Posted by: Rabideye | January 16, 2010

Staying small, keeping it local

Leaf structure: small cells that interact with each other to collect sun and feed the leaf-branch-tree

Go big or go home!” is the familiar capitalist mantra that is used even in the context of ventures with the words ‘eco’, ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ in front of them. It’s the ethos that brought us factory farms, sweatshops and Big Box stores, and even when our intentions are good, we can’t seem to think beyond it, even when it is so obviously flawed.

Slave and quasi-slave labour, environmental destruction and unregulated (or tolerated) pollution levels invariably accompany the ‘go big’ model & ‘economies of scale’. Why should this pattern produce anything different when applied to feel-good ventures like producing environmentally-friendly products, recycling, and even large-scale composting?

Of course, the demand is still there for massive amounts of cheap food (at least half of which we throw out) and discounted consumer products (the huge majority of which are cheaply made, disposable and/or never recycled) and services, so the model still works beautifully for some, for now.

But we have to really work at seeing about the real cost of things beyond price tags. And that is hard to do when we often don’t have the facts. Where was that organic tomato grown, under what conditions, by whom and how did it get here? Where was the plastic that contains the eco-friendly dish-washing liquid produced,  from which chemicals, and how much does it cost both monetarily and to the environment to transport and recycle it into some other plastic things? We are so distanced from the production models that we can scarcely fathom the real cost of things; and we’re supposed to be confused. That’s guilt-free shopping at its best! (Click here for an article on how Sweden is managing to include the ‘real cost’ of food products)

My goal is to keep things simple: from simply reusing and reducing what I buy, to producing more food, to creating and buying small-scale locally-made products and services. The local product might not be of  Starbuckian uniformity or Walmartian in price,  but a more genuine expression of who we are and want to become. It takes a lot of effort to swim against this tide; stay small and remain local.

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