen. Even in the kitchen, sometimes — or perhaps it is better to imagine kitchens set up in the garden, as in some rainforest permaculture communities. (Must we really have complete meal-production facilities in every house, and in the house if so?)
For the more technologically inclined, new designs for "vertical farming" envision growing spaces on the sides of buildings, especially taller buildings — gardens that double as sunshades and triple (so to say) as insulation as well as beautifying everything — and, best of all, you can just open the window and pick your lunch.
Local Manufacturing = Local Self-Reliance
Other goods can radically localize as well. My own region in Central Carolina once had a textile plant on every stream. Now fleets of Walmart trucks, the largest transport system in the world, haul in clothes from sweatshops in Indonesia or Mexico.
Re-localization might well mean that we no longer have such ridiculously cheap clothes (cheap to us, that is, at the register again, not to the land or the oil fields or the actual producers or even us in the long run), but in exchange we would have good jobs, jobs which would once again allow people to afford something other than those virtual-slave-labor T-shirts that we are offered now as if they are really some kind of deal. And again, for all sorts of other reasons too, such as resilience in the face of economic or other disruptions and even the likely vastly increasing costs of transport, local self-reliance is a good idea.
Local Economic Leverage to Reinvigorate the Local Economy
One possible path: use the economic leverage of local institutions such as schools. My university, for example, sits in this ex-textile region, but so far we have acted like we might as well be anywhere. Why not make a project of using our own buying power to reinvigorate the local economy?
For starters, we could once again source our cotton locally — or grow it ourselves (along, say, with hops for local beers — a perennial favorite of my students). We could recreate textile mills in a new green spirit. And all of this could be furthered as part of our educational mission. We need a School of Local Sustainable Economy, alongside our fancy new Business Schools. In fact, arguably, a School of Local Sustainable Economy is the real Business School of the twenty-first century.
Cutting Out the Miles of Driving
Shopping? Go online. No more peregrination between stores in search of this or that item. Big things could ship slow, by boat or blimp, if they needed to come from a distance at all.
We could set up small fleets of vans and trucks for home delivery — that would still be vastly more efficient than ten thousand individuals driving between malls. Even "the shopping experience" can be recreated virtually — probably ten times better.
©2012 by Anthony Weston. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New Society Publishers. http://newsociety.com
This article was adapted with permission from the book:
Mobilizing the Green Imagination: An Exuberant Manifesto
by Anthony Weston.
Nothing less than a complete reinvention of contemporary environmentalism, Mobilizing the Green Imagination belongs in the back pocket of anyone who dares to dream of a brighter future and a better world. Philosophical provocateur Anthony Weston urges us to move beyond ever more desperate attempts to “green” the status quo toward entirely different and far more inviting ecological visions — the perfect antidote to the despair brought on by too many “doom and gloom” scenarios.
About the Author
Anthony Weston is professor of philosophy and environmental studies at Elon University in North Carolina, where he teaches ethics, environmental studies, and "Millennial Imagination." He is the author of twelve other books, including How to Re-Imagine the World and Back to Earth, as well as many articles on ethics, critical thinking, education, and contemporary culture. At Elon, Weston has been named both Teacher of the Year and Scholar of the Year. Find out more about him at his Elon University profile page.