Localize This!

Why climate change and our local economy matter

Sometimes there’s so much to say about a topic that it’s hard to fit it all in. That’s what happened last week (“Hot Pockets,” June 10) when I reported on the bounty of resilient eco-enterprises popping up in the North Bay in response to climate change.

Climate change has become an intractable problem. What troubles me is why governments and corporations don’t figure out sensible policies to address an issue that so profoundly threatens the future of our children and grandchildren. Is it possible that some people are so corrupt, so greedy—so evil, really—that they can’t give up a few luxuries to refashion the game to protect our planet?

In my article, I took up author Naomi Klein’s view that capitalism is the cause of the problem. According to Klein, conservatives recognize that addressing climate change poses a threat to capitalism, which is their operating system; hence they resist.

We asked some innovative thinkers on this topic what they thought. Richard Heinberg, in particular, is clear that growth, made possible by cheap fossil fuels, must come to an end.

Michael Shuman and Marco Vangelisti agree that the economy cannot continue to grow. Whether (and when) it will collapse is certainly in question, but in fact it has already collapsed once, in 2008, and is currently supported mainly by debt. The situation, once again, looks precarious.

One alternative is to invest in small-scale, local businesses funded by local capital instead of conglomerate debt, that are accountable to the people they serve and respectful of the limits of nature. Ironically, that’s still capitalism; you might call it capitalism with a conscience. As I discovered, here in the North Bay there are dozens of small businesses trying to reduce emissions, produce food and other good things, and share information and resources. It’s working.

Whether localization is going to solve the problems created by uncontrolled growth and abusive capitalism remains to be seen. But, hey, it’s a step. At least somebody’s doing something that needs to be done, something we can all support. And who knows, it might trickle up.

Stephanie Hiller is a freelance writer living in Sonoma.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the ‘Bohemian.’ We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected].