Monday, July 28, 2008

The limits of the local

"SG: Those kinds of initiatives are good. I’m all for re-localizing the economy. For instance, it’s great if you can buy your food locally. But I think it’s an illusion, and a pernicious one at that, to think that if we change our behavior, everything will change. This is simply not true. It’s a question of scale. If you could get all Europeans to change their light bulbs, which is already a mammoth task, it really wouldn’t make that much difference. We must not allow people to think that by consuming different things, they can change the world. I’m all for fair trade, but everything is a question of scale now. Local change is one of the scales, and sometimes these things can be scaled up, but we really need to be thinking in terms of the large flows.

But if we are thinking seriously about the scale of these problems, we really have to take a much broader point of view, from Jupiter or something. It has to be done through law, through something that is binding. And of course economic incentives will be part of that, but how do you get economic incentives? You get them through law, through government saying, at least at the beginning, that we’ll subsidize solar, wave, biopower, etcetera.

People ask all the time, “are you optimistic or pessimistic,” it’s standard. I explain that I just don’t deal with the categories of optimism and pessimism, except maybe for the famous Gramsci quotation, “optimism of the will, pessimism of the mind.”"

Thought provoking interview with the brilliant Susan George. She puts "local activism" inti its right context.

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