Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Occupy protests have supposedly re-ignited the "buy local" idea, as a counter to globalization

A part of the Occupy issues is concern over globalization and the effects of MegaCorp's upon our lives.  An article today on stltoday.com (St Louis) explores how/whether the Occupy movement has reinvigorated interest in the "buy local" meme.  Though, to be honest, I thought "buy local" was such a little known idea that "invigorated" is a better word than "reinvigorated".  In any case here's a few ideas riffed from reading that article (see link below).

Is "buy local" wholly about worries about greedy corporations that have shipped jobs overseas?  The StlToday piece starts with an assertion along those lines.

Clearly a purchase of a locally produced widget means the job of producing that widget is held by one of your neighbors.  For example there's been a long-standing "Buy American" meme to counter the export of manufacturing jobs to foreigners, and let's be clear that this aspect of globalization has been underway for decades.

To me "buy local" has a bigger purpose than that, because globalization causes other issues than the export of jobs to other countries.  One example of another issue is the 10,000 mile Ceaser Salad where someone living in Boston in February simply cannot get locally grown Ceaser Salad ingredients and they have to be shipped from the southern hemisphere.  The environmental impact of shipping salad ingredients thousands of miles is completely out of line, but is routinely happening thanks to the "wonders" of globalization.

Hence, "buy local" when applied to food is the "slow food" or "locavore" (local fresh food) movement.

The same environmental impact issue applies to all the other stuff that gets shipped to us from thousands of miles away.  Take the lowly pencil made by a pencil factory in China and shipped to central Kentucky.  If it were manufactured in Kentucky it would travel a few miles to the store, and instead it's shipped by boat to a port somewhere, then trucked to Kentucky.

I think it is true that a "few people shopping at boutiques and farmers markets" will have little impact on the whole globalization picture.  For there to be a major impact would require a large scale mind-shift in what we think as normal.  It's an idea which must become known and adopted by large numbers of people.  People who shop with conscious awareness of the ownership of the stores they shop in, the production source of the things they buy, and the manufacturing practices being used.

This touches on the advertising messages that engulf people - well, those who watch TV.  The article quotes this from a St Louis resident:  "I don't expect kids to understand the economic philosophy about why they can't get a toy that they really want if it's only available at a big chain" or if it's only made in China, Corbett-Otto said. "Getting them what they want is more important. It's about them."

To interpret what she said - "the kids" are totally engulfed in messages from television showing some particular toy that they're salivating to have.  The messages from the television are put there by the MegaCorp's who have the advertising budgets to pay for the television system.

Occupy protestors reinvigorate buy-local, buy-American debate