Thinking locally, acting locally, connecting globally

I spent the day at a social event – a rare treat for someone who works alone most of the time, although in constant contact with clients. It was pleasant to talk about subjects other than business. I noticed that today’s various conversations tended to touch upon our individual responses to increasing gas prices, impending food shortages and rising sea levels.

One friend is choosing to start her 5-year-old daughter at her town’s elementary school rather than at an out-of-town private school that would offer a more interesting curriculum but would require driving or busing. By walking to school with her friends, her daughter will develop a sense of belonging to that particular place and community – something that we don’t feel so deeply when we drive everywhere.  The mother will work with the local school to help develop the activities she wants available for her child.  She expects that by the time her daughter reaches high school, the expense of busing kids to the big high school in another town 30 km distant will have led to the revitalization of the local high school.

gardenWith another friend I talked about gardening – how it is the perfect antidote to working on a computer. We shared our questions about how much time, money and energy to put into our gardens. How long will we be living in our current homes? Should we be planting apple trees and asparagus which take years to come to fruition?  Should we truck in manure to build up the soil so we can raise more of our own food?  What if sea levels rise faster than expected – are we too close to sea level?

Another friend is involved in creating a new organization.  Some people from Halifax, an hour’s drive away, interested in what they are doing. Should they spend the resources to drive to Halifax to engage people there and expand their numbers? Or keep it local? She feels that organizing locally is where the group should be putting its energy, given the increased cost of travel.

Other people were discussing how they are moving towards eating more locally – the “hundred mile diet” – or is it 100 kilometers? I said that I want to include in my “local” diet the delicious greenhouse tomatoes grown in Amherst, which may be 100 miles as the crow flies. Someone pointed out that the people who recently publicized the idea of “hundred mile diet” live in a warmer climate where more foodstuffs can be grown more easily.  We have to travel a little further for variety.

Farmers MarketThe importance of maintaining and building the local farmers’ markets was mentioned. We are going to need those local distribution mechanisms.

Even if we all find ourselves driving less and engaging ourselves locally more, as our great-grandparents did, one thing is different: thanks to the internet we are connected more than ever.  I can’t but think that online shopping will remain popular as people choose not to travel by car just to shop.  Product delivery is done much more efficiently by post office or courier than by shopping mall parking lots full of consumers’ vehicles.  Already, online research, education, entertainment and banking have become routine.  We will find more and more ways to use the internet.

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