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Thursday, October 22,2009

Relocalization may be the key to not exterminating ourselves

By Pamela White

The real change we need

The next time you hear about a corporation outsourcing jobs to specialized workers in India, don’t criticize them. They learned this behavior from you.

You are an expert outsourcer. Don’t believe me? Make a list of all the things you don’t know how to do for yourself. It will look something like this: food production, preservation and safety; raising and butchering animals; clothing manufacture; home building and repair; education; furniture building; tool production; childrearing (daycare); health care; decision-making (self-help gurus, life coaches); fuel production and delivery; communication; water delivery; waste removal; recycling; transportation; toy making; storytelling (TV); governance; funerals; the making of medicine, cosmetics and cleaning products; music making; giving birth/ helping a partner give birth; lactation (infant formula); self-defense; dispensing justice in your community. The food you eat, the clothing you wear, the heat that keeps you warm in the winter — it’s all provided by strangers, some of whom live on the other side of the world, in exchange for that coarsest and most impersonal of commodities: money.

From a certain perspective this makes sense. Modern health care has cost lives, but it has also saved them. Having police on hand to enforce laws, and a justice system that determines the fate of those who break them, maintains a certain kind of order.

Besides, who has time these days to master midwifery, farming, sewing, canning, steel working, plumbing, carpentry, parenting, construction, animal husbandry, teaching, research, self-government and minstrelsy? Modern technology is so complex and modern life so fast-paced and complicated that it’s much easier to leave these tasks to those who are experts.

Economy is, after all, a function of time. It’s about how you choose to use your time. Human history has been a long march toward gaining mastery of time in a way that enables us to control our environment, enhance efficiency, coordinate supply with demand, decrease the amount of labor needed to stay alive, and have more time for leisure. When I was in school, success in meeting these goals was called “progress.”

But progress has come at a price. Forests have been felled. Species are extinct. Rivers and oceans, air and soil are polluted. Communities are fragmented. Elders who grew their own food and built their own homes watch their knowledge become increasingly irrelevant in a mechanized, specialized world and find themselves herded into retirement communities and nursing homes. Economies teeter while the gap between rich and poor widens. Personal and national freedom has given way to personal and international codependency. And the environment we sought to control is about to school us in what happens when you mess with Mother Nature.

Many believe that relocalization and reskilling are the best, most viable solution to this set of serious — indeed, lifethreatening — challenges. An international movement that got its start in the United Kingdom, relocalization, or the transition movement, is about regaining lost knowledge and bringing production back to the local community.

“Reskilling first of all gives us an experience of reclaiming our power and losing that sense of powerlessness and helplessness,” says Michael Brownlee, co-founder of Boulder-based Transition Colorado. “We reclaim those fundamental life skills that our grandparents and great grandparents took for granted but which we didn’t inherit. Even things like basic home repair — we call somebody up to come and fix that stuff.”

Starting with learning to grow one’s own food, reskilling is a process that people find invigorating and inspiring, Brownlee says.

“It was very delightful to me to discover the favorite reskilling class in the U.K. was sock darning,” he says. “Here in the U.S. when we get a hole in our socks, we toss them. But in the future we won’t do that. We will be darning our socks. Fortunately, there are a few people left who know how to darn socks, and we’re going to have to learn.”

Transition Colorado has hosted more than 7,500 people hours of reskilling events, Brownlee says.

“There’s such demand for it,” he says.

“People say, ‘I want to raise chickens in my backyard, but I have no idea how to go about it.’ So we find somebody who knows, and we organize a class. We’ve done that kind of thing over and over and over again.”

Relocalization advocates say reskilling empowers people to take control over essential aspects of their lives, saving them money and making them less dependent on the Wall Street economy. But it also rebuilds community by turning strangers into neighbors and making elders relevant again as people come together to master skills their parents couldn’t teach them.

If the resurgence of interest in backyard gardening and farmers’ markets is any indicator, people are hungry not just for food, but also the sense of safety that comes from knowing who produced your food and how. And, indeed, food growing and preservation is at the heart of reskilling, Brownlee says. But not just for the obvious reasons.

“It is in beginning to rebuild our capacity to produce our own food locally — that’s the primary way we rediscover community,” he says. “Because of the way that economic globalization has gone and how we’ve lost all our local capacities to meet our own needs, we have lost our connection to the land. We’ve lost the connection to the people who grow our food, even the people who prepare our food. Those basic connections of a community have been cut, so most of us have not grown up in a place where those connections exist. It means we really haven’t experienced community. When people start getting into this food thing — they go to the farmers’ markets, they meet the farmers, they join a CSA — they start rebuilding those connections that are very ancient, and it is a profound discovery. It gives people a sense of hope and positivity that’s been missing.”

Hope. Positive change. Local control. But the heart of it is true community, Brownlee says.

Community is certainly a word one hears often in Boulder. Do we really know what it means?

Perhaps not.

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Learning how to grow food and preserve it is a good skill to have. However, I don't think everyone has time to become a complete homesteader and have a full time (specialized) job. I like having a special skill and a purpose in life other than diaper-changing, sock darning and slaving away in the kitchen all day.

I hope that in the future we find a way to preserve the freedom of choice and purpose as well as live sustainably, so that we can all have opportunities to contribute in creative ways to our community without breaking our backs trying to do it ALL for ourselves.

True prosperity may not be all about mindless and pointless growth, but it's also not about limiting our options.



THANK YOU Pamela for writing this article. This is what I've been saying for a long time now and have been re-skilling myself along the way. This article is the truth everyone needs to hear and take very seriously. Our lives, health, and happiness depend on it!


Don't have time? That is the saddest excuse I've ever heard. You "don't have time" because you are dependant on your job for paper currency to buy your food, shelter, and clothes with. If you could do it yourself and we re-adopted the bartering system, you wouldn't need a full-time job to support yourself. You may not need a "job" at all. And that, my friend, is true freedom of choice!

And I don't think it was implied that one would have to do it all themselves either. You may have missed the part where the community supports eachother in survival.

"True prosperity may not be all about mindless and pointless growth, but it's also not about limiting our options." True prosperity has NOTHING to do with mindless growth and your options are already limited. Can't you see that?




Ciaradugas, don't get me wrong, I think the article is good and I agree with the concepts. I DO have time - I have time to garden, can food, read, spend time in nature. I grow most of the produce I eat in the summer and can a lot to eat throughout the fall. I just don't have time to do everything as the article states (fix your car, fix your house, sew your clothes...) and I don't want to become a farmer. I like what I do for a living and I don't desire to spend my days mucking out the barn or tending to my crops or making my own clothes. I have more choices now than my grandmother did, and she was a homesteader. My choices aren't that limited. Hers were! She never went on vacation and barely left her house (cuz you know, the animals need tending and milking).

You say that "community supports each other in survival" - isn't that what we're doing now? Someone in Alaska fishes for us so we don't have to. Someone in Asia sews our clothes so we don't have to.

I have no desire to "have no job at all." I like what I do for a living and I get a lot of satisfaction and happiness from it. If I had to trade my career for full-time homesteading, well - I probably wouldn't like that much.

My point is that we need to examine this idea of self-reliance and incorporate it INTO the progress we've made in society, such as equality and equal opportunity for all men and women.



To begin, we ARE NOT supporting eachother as a world-wide community, alright? The children in Asia making your clothes are sweatshop children on the dime of a rich, white capitalist who took advantage of a destabilized economy and put his wares there either through american-govt sponsorship or illegal corporate tactics. Foreign fishing out of state is better? Do you know if your Alaskan fish are bred in a farm, pumped with steroids, or fed nothing but corn like all the American chicken and beef?

I'm glad you get satisfaction out of what you do, but how do you know your satisfactory career will always be there? I'm a graphic designer and my boyfriend is a computer specialist and his jobs are outsourced all the time and i'm not even payed my agreed upon market-salary. These skills ensure survival when a federal-reserve based economy ensures nothing and no stability at all. "Maybe the economy will be better next year" or "Oh, its gotten so bad it can only get better" are the worst and least-secure perspectives. The only way to be free of these problems is to be completely self-sufficient.

Equality for all? Really? Sexism and Racism in America are ALIVE and WELL. Just because we have a black president doesn't mean things have turned around for everybody! There's still insignificant success for gay rights, women are still payed lower than men in many fields, and all ethnic communities and subcultures are still afflicted with stereotypes and given the cold shoulder unless there are extenuating circumstances or affirmative action comes into play! What country do you think you live in?

Older communities had less options than we did? Your ancestors at least owned their farms fully and had access to a wide variety of stock and seeds. Now, corporations are buying the patent on the DNA for seeds and saying that certain things cannot be grown or stored or both. Monsanto, Kroger Farms, and various other corporate entities have all passed patents against farmers to limit their power. Less than 3% grow for the enrtire country of 300 Million people. Pathetic. Your ancestors also owned and tilled the land and had no need to get corporate jobs because they had all the food and sustenance they will ever need instead of corporations feeding you daily. They knew how to survive and they actually lived longer. Due to privatized food, Diabetes, Cancer, Obesity, lack of skill, and laziness are all increasing tremendously. Your ancestors lived much more fortunately then you will in your lifetime, trust me.

Travel was not an issue anyhow. Your grandmother is not the national average. Older communities had trustworthy neighbors to help them manage their animals while they were vacant of home. My boyfriend has a grandmother who was an Accountant but was also from tribal-Costa Rica and knew all the old skills. She's traveled all of Europe, Spain, Portugal, Japan, China, India, Nepal, and most of South America. She was of your grandmother's generation and look what she accomplished. Not traveling sounds like it was your family's choice, not a circumstance. I dont know who your ancestors were, but people travelled all the time and more of them travelled than DID NOT travel.

I'm not saying that we need to go back to the stone-age, but we need to learn how to make technology work for us and this precious planet that we have been given. To not consider this and continue on while the planet is destroyed by reckless industry and this ancient and confident wisdom is lost forever can only force us into servitude and despair permanently after...