Governments

While localization initiatives are sprouting from the grassroots all over the world, those efforts can be nourished – or stunted – by government policy. For local projects to spread and flourish, policy changes are needed on a number of levels, from the most local to the international. Few of us are able to directly influence public policy except at that most local level, but we should all be aware of – and support – policy shifts that would enable on-the-ground localization efforts to thrive.

Reclaim your community’s electrical grid.
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Reclaim your community’s electrical grid.

Private corporations own most of the world’s electricity infrastructure, which means local governments and citizens have only limited control over their utilities. Taking back ownership creates the conditions for local, democratic decision-making around infrastructure placement, availability, pricing, and power sources.

Take action

Get inspired

  • The German community group Our Hamburg, Our Grid, Germany ousted multinational energy giant Vattenfall and replaced it with a local power utility.
  • The residents of Feldheim, Germany, funded and built their own electrical grid powered by 100% renewable energy after the utility company refused to sell or lease its grid to the village.

Reclaim your community’s electrical grid.

Private corporations own most of the world’s electricity infrastructure, which means local governments and citizens have only limited control over their utilities. Taking back ownership creates the conditions for local, democratic decision-making around infrastructure placement, availability, pricing, and power sources.

Take action

Get inspired

  • The German community group Our Hamburg, Our Grid, Germany ousted multinational energy giant Vattenfall and replaced it with a local power utility.
  • The residents of Feldheim, Germany, funded and built their own electrical grid powered by 100% renewable energy after the utility company refused to sell or lease its grid to the village.
Find affordable land to farm.
Expand Action
Find affordable land to farm.

Securing affordable farmland is critical if we are to rebuild our local food economies – and it is one of its biggest challenges around the world. As the US National Young Farmers Coalition writes, "Finding secure access to land is the number one barrier preventing a generation of growers from entering the field. Land is also at the root of racial equity, food sovereignty, economic prosperity, public health, and the climate crisis."

Take action

  • Browse the guides and resources in Agrarian Trust's Resources List (US), National Young Farmers Coalition's Land Link Directory (US), Young Agrarians' Finding Farmland & Land Access Tools (Canada), and Access to Land’s Member Organizations (Europe). These include land access guides, lists of farm linking and incubation programs, financing information, courses and lease templates.
  • Elsewhere, contact a local land access organization, land-matching program, La Via Campesina chapter, or your local government to find programs local to you.
  • Work with local governments to secure land for community food enterprises with Shared Assets' guide Access to Land: Working with Local Authorities (UK).
  • Work with your local government and non-profits to provide farmers with leased land. This is the model employed by the nonprofit Intervale Center, which owns, leases, and manages 350 acres near the city of Burlington, Vermont in the US, and subleases land to ten or more independently owned farms.

Get inspired

  • Agrarian Trust in the US permanently protects affordable farmland through a variety of innovative commons-based approaches.
  • California FarmLink in California, US partners with landowners to purchase farms or transition them to the next generation.
  • Equity Trust in New England, US transfers land ownership to a nonprofit entity and leases land to farmers at below-market rates, while farmers own their own buildings and infrastructure.

Find affordable land to farm.

Securing affordable farmland is critical if we are to rebuild our local food economies – and it is one of its biggest challenges around the world. As the US National Young Farmers Coalition writes, "Finding secure access to land is the number one barrier preventing a generation of growers from entering the field. Land is also at the root of racial equity, food sovereignty, economic prosperity, public health, and the climate crisis."

Take action

  • Browse the guides and resources in Agrarian Trust's Resources List (US), National Young Farmers Coalition's Land Link Directory (US), Young Agrarians' Finding Farmland & Land Access Tools (Canada), and Access to Land’s Member Organizations (Europe). These include land access guides, lists of farm linking and incubation programs, financing information, courses and lease templates.
  • Elsewhere, contact a local land access organization, land-matching program, La Via Campesina chapter, or your local government to find programs local to you.
  • Work with local governments to secure land for community food enterprises with Shared Assets' guide Access to Land: Working with Local Authorities (UK).
  • Work with your local government and non-profits to provide farmers with leased land. This is the model employed by the nonprofit Intervale Center, which owns, leases, and manages 350 acres near the city of Burlington, Vermont in the US, and subleases land to ten or more independently owned farms.

Get inspired

  • Agrarian Trust in the US permanently protects affordable farmland through a variety of innovative commons-based approaches.
  • California FarmLink in California, US partners with landowners to purchase farms or transition them to the next generation.
  • Equity Trust in New England, US transfers land ownership to a nonprofit entity and leases land to farmers at below-market rates, while farmers own their own buildings and infrastructure.
Join or start a food policy council.
Expand Action
Join or start a food policy council.

Food policy councils bring together stakeholders to build a policy framework for local food systems. Some are initiated by and embedded within local governments, and some are maintained by grassroots organizations.

Get started

Get inspired

  • The Los Angeles Food Policy Council in California started with a task force that created the city’s Good Food for All Agenda, with input from more than 200 stakeholders in roundtable sessions. The 6-minute video Los Angeles Food Policy Council shares their story and achievements.
  • The Bristol Food Policy Council in Bristol, UK launched a Good Food Plan to build a resilient food system, covering farmland protection, food culture, market opportunities, business incubation, composting food waste, and more.

Join or start a food policy council.

Food policy councils bring together stakeholders to build a policy framework for local food systems. Some are initiated by and embedded within local governments, and some are maintained by grassroots organizations.

Get started

Get inspired

  • The Los Angeles Food Policy Council in California started with a task force that created the city’s Good Food for All Agenda, with input from more than 200 stakeholders in roundtable sessions. The 6-minute video Los Angeles Food Policy Council shares their story and achievements.
  • The Bristol Food Policy Council in Bristol, UK launched a Good Food Plan to build a resilient food system, covering farmland protection, food culture, market opportunities, business incubation, composting food waste, and more.
Start a public market.
Expand Action
Start a public market.

Public markets are year-round, permanent spaces where local businesses can rent stalls or tables. By building public markets, we create affordable places for entrepreneurs to sell goods, test concepts, and connect with customers, and we add to the economic and cultural vibrancy of town centers.

Take action

Get inspired

  • Great Public Markets, a list by the Project for Public Spaces, shares examples of thriving public markets from Benin to Brazil to Belgium. 
  • The Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia is home to more than 600 small businesses across 17 acres of market space.

Start a public market.

Public markets are year-round, permanent spaces where local businesses can rent stalls or tables. By building public markets, we create affordable places for entrepreneurs to sell goods, test concepts, and connect with customers, and we add to the economic and cultural vibrancy of town centers.

Take action

Get inspired

  • Great Public Markets, a list by the Project for Public Spaces, shares examples of thriving public markets from Benin to Brazil to Belgium. 
  • The Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia is home to more than 600 small businesses across 17 acres of market space.
Launch a Flatpack Democracy campaign.
Expand Action
Launch a Flatpack Democracy campaign.

Started by citizens of Frome (UK) in 2015, Flatpack Democracy is a movement helping communities to “reclaim local politics from the systems and political parties that are currently failing them” by contesting and winning local elections.

Take action

  • Learn about the movement and its strategies in the books by founder Peter Macfadyen, including Flatpack Democracy: A DIY Guide to Creating Independent Politics, and Flatpack Democracy 2.0: Power Tools for Reclaiming Local Politics._ _Both are available from the Flatpack Democracy website.  
  • Launch a Flatpack Democracy initiative in your town, with this Flatpack 2021 starter guide

Be inspired

Launch a Flatpack Democracy campaign.

Started by citizens of Frome (UK) in 2015, Flatpack Democracy is a movement helping communities to “reclaim local politics from the systems and political parties that are currently failing them” by contesting and winning local elections.

Take action

  • Learn about the movement and its strategies in the books by founder Peter Macfadyen, including Flatpack Democracy: A DIY Guide to Creating Independent Politics, and Flatpack Democracy 2.0: Power Tools for Reclaiming Local Politics._ _Both are available from the Flatpack Democracy website.  
  • Launch a Flatpack Democracy initiative in your town, with this Flatpack 2021 starter guide

Be inspired

Policy action: Change local ordinances that limit urban agriculture.
Expand Action
Policy action: Change local ordinances that limit urban agriculture.

Despite their many benefits, urban agriculture projects can be blocked by well-intentioned local ordinances. Changing these can help spread urban agriculture to more communities.

Get started

Get inspired

  • For numerous examples of how local ordinances have been changed to facilitate urban agriculture, check out the article from Ethical Foods, Changing Laws As Cities Make Way for Urban Agriculture, which describes positive change in the US cities of Detroit, Oakland, and San Diego (as well as not-so-positive laws in New Zealand).

Policy action: Change local ordinances that limit urban agriculture.

Despite their many benefits, urban agriculture projects can be blocked by well-intentioned local ordinances. Changing these can help spread urban agriculture to more communities.

Get started

Get inspired

  • For numerous examples of how local ordinances have been changed to facilitate urban agriculture, check out the article from Ethical Foods, Changing Laws As Cities Make Way for Urban Agriculture, which describes positive change in the US cities of Detroit, Oakland, and San Diego (as well as not-so-positive laws in New Zealand).
Promote car-free towns and cities.
Expand Action
Promote car-free towns and cities.

Car-oriented development – roads, shopping malls, big box stores, suburbia, etc. – is environmentally, economically and socially destructive and inimical to strong, vibrant, human-scale local communities. Get involved in the movement to re-orient planning around people, not cars.

Take Action

  • Check out this toolkit by the Carfree Cities Alliance that includes "information, advice, ideas bank, how-to's and more, designed to guide practitioners in running car-free related campaigns, projects, events and programs," on strategies ranging from traffic-calmed streets, to pleasant neighborhoods, all the way to car-free cities.
  • Learn how to make a street car-free with this guide from Shareable.
  • For local government officials and citizens alike, use this compact guide from C40 Knowledge Hub on how to achieve a walking and cycling transformation in your city, highlighting the most impactful and effective policy changes and success stories from around the world.
  • Read Making Cities More Livable: Ideas and Action, by Debra Efroymson and Ruhan Shama, on how to transition to well-designed cities that are made for people rather than for profit and machines.
  • In the US, advocate for policies at all levels of government to promote walking-friendly communities with these actions from America Walks, and join their Walking College, a "leadership program open to anyone in North America looking to hone their skills and knowledge around creating vibrant, safe, accessible communities for all people."

Get inspired

Promote car-free towns and cities.

Car-oriented development – roads, shopping malls, big box stores, suburbia, etc. – is environmentally, economically and socially destructive and inimical to strong, vibrant, human-scale local communities. Get involved in the movement to re-orient planning around people, not cars.

Take Action

  • Check out this toolkit by the Carfree Cities Alliance that includes "information, advice, ideas bank, how-to's and more, designed to guide practitioners in running car-free related campaigns, projects, events and programs," on strategies ranging from traffic-calmed streets, to pleasant neighborhoods, all the way to car-free cities.
  • Learn how to make a street car-free with this guide from Shareable.
  • For local government officials and citizens alike, use this compact guide from C40 Knowledge Hub on how to achieve a walking and cycling transformation in your city, highlighting the most impactful and effective policy changes and success stories from around the world.
  • Read Making Cities More Livable: Ideas and Action, by Debra Efroymson and Ruhan Shama, on how to transition to well-designed cities that are made for people rather than for profit and machines.
  • In the US, advocate for policies at all levels of government to promote walking-friendly communities with these actions from America Walks, and join their Walking College, a "leadership program open to anyone in North America looking to hone their skills and knowledge around creating vibrant, safe, accessible communities for all people."

Get inspired

Policy action: Advocate for public banks.
Expand Action
Policy action: Advocate for public banks.

In many countries, the central bank – which has the power to create money and determine interest rates – is owned at least in part by the public. But in others – most notably the US – the central bank is owned and run by private interests. Even states and municipalities must borrow and deposit money through the private banking sector. The movement for public banking is about advocating for banks that are dedicated not to profit maximization, but to the public interest.

Get started

Get inspired

  • North Dakota is the only state in the US with a publicly owned bank. In the 100 years since it was founded, the Bank of North Dakota has had a huge impact: the state today has nearly six times as many local financial institutions per person as the country overall; and North Dakota's smaller banks have 83 percent of the market, compared with 29 percent nationally. Learn more in the article Public Banks: the Bank of North Dakota from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Policy action: Advocate for public banks.

In many countries, the central bank – which has the power to create money and determine interest rates – is owned at least in part by the public. But in others – most notably the US – the central bank is owned and run by private interests. Even states and municipalities must borrow and deposit money through the private banking sector. The movement for public banking is about advocating for banks that are dedicated not to profit maximization, but to the public interest.

Get started

Get inspired

  • North Dakota is the only state in the US with a publicly owned bank. In the 100 years since it was founded, the Bank of North Dakota has had a huge impact: the state today has nearly six times as many local financial institutions per person as the country overall; and North Dakota's smaller banks have 83 percent of the market, compared with 29 percent nationally. Learn more in the article Public Banks: the Bank of North Dakota from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
Policy action: Ban industrial fish farms.
Expand Action
Policy action: Ban industrial fish farms.

Industrial fish farms apply the deadly logic of industrial land-based farming to the oceans, raising millions of fish and other sea organisms – some of them genetically engineered – in cramped pens, dependent on huge inputs of feed, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. These oceanic factory farms also cause terrible pollution and seriously threaten native fish populations. For the future of our oceans, they must be banned.

Take action

  • Join and support the Don’t Cage Our Ocean campaign to stop industrial ocean fish farming.
  • Urge your government officials to ban industrial fish farms as has been done in Argentina, and in Washington State in the US.
  • In the US, tell your congressional delegation to support the Keep Fin Fish Free Act to ban industrial ocean fish farms, by sending this letter from the Organic Consumers Association.

Get inspired

  • In 2018, the US state of Washington banned Atlantic salmon farming, just months after netting broke apart at a fish farm off Washington's Pacific coast, releasing as many as 250,000 Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound, posing a threat to native salmon. Read more in this NPR story.
  • In 2021 the southernmost state in Argentina, Tierra del Fuego, unanimously passed legislation banning open net salmon farming. Since the seas around Tierra del Fuego are the only Argentine region where salmon farming takes place, the law effectively banned it country-wide, making Argentina the first country to ban salmon farming. Read more in this Buenos Aires Times article.

Policy action: Ban industrial fish farms.

Industrial fish farms apply the deadly logic of industrial land-based farming to the oceans, raising millions of fish and other sea organisms – some of them genetically engineered – in cramped pens, dependent on huge inputs of feed, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. These oceanic factory farms also cause terrible pollution and seriously threaten native fish populations. For the future of our oceans, they must be banned.

Take action

  • Join and support the Don’t Cage Our Ocean campaign to stop industrial ocean fish farming.
  • Urge your government officials to ban industrial fish farms as has been done in Argentina, and in Washington State in the US.
  • In the US, tell your congressional delegation to support the Keep Fin Fish Free Act to ban industrial ocean fish farms, by sending this letter from the Organic Consumers Association.

Get inspired

  • In 2018, the US state of Washington banned Atlantic salmon farming, just months after netting broke apart at a fish farm off Washington's Pacific coast, releasing as many as 250,000 Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound, posing a threat to native salmon. Read more in this NPR story.
  • In 2021 the southernmost state in Argentina, Tierra del Fuego, unanimously passed legislation banning open net salmon farming. Since the seas around Tierra del Fuego are the only Argentine region where salmon farming takes place, the law effectively banned it country-wide, making Argentina the first country to ban salmon farming. Read more in this Buenos Aires Times article.
Policy action: Ban industrial farms.
Expand Action
Policy action: Ban industrial farms.

Big, corporate industrial farms cause ecological destruction, and are often guilty of egregious abuses of both animals and workers. Because these costs are paid by others – and because these corporate farms are so heavily subsidized by governments – they produce food at costs that are driving small-scale, agroecological farms out of business. To achieve a sustainable, just and fair future, industrial farms must be banned.

Take action

  • The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) shows you how to ban factory farms in your town through Democracy School, a free online course for building a legal case against industrial agriculture, fossil fuel extraction, and other corporate industry on the basis of the rights of nature.
  • Reach out to CELDF for free and low-cost legal and campaign support services.
  • Animals Australia describes the steps needed to end factory farming of livestock in Australia.
  • Sign this petition to ban factory farming in the UK.
  • In the US, send this message from Food & Water Watch, or this letter from the Center for Food Safety, to your member of Congress to support the Farm System Reform Act, which would ban factory farms and help them transition to smaller, environmentally sustainable operations.

Get inspired

  • The citizens of Todd Township in Pennsylvania, US, banned industrial farms from their town with help from CELDF. Read more in this article from Organic Consumers Association.
  • The government of Ecuador has included a Rights of Nature clause in its national constitution, providing a legal basis for challenging factory farms and other destructive industries on the basis of rights violations.

Policy action: Ban industrial farms.

Big, corporate industrial farms cause ecological destruction, and are often guilty of egregious abuses of both animals and workers. Because these costs are paid by others – and because these corporate farms are so heavily subsidized by governments – they produce food at costs that are driving small-scale, agroecological farms out of business. To achieve a sustainable, just and fair future, industrial farms must be banned.

Take action

  • The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) shows you how to ban factory farms in your town through Democracy School, a free online course for building a legal case against industrial agriculture, fossil fuel extraction, and other corporate industry on the basis of the rights of nature.
  • Reach out to CELDF for free and low-cost legal and campaign support services.
  • Animals Australia describes the steps needed to end factory farming of livestock in Australia.
  • Sign this petition to ban factory farming in the UK.
  • In the US, send this message from Food & Water Watch, or this letter from the Center for Food Safety, to your member of Congress to support the Farm System Reform Act, which would ban factory farms and help them transition to smaller, environmentally sustainable operations.

Get inspired

  • The citizens of Todd Township in Pennsylvania, US, banned industrial farms from their town with help from CELDF. Read more in this article from Organic Consumers Association.
  • The government of Ecuador has included a Rights of Nature clause in its national constitution, providing a legal basis for challenging factory farms and other destructive industries on the basis of rights violations.
Policy action: Shift subsidies from global to local.
Expand Action
Policy action: Shift subsidies from global to local.

Subsidies – government expenditures of public money in support of particular industries or businesses – play a major role in shaping our world, economically, politically and environmentally. Unfortunately, the vast majority of subsidies today serve to augment corporate power while undermining local economies, homogenizing cultures, and degrading the environment. Shifting the current subsidy regime – giving support to the small and local instead of the large and global – would go a long way towards solving our multiple crises.

Take action

Contact your political representatives, write opinion pieces and letters-to-the-editor, spread the word on social media, and talk to your friends and neighbors about the need to shift the subsidies that now support global corporations, so that they instead support place-based businesses, family farmers, and local communities.
Here are some examples of subsidies that need to be shifted:

  • In the USA and Europe especially, agricultural subsidies go to the largest farms growing crops for export, while small producers growing for local markets get little or nothing. According to a report by the Food and Land Use Coalition, subsidies amounting to $1 million per minute globally support agribusiness practices that are destructive of the climate, wildlife and the environment. A UN report concludes that 90% of global farm subsidies damage people and planet.
  • In most countries, energy and technology are subsidized, while human labor is heavily taxed. The result is that robots and high technology are destroying jobs, and we use ever more energy and emit ever more greenhouse gases.
  • Even with the climate emergency worsening, fossil fuel companies are still being subsidized at the rate of $5 trillion per year, 6.5% of global GDP. Learn more and get involved in stopping fossil fuel subsidies with the campaign series Stop Funding Fossils by Oil Change International.
  • To see how the US government subsidizes fossil fuels, download this factsheet from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). And sign Friends of the Earth's petition Stop Bailing Out Big Oil to put a end to those US fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Most infrastructure funding represents a hidden subsidy to large export-oriented businesses, which require globe-spanning transport and communications infrastructures. Ports and shipping terminals, airports, rail yards and multi-lane highways all provide huge benefits to global corporations, but are of much less use to local producers and marketers.
  • Publicly-funded research and development programs also selectively benefit huge corporations. For example, taxpayer money funded much of the research into biotechnology, which has resulted in billions of dollars in profits for pharmaceutical companies and GMO seed corporations. Shifting that funding to the needs of community-based health centers and small farmers would be hugely beneficial.
  • City and regional governments also heavily subsidize corporations, tilting the playing field against smaller more place-based businesses. To see how much Wal-Mart has received from state and local governments in the US, check out the interactive map produced by Wal-Mart Subsidy Watch. Or join the effort of Good Jobs First to oppose further subsidies for Amazon, the largest online retailer in the world.
  • US citizens may be surprised (and disappointed) when they discover where their tax dollars are going. Read the article Biggest corporate subsidies of the last 20 years to see how much was given to the fossil fuel, automotive and biotech industries, and to corporations like Tesla, Amazon, Intel, IBM and billionaire real estate developers.
  • Learn more about how government tax incentives are being used across the US to subsidize the biggest corporations, and policy efforts to end that practice with this resource – ‘Banning Public Subsidies for Big Retailers’ – from the Institute for Local.
  • For local elected officials, learn how to redirect public subsidies away from big corporations and towards small, local businesses in this guide from the Institute for Local Self Reliance (scroll down to 'How States and Cities Can Fight Back').

Get inspired

  • When internet behemoth Amazon announced that it would be looking for sites for its second US headquarters, cities and states around the country tried to outdo one another in offering the biggest tax breaks and fattest subsidies. The company eventually settled on two sites, including one in Queens, New York. But outraged Queens residents and even some political leaders protested against the proposed $3 billion handout to Amazon, as well as the impact on housing in the densely populated area. Eventually, Amazon withdrew its offer – a major victory for city residents and taxpayers. Read more about this successful struggle in this article in The Atlantic magazine.

Policy action: Shift subsidies from global to local.

Subsidies – government expenditures of public money in support of particular industries or businesses – play a major role in shaping our world, economically, politically and environmentally. Unfortunately, the vast majority of subsidies today serve to augment corporate power while undermining local economies, homogenizing cultures, and degrading the environment. Shifting the current subsidy regime – giving support to the small and local instead of the large and global – would go a long way towards solving our multiple crises.

Take action

Contact your political representatives, write opinion pieces and letters-to-the-editor, spread the word on social media, and talk to your friends and neighbors about the need to shift the subsidies that now support global corporations, so that they instead support place-based businesses, family farmers, and local communities.
Here are some examples of subsidies that need to be shifted:

  • In the USA and Europe especially, agricultural subsidies go to the largest farms growing crops for export, while small producers growing for local markets get little or nothing. According to a report by the Food and Land Use Coalition, subsidies amounting to $1 million per minute globally support agribusiness practices that are destructive of the climate, wildlife and the environment. A UN report concludes that 90% of global farm subsidies damage people and planet.
  • In most countries, energy and technology are subsidized, while human labor is heavily taxed. The result is that robots and high technology are destroying jobs, and we use ever more energy and emit ever more greenhouse gases.
  • Even with the climate emergency worsening, fossil fuel companies are still being subsidized at the rate of $5 trillion per year, 6.5% of global GDP. Learn more and get involved in stopping fossil fuel subsidies with the campaign series Stop Funding Fossils by Oil Change International.
  • To see how the US government subsidizes fossil fuels, download this factsheet from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). And sign Friends of the Earth's petition Stop Bailing Out Big Oil to put a end to those US fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Most infrastructure funding represents a hidden subsidy to large export-oriented businesses, which require globe-spanning transport and communications infrastructures. Ports and shipping terminals, airports, rail yards and multi-lane highways all provide huge benefits to global corporations, but are of much less use to local producers and marketers.
  • Publicly-funded research and development programs also selectively benefit huge corporations. For example, taxpayer money funded much of the research into biotechnology, which has resulted in billions of dollars in profits for pharmaceutical companies and GMO seed corporations. Shifting that funding to the needs of community-based health centers and small farmers would be hugely beneficial.
  • City and regional governments also heavily subsidize corporations, tilting the playing field against smaller more place-based businesses. To see how much Wal-Mart has received from state and local governments in the US, check out the interactive map produced by Wal-Mart Subsidy Watch. Or join the effort of Good Jobs First to oppose further subsidies for Amazon, the largest online retailer in the world.
  • US citizens may be surprised (and disappointed) when they discover where their tax dollars are going. Read the article Biggest corporate subsidies of the last 20 years to see how much was given to the fossil fuel, automotive and biotech industries, and to corporations like Tesla, Amazon, Intel, IBM and billionaire real estate developers.
  • Learn more about how government tax incentives are being used across the US to subsidize the biggest corporations, and policy efforts to end that practice with this resource – ‘Banning Public Subsidies for Big Retailers’ – from the Institute for Local.
  • For local elected officials, learn how to redirect public subsidies away from big corporations and towards small, local businesses in this guide from the Institute for Local Self Reliance (scroll down to 'How States and Cities Can Fight Back').

Get inspired

  • When internet behemoth Amazon announced that it would be looking for sites for its second US headquarters, cities and states around the country tried to outdo one another in offering the biggest tax breaks and fattest subsidies. The company eventually settled on two sites, including one in Queens, New York. But outraged Queens residents and even some political leaders protested against the proposed $3 billion handout to Amazon, as well as the impact on housing in the densely populated area. Eventually, Amazon withdrew its offer – a major victory for city residents and taxpayers. Read more about this successful struggle in this article in The Atlantic magazine.
Policy action: Oppose "free trade" agreements.
Expand Action
Policy action: Oppose "free trade" agreements.

Free trade is shorthand for the process of removing government regulations on corporate trade and investment, thereby "freeing" global corporations and banks to do business and extract profits across borders. Free trade is powered by trade and investment treaties, institutions like the World Trade Organization, and a system of arbitration courts that effectively grant more rights to corporations than to citizens or their governments. Free trade is one of the primary drivers of corporate globalization and concentration of power, and one of the most serious threats to local democracy and local economies. To achieve resilient and just localization, we must work to scrap the free trade regime, and rewrite international rules to protect local economies, cultures, and environments.

Take action

Note: the nature of political action is fluid and dynamic, and it's necessary to seize the moment. Even if particular actions below have reached completion, please check back with the organizations to participate in their latest campaigns!

  • See how-to guides on holding a town hall meeting on trade issues, organizing an event about free trade, and holding your elected officials accountable with Citizen Trade Campaign's Activist Resources (US).
  • Sign petitions and open letters for the Stop EU-Mercosur campaign, a coalition of 450 civil society organizations opposing this treaty, which puts corporate interests above the needs of people and the planet. If approved, the agreement would exacerbate social inequalities, promote extractive, export-oriented monocultures, and undermine small farm livelihoods in South America and Europe.
  • In the UK, join a local group campaigning to stop free trade deals through Global Justice Now's map of local Groups.
  • Sign Global Justice Now's petition Stop the US Trade Deal to stop an upcoming closed-door US-UK trade deal that would lower food quality standards in the UK and open up UK public services to US corporations.
  • In Australia, get involved with the Australia Fair Trade and Investment Network's campaigns against the many existing and proposed free trade treaties between Australia and other countries and regions.

Get inspired

  • In The Defeat of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MIA): National Movements Confront Globalism, Gordon Laxer tells the story of how an international citizen's movement defeated the MIA and thus "punctured the aura of corporate globalization as the inevitable direction of history."
  • The TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and other controversial EU free-trade deals were defeated by people power and activism, as described in this article by Molly Scott Cato, and this one by Nick Dearden.
  • International activism also defeated the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) as Arthur Stamoulis explains in this piece.
  • Maude Barlow describes how activism and alternative media combined to kill the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) in 2001.
  • Biswajit Dhar explains how a diverse movement of opposition including farmers and trade unionists forced India's withdrawal from the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership).
  • The video, Corporate Trade Deals: A History of Resistance, by The World Transformed, documents some of the most vibrant and successful anti-globalization movements.

Policy action: Oppose "free trade" agreements.

Free trade is shorthand for the process of removing government regulations on corporate trade and investment, thereby "freeing" global corporations and banks to do business and extract profits across borders. Free trade is powered by trade and investment treaties, institutions like the World Trade Organization, and a system of arbitration courts that effectively grant more rights to corporations than to citizens or their governments. Free trade is one of the primary drivers of corporate globalization and concentration of power, and one of the most serious threats to local democracy and local economies. To achieve resilient and just localization, we must work to scrap the free trade regime, and rewrite international rules to protect local economies, cultures, and environments.

Take action

Note: the nature of political action is fluid and dynamic, and it's necessary to seize the moment. Even if particular actions below have reached completion, please check back with the organizations to participate in their latest campaigns!

  • See how-to guides on holding a town hall meeting on trade issues, organizing an event about free trade, and holding your elected officials accountable with Citizen Trade Campaign's Activist Resources (US).
  • Sign petitions and open letters for the Stop EU-Mercosur campaign, a coalition of 450 civil society organizations opposing this treaty, which puts corporate interests above the needs of people and the planet. If approved, the agreement would exacerbate social inequalities, promote extractive, export-oriented monocultures, and undermine small farm livelihoods in South America and Europe.
  • In the UK, join a local group campaigning to stop free trade deals through Global Justice Now's map of local Groups.
  • Sign Global Justice Now's petition Stop the US Trade Deal to stop an upcoming closed-door US-UK trade deal that would lower food quality standards in the UK and open up UK public services to US corporations.
  • In Australia, get involved with the Australia Fair Trade and Investment Network's campaigns against the many existing and proposed free trade treaties between Australia and other countries and regions.

Get inspired

  • In The Defeat of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MIA): National Movements Confront Globalism, Gordon Laxer tells the story of how an international citizen's movement defeated the MIA and thus "punctured the aura of corporate globalization as the inevitable direction of history."
  • The TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and other controversial EU free-trade deals were defeated by people power and activism, as described in this article by Molly Scott Cato, and this one by Nick Dearden.
  • International activism also defeated the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) as Arthur Stamoulis explains in this piece.
  • Maude Barlow describes how activism and alternative media combined to kill the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) in 2001.
  • Biswajit Dhar explains how a diverse movement of opposition including farmers and trade unionists forced India's withdrawal from the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership).
  • The video, Corporate Trade Deals: A History of Resistance, by The World Transformed, documents some of the most vibrant and successful anti-globalization movements.
Policy action: Oppose ISDS agreements.
Expand Action
Policy action: Oppose ISDS agreements.

Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) are a global private court system where corporations can sue governments over laws or regulations that may reduce corporate profits. ISDS rulings can force governments to pay huge penalties and damages to corporations simply for having laws aimed at protecting citizens or the environment. Not only does this effectively grant corporations more rights than governments, it is an assault on local democratic decision- and rule-making, and has already had a chilling effect on enactment of public-interest laws.

Take action

Note: the nature of political action is fluid and dynamic, so it's necessary to seize the moment. Even if particular actions below have reached completion, please check back with the organizations to participate in their latest campaigns!

  • Withdraw your business from companies involved in ISDS lawsuits. Find a list of disputes through the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development's database Investment Dispute Settlement Navigator. Or check out the ISDS Case Map from Bilaterals.org, with links to information about each case.
  • Sign petitions by local and regional organizations against corporations who have initiated ISDS lawsuits in your country.
  • For European organizations, join the Stop ISDS alliance of 200 European organizations, trade unions and social movements that are campaigning against ISDS, which they describe as "a parallel, one-sided and unfair justice system for corporations.”
  • Sign this petition by Traidcraft calling for the removal of all Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) from UK trade policies.

Get inspired

  • Resistance to ISDS agreements is growing. South Africa decided that its international treaties with ISDS could undermine policies to benefit historically-disadvantaged Black South Africans after apartheid, and has begun terminating treaties that include ISDS clauses.
  • Indonesia plans to terminate 60 of its international treaties with ISDS clauses. The Brazilian Congress rejected several investment treaties because they determined that ISDS does not comply with their Constitution.

Policy action: Oppose ISDS agreements.

Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) are a global private court system where corporations can sue governments over laws or regulations that may reduce corporate profits. ISDS rulings can force governments to pay huge penalties and damages to corporations simply for having laws aimed at protecting citizens or the environment. Not only does this effectively grant corporations more rights than governments, it is an assault on local democratic decision- and rule-making, and has already had a chilling effect on enactment of public-interest laws.

Take action

Note: the nature of political action is fluid and dynamic, so it's necessary to seize the moment. Even if particular actions below have reached completion, please check back with the organizations to participate in their latest campaigns!

  • Withdraw your business from companies involved in ISDS lawsuits. Find a list of disputes through the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development's database Investment Dispute Settlement Navigator. Or check out the ISDS Case Map from Bilaterals.org, with links to information about each case.
  • Sign petitions by local and regional organizations against corporations who have initiated ISDS lawsuits in your country.
  • For European organizations, join the Stop ISDS alliance of 200 European organizations, trade unions and social movements that are campaigning against ISDS, which they describe as "a parallel, one-sided and unfair justice system for corporations.”
  • Sign this petition by Traidcraft calling for the removal of all Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) from UK trade policies.

Get inspired

  • Resistance to ISDS agreements is growing. South Africa decided that its international treaties with ISDS could undermine policies to benefit historically-disadvantaged Black South Africans after apartheid, and has begun terminating treaties that include ISDS clauses.
  • Indonesia plans to terminate 60 of its international treaties with ISDS clauses. The Brazilian Congress rejected several investment treaties because they determined that ISDS does not comply with their Constitution.
Policy action: Prioritize local suppliers in procurement decisions.
Expand Action
Policy action: Prioritize local suppliers in procurement decisions.

Institutions – governments, hospitals, schools, universities, etc. – spend enormous amounts of money each year on procuring goods like food and energy. Unfortunately, much of that spending goes to large-scale profit-driven corporate entities with no real connection to the local economy. The public procurement movement aims to redirect this massive purchasing power towards more local, resilient, fair and ecological production. Public procurement – also called ‘green purchasing’ or ‘progressive procurement’ among other names – is a powerful and effective strategy for quickly and durably shifting food and other systems towards the small and local, as well as driving other positive environmental and social changes. It is also a way to fight back against abusive corporate practices and power.

Take action

  • Change the food procurement policies of institutions in your community with example policies from the Good Food Purchasing Program (US), and PolicyLink's Local Food Procurement - Equitable Development Toolkit (US).
  • Check out the Making Spend Matter Toolkit from URBACT, a European network of cities practicing progressive procurement. Also, see how procurement is central to the 'Preston (UK) Model', in the report, How We Built Community Wealth in Preston.
  • For farmers wanting to connect with procurement programs, see ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture's Farm to Institution resources.
  • In the US, if your state does not already have a Double Up Food Bucks program that matches food stamp assistance dollars spent on fresh, locally grown food, get in touch with the Fair Food Network to learn how to bring this innovative program that boosts local farming and food security to your community.
  • If you are an employee, administrator, board member or volunteer for an institution, you can push for changes to procurement policies. Offices, schools, universities, and hospitals have all created successful programs.
  • If you are part of a community group, consider creating a campaign that focuses on pressuring particular institutions to procure food, energy, and goods from local, ethical, and sustainable sources.

Get inspired

  • The UK city of Preston has become a model for enlightened procurement policies. Read about it in this article from the European Network of Corporate Observatories (ENCO)
  • Another UK city, Manchester, analyzed its spending and then reallocated it whenever possible to towards smaller businesses in the local community. For a detailed look at Manchester's procurement policies and their impact, check out this case study from the Urban Sustainability Exchange.
  • The Odisha Millet Mission is a public procurement program instituted by the state government of Odisha, India, in collaboration with a diverse network of stakeholders in 2017 to revive and promote agroecological cultivation of highly nutritious, climate-resilient millets by incorporating them into public procurement schemes like the public distribution system (PDS). As Bindu Mohanty writes in Odisha Millet Mission: The Successes and the Challenges, the program is currently sourcing from 51,045 farmers, and by 2020 "finger millet, locally known as mandia was distributed to 1.6 million households via the PDS."
  • Cook County Good Food Purchasing Program in the Chicago region of the US, adopted the Good Food Purchasing Program as its policy in 2018, becoming the third and largest municipality in the US to do so. This aligned its food procurement policies with the core values of sustainable, equitable food systems: local sourcing, nutrition, environmental sustainability, workers’ rights, and animal welfare.
  • The Los Angeles Food Policy Council’s Good Food Purchasing Policy supports local farms, workers' rights, and kids' nutrition, as well as the broader local economy.
  • In the US city of Boston, the city council passed a groundbreaking food justice ordinance that covers everything from food workers' rights to local and sustainable food procurement to urban gardening.
  • The Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus Program in the US reimburses local farmers for donating "safe, wholesome food products" to local hunger relief efforts. In 2020-21, some 1.7 million pounds of local food was distributed to over 486,000 households in the state under the program.
  • Double Up Food Bucks is a program in many states in the US that matches the value of food assistance credits spent on healthy, fresh, locally grown food, benefiting those in need of food assistance, local farmers, and the local economy. In 2020, the program provided access to nearly 52 million pounds of fresh local food, serving about 883,000 people and benefiting some 5,000 farmers.
  • In The Next Chapter for Farm to School: Milling Whole Grains in the Cafeteria, Hannah Wallace reports that "Oregon’s legislature has been funding farm-to-school projects since 2007, when it budgeted for a permanent, full-time farm-to-school manager position. In July [2021], the legislature re-upped the Oregon Farm-to-School Grant Program, setting aside $10.2 million in funding for schools to purchase and serve Oregon-grown foods."
  • In Sweden, public sector purchasing under the Green Public Procurement policy has helped increase organic food consumption by 33% and increase organic farmland area by 16% in ten years. Read more from Urban Food Futures: In Sweden, public sector purchasing helps conversion to organic production.

Policy action: Prioritize local suppliers in procurement decisions.

Institutions – governments, hospitals, schools, universities, etc. – spend enormous amounts of money each year on procuring goods like food and energy. Unfortunately, much of that spending goes to large-scale profit-driven corporate entities with no real connection to the local economy. The public procurement movement aims to redirect this massive purchasing power towards more local, resilient, fair and ecological production. Public procurement – also called ‘green purchasing’ or ‘progressive procurement’ among other names – is a powerful and effective strategy for quickly and durably shifting food and other systems towards the small and local, as well as driving other positive environmental and social changes. It is also a way to fight back against abusive corporate practices and power.

Take action

  • Change the food procurement policies of institutions in your community with example policies from the Good Food Purchasing Program (US), and PolicyLink's Local Food Procurement - Equitable Development Toolkit (US).
  • Check out the Making Spend Matter Toolkit from URBACT, a European network of cities practicing progressive procurement. Also, see how procurement is central to the 'Preston (UK) Model', in the report, How We Built Community Wealth in Preston.
  • For farmers wanting to connect with procurement programs, see ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture's Farm to Institution resources.
  • In the US, if your state does not already have a Double Up Food Bucks program that matches food stamp assistance dollars spent on fresh, locally grown food, get in touch with the Fair Food Network to learn how to bring this innovative program that boosts local farming and food security to your community.
  • If you are an employee, administrator, board member or volunteer for an institution, you can push for changes to procurement policies. Offices, schools, universities, and hospitals have all created successful programs.
  • If you are part of a community group, consider creating a campaign that focuses on pressuring particular institutions to procure food, energy, and goods from local, ethical, and sustainable sources.

Get inspired

  • The UK city of Preston has become a model for enlightened procurement policies. Read about it in this article from the European Network of Corporate Observatories (ENCO)
  • Another UK city, Manchester, analyzed its spending and then reallocated it whenever possible to towards smaller businesses in the local community. For a detailed look at Manchester's procurement policies and their impact, check out this case study from the Urban Sustainability Exchange.
  • The Odisha Millet Mission is a public procurement program instituted by the state government of Odisha, India, in collaboration with a diverse network of stakeholders in 2017 to revive and promote agroecological cultivation of highly nutritious, climate-resilient millets by incorporating them into public procurement schemes like the public distribution system (PDS). As Bindu Mohanty writes in Odisha Millet Mission: The Successes and the Challenges, the program is currently sourcing from 51,045 farmers, and by 2020 "finger millet, locally known as mandia was distributed to 1.6 million households via the PDS."
  • Cook County Good Food Purchasing Program in the Chicago region of the US, adopted the Good Food Purchasing Program as its policy in 2018, becoming the third and largest municipality in the US to do so. This aligned its food procurement policies with the core values of sustainable, equitable food systems: local sourcing, nutrition, environmental sustainability, workers’ rights, and animal welfare.
  • The Los Angeles Food Policy Council’s Good Food Purchasing Policy supports local farms, workers' rights, and kids' nutrition, as well as the broader local economy.
  • In the US city of Boston, the city council passed a groundbreaking food justice ordinance that covers everything from food workers' rights to local and sustainable food procurement to urban gardening.
  • The Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus Program in the US reimburses local farmers for donating "safe, wholesome food products" to local hunger relief efforts. In 2020-21, some 1.7 million pounds of local food was distributed to over 486,000 households in the state under the program.
  • Double Up Food Bucks is a program in many states in the US that matches the value of food assistance credits spent on healthy, fresh, locally grown food, benefiting those in need of food assistance, local farmers, and the local economy. In 2020, the program provided access to nearly 52 million pounds of fresh local food, serving about 883,000 people and benefiting some 5,000 farmers.
  • In The Next Chapter for Farm to School: Milling Whole Grains in the Cafeteria, Hannah Wallace reports that "Oregon’s legislature has been funding farm-to-school projects since 2007, when it budgeted for a permanent, full-time farm-to-school manager position. In July [2021], the legislature re-upped the Oregon Farm-to-School Grant Program, setting aside $10.2 million in funding for schools to purchase and serve Oregon-grown foods."
  • In Sweden, public sector purchasing under the Green Public Procurement policy has helped increase organic food consumption by 33% and increase organic farmland area by 16% in ten years. Read more from Urban Food Futures: In Sweden, public sector purchasing helps conversion to organic production.
Policy action: Campaign for policies that support small businesses.
Expand Action
Policy action: Campaign for policies that support small businesses.

Too often, economic development policies are oriented towards attracting and supporting large corporate businesses – one reason that corporations have accumulated so much wealth and power at the expense of communities and local economies. But it doesn't have to be this way. Policies can be shifted to achieve the opposite end: supporting a vibrant local network of small, independent, locally-rooted, regenerative businesses that help meet real needs, reduce inequality, and keep wealth circulating locally.

Take action

Be inspired

  • Localise West Midlands in the UK is a non-profit think tank, campaign group, and consultancy working towards “local supply chains, money flow, ownership and decision-making for a more just and sustainable economy.” They work in many ways to catalyze systemic change in the West Midlands Region – from creating a local currency, to promoting the decentralization of democratic power, to supporting local businesses and farms.

Policy action: Campaign for policies that support small businesses.

Too often, economic development policies are oriented towards attracting and supporting large corporate businesses – one reason that corporations have accumulated so much wealth and power at the expense of communities and local economies. But it doesn't have to be this way. Policies can be shifted to achieve the opposite end: supporting a vibrant local network of small, independent, locally-rooted, regenerative businesses that help meet real needs, reduce inequality, and keep wealth circulating locally.

Take action

Be inspired

  • Localise West Midlands in the UK is a non-profit think tank, campaign group, and consultancy working towards “local supply chains, money flow, ownership and decision-making for a more just and sustainable economy.” They work in many ways to catalyze systemic change in the West Midlands Region – from creating a local currency, to promoting the decentralization of democratic power, to supporting local businesses and farms.
Policy action: Resist planned obsolescence.
Expand Action
Policy action: Resist planned obsolescence.

Planned obsolescence is the insidious practice of deliberately designing products to break, wear out, or stop functioning, compelling people to continually purchase replacements. Goods can also be made obsolete through technological "innovation" (such as when your computer operating system is no longer supported) or fashion (when those clothes you bought last year are suddenly "uncool"). Planned obsolescence is not only exacerbating the ecological crisis, it is also an environmental justice issue, since discarded products (full of toxic components in the case of electronics) too often end up being dumped in poor communities.  

Take action

  • Corporations make it difficult – or even illegal – for people to repair products they have purchased. Join the Right to Repair movement (US), which seeks to make it easier for people to legally repair their own goods.
  • The Repair Association (US) is leading campaigns for Right to Repair laws in several states.
  • Download a public policy guide to ending premature obsolescence in the European Union, written by the French organization Stop Planned Obsolescence (Halte à l'Obsolescence Programmée, or HOP). HOP's perspective is refreshingly broad: they critique what they call the "over-consumer society" founded on artificial desires stimulated by unscrupulous advertising and other commercial strategies. Sign their manifesto against planned obsolescence.

Get inspired

  • Thanks to a law passed in 2015, planned obsolescence – defined as deliberately reducing the life cycle of a product in order to increase its replacement rate – is illegal in France. It is punishable by a two-year prison sentence and a €300,000 fine.

Policy action: Resist planned obsolescence.

Planned obsolescence is the insidious practice of deliberately designing products to break, wear out, or stop functioning, compelling people to continually purchase replacements. Goods can also be made obsolete through technological "innovation" (such as when your computer operating system is no longer supported) or fashion (when those clothes you bought last year are suddenly "uncool"). Planned obsolescence is not only exacerbating the ecological crisis, it is also an environmental justice issue, since discarded products (full of toxic components in the case of electronics) too often end up being dumped in poor communities.  

Take action

  • Corporations make it difficult – or even illegal – for people to repair products they have purchased. Join the Right to Repair movement (US), which seeks to make it easier for people to legally repair their own goods.
  • The Repair Association (US) is leading campaigns for Right to Repair laws in several states.
  • Download a public policy guide to ending premature obsolescence in the European Union, written by the French organization Stop Planned Obsolescence (Halte à l'Obsolescence Programmée, or HOP). HOP's perspective is refreshingly broad: they critique what they call the "over-consumer society" founded on artificial desires stimulated by unscrupulous advertising and other commercial strategies. Sign their manifesto against planned obsolescence.

Get inspired

  • Thanks to a law passed in 2015, planned obsolescence – defined as deliberately reducing the life cycle of a product in order to increase its replacement rate – is illegal in France. It is punishable by a two-year prison sentence and a €300,000 fine.
Policy action: Advocate for a disposable plastic ban.
Expand Action
Policy action: Advocate for a disposable plastic ban.

Given the scale of the waste problem, we can't simply rely on individuals to change their behavior or businesses to voluntarily internalize their environmental costs. We also need to push for policies that will, in the long run, have far greater impact. Many of the most systemic policies can be found in the topic, Resist corporate globalization, but there are some valuable policy shifts regarding waste that will help lessen the problem. A ban on disposable plastics is one.

Take action

  • Plastic Pollution Coalition's Global Legislative Toolkit "provides a complete suite of resources, successful initiative examples, and strategy development options" to eliminate the global reliance on disposable packaging. The toolkit can be searched by region, or by laws and policy approaches to different plastic waste sources.
  • The Plastic Pollution Coalition has assembled activist toolkits and guides for creating campaigns and policies to ban plastics in your municipality.
  • Learn how to lobby for a single-use plastic ban in your community with Greenpeace's Not In Our Town toolkit.
  • Rise Above Plastics Activist Toolkit and Plastic Bag Law Activist Toolkit, by the Surfrider Foundation, will help you create a successful campaign to enact ordinances to ban disposable plastic bags in your town.
  • Create a Bag It Town Campaign to ban plastic bags in your town with this toolkit from the makers of the film, Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic?
  • The Columbia University Climate School offers tips for campaigners seeking to ban plastic bags.

Get inspired

  • Nilgiris District in Tamil Nadu (India) has one of the strongest disposable packaging bans in the world, covering laminated brown paper and boxes, foil, cling wrap, and much more. After banning all drinks in plastic bottles, the town installed 70 public drinking water taps to provide clean water for all. Read more about Nilgiris’ story in the Deccan Chronicle, the Times of India, and the Hindu Times.
  • The tiny island nation of Vanuatu has one of the strongest national plastics policies in the world. First to go were single-use plastic bags, drinking straws and styrofoam food containers. This was followed by a ban on disposable diapers, plastic cutlery and grocery packaging like netting and clamshell cases. Read more here.
  • Rwanda is the first African country to ban single-use plastics. The ban affects plastic bags, wrappers, containers, bottles, straws, cutlery, folders, and balloons. Even plastic duty-free bags can't be brought into the country. Read more here.
  • As part of an effort by Canada to reach zero plastic waste by 2030, the country will ban single-use plastics – bags, straws, stir sticks, and six-pack rings – by the end of 2021. Read more here.

Policy action: Advocate for a disposable plastic ban.

Given the scale of the waste problem, we can't simply rely on individuals to change their behavior or businesses to voluntarily internalize their environmental costs. We also need to push for policies that will, in the long run, have far greater impact. Many of the most systemic policies can be found in the topic, Resist corporate globalization, but there are some valuable policy shifts regarding waste that will help lessen the problem. A ban on disposable plastics is one.

Take action

  • Plastic Pollution Coalition's Global Legislative Toolkit "provides a complete suite of resources, successful initiative examples, and strategy development options" to eliminate the global reliance on disposable packaging. The toolkit can be searched by region, or by laws and policy approaches to different plastic waste sources.
  • The Plastic Pollution Coalition has assembled activist toolkits and guides for creating campaigns and policies to ban plastics in your municipality.
  • Learn how to lobby for a single-use plastic ban in your community with Greenpeace's Not In Our Town toolkit.
  • Rise Above Plastics Activist Toolkit and Plastic Bag Law Activist Toolkit, by the Surfrider Foundation, will help you create a successful campaign to enact ordinances to ban disposable plastic bags in your town.
  • Create a Bag It Town Campaign to ban plastic bags in your town with this toolkit from the makers of the film, Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic?
  • The Columbia University Climate School offers tips for campaigners seeking to ban plastic bags.

Get inspired

  • Nilgiris District in Tamil Nadu (India) has one of the strongest disposable packaging bans in the world, covering laminated brown paper and boxes, foil, cling wrap, and much more. After banning all drinks in plastic bottles, the town installed 70 public drinking water taps to provide clean water for all. Read more about Nilgiris’ story in the Deccan Chronicle, the Times of India, and the Hindu Times.
  • The tiny island nation of Vanuatu has one of the strongest national plastics policies in the world. First to go were single-use plastic bags, drinking straws and styrofoam food containers. This was followed by a ban on disposable diapers, plastic cutlery and grocery packaging like netting and clamshell cases. Read more here.
  • Rwanda is the first African country to ban single-use plastics. The ban affects plastic bags, wrappers, containers, bottles, straws, cutlery, folders, and balloons. Even plastic duty-free bags can't be brought into the country. Read more here.
  • As part of an effort by Canada to reach zero plastic waste by 2030, the country will ban single-use plastics – bags, straws, stir sticks, and six-pack rings – by the end of 2021. Read more here.
Policy action: Advocate for a shift in energy subsidies.
Expand Action
Policy action: Advocate for a shift in energy subsidies.

From nuclear and coal-fired power stations to big dams, large-scale centralized energy projects are heavily subsidized, and their environmental costs largely ignored. The necessary downscaling of energy use and the transition to decentralized, community renewables will require shifting these subsidies and policies, taking on the powerful vested interests of the corporate-controlled energy system.

Take action

  • Spread the word about how most countries subsidize energy and technology, while putting heavy taxes on human labor. These perverse priorities support job-destroying robots and AI, and lead us to use ever more energy and emit ever more greenhouse gases. Encourage policymakers to shift direction, giving support to small/local/ecological instead of large/global/environmentally destructive.
  • Even with the climate emergency worsening, fossil fuel companies are still being subsidized at the rate of $5 trillion per year, or 6.5% of global GDP. To see how the US government subsidizes fossil fuels, download this factsheet from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). And sign Friends of the Earth's petition Stop Bailing Out Big Oil to put a end to those subsidies.
  • The problem isn't limited to the US. Two reports by Oil Change International, Empty Promises and Talk is Cheap, reveal that the governments of the G20 nations spend $444 billion per year propping up oil, gas, and coal production, with devastating impacts on climate.

Policy action: Advocate for a shift in energy subsidies.

From nuclear and coal-fired power stations to big dams, large-scale centralized energy projects are heavily subsidized, and their environmental costs largely ignored. The necessary downscaling of energy use and the transition to decentralized, community renewables will require shifting these subsidies and policies, taking on the powerful vested interests of the corporate-controlled energy system.

Take action

  • Spread the word about how most countries subsidize energy and technology, while putting heavy taxes on human labor. These perverse priorities support job-destroying robots and AI, and lead us to use ever more energy and emit ever more greenhouse gases. Encourage policymakers to shift direction, giving support to small/local/ecological instead of large/global/environmentally destructive.
  • Even with the climate emergency worsening, fossil fuel companies are still being subsidized at the rate of $5 trillion per year, or 6.5% of global GDP. To see how the US government subsidizes fossil fuels, download this factsheet from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). And sign Friends of the Earth's petition Stop Bailing Out Big Oil to put a end to those subsidies.
  • The problem isn't limited to the US. Two reports by Oil Change International, Empty Promises and Talk is Cheap, reveal that the governments of the G20 nations spend $444 billion per year propping up oil, gas, and coal production, with devastating impacts on climate.
Policy action: Make access to the telecom spectrum more equitable.
Expand Action
Policy action: Make access to the telecom spectrum more equitable.

The airwaves were once considered a commons, owned by all. Today the airwaves are largely controlled by deep-pocketed corporations, governments, and the military. Making the airwaves more accessible to smaller players would loosen the grip of established telecom corporations, and expand the diversity of voices in the media.

Take action

  • To learn more, read this article on The Rise and Fall of Broadcasting as a Commons.
  • In the United States, telecom companies often buy the rights to a portion of the spectrum at auction, but only use it in densely populated areas where the financial returns are highest. So called "use-it-or-share-it" proposals call for spectrum sharing – a policy shift that would lower barriers to entry for smaller businesses. Details are in this paper by Michael Calabrese of the Open Technology Institute.
  • Although written in 2003, this Citizen's Guide to the Airwaves is still relevant today. It explains in graphic form how one of the most valuable commons has been enclosed, and what can be done about it.

Policy action: Make access to the telecom spectrum more equitable.

The airwaves were once considered a commons, owned by all. Today the airwaves are largely controlled by deep-pocketed corporations, governments, and the military. Making the airwaves more accessible to smaller players would loosen the grip of established telecom corporations, and expand the diversity of voices in the media.

Take action

  • To learn more, read this article on The Rise and Fall of Broadcasting as a Commons.
  • In the United States, telecom companies often buy the rights to a portion of the spectrum at auction, but only use it in densely populated areas where the financial returns are highest. So called "use-it-or-share-it" proposals call for spectrum sharing – a policy shift that would lower barriers to entry for smaller businesses. Details are in this paper by Michael Calabrese of the Open Technology Institute.
  • Although written in 2003, this Citizen's Guide to the Airwaves is still relevant today. It explains in graphic form how one of the most valuable commons has been enclosed, and what can be done about it.
Policy action: Rein in advertising.
Expand Action
Policy action: Rein in advertising.

Advertising - a nearly $600 billion yearly global industry - is one of the biggest drivers of consumerism, stoking artificial demand and warping preferences and perceptions towards discontentment and acquisitiveness with startling efficacy. Consumerism is wreaking environmental, social and psychological havoc, and we cannot confront it without taking on advertising. There are ways to fight back against this insidious industry, involving policy-based bans and restrictions, especially against advertising targeting children.

Take action

Get inspired

  • Both Norway and Sweden have passed laws to prohibit advertising that targets children.
  • The article The Growing Movement to End Outdoor Advertising, from Equal Times, shares about the city of Grenoble's recent ban on outdoor advertising, profiles networks of local chapters resisting advertising in France and the UK, and discusses the climate, environmental justice, and psychological impacts of landscapes plagued by advertisements.

Policy action: Rein in advertising.

Advertising - a nearly $600 billion yearly global industry - is one of the biggest drivers of consumerism, stoking artificial demand and warping preferences and perceptions towards discontentment and acquisitiveness with startling efficacy. Consumerism is wreaking environmental, social and psychological havoc, and we cannot confront it without taking on advertising. There are ways to fight back against this insidious industry, involving policy-based bans and restrictions, especially against advertising targeting children.

Take action

Get inspired

  • Both Norway and Sweden have passed laws to prohibit advertising that targets children.
  • The article The Growing Movement to End Outdoor Advertising, from Equal Times, shares about the city of Grenoble's recent ban on outdoor advertising, profiles networks of local chapters resisting advertising in France and the UK, and discusses the climate, environmental justice, and psychological impacts of landscapes plagued by advertisements.
Policy action: Ban pesticides.
Expand Action
Policy action: Ban pesticides.

The industrialized, monocultural, globalized agriculture system rests on numerous destructive practices and technologies, but arguably none worse than synthetic, toxic pesticides. There is no place for these poisons in a sane, healthy, nourishing local food future, and the only meaningful solution is to ban their production and application outright, rather than regulating warning labels or substituting one toxin for another as the industry would prefer. The below actions focus, where possible, on entire pesticide classes, but also point to campaigns to ban specific particularly harmful and ubiquitous chemicals. Note this is not an exhaustive list, but an entry point into this important sphere of activism.

Take action

Note: the nature of political action is fluid and dynamic, and it's necessary to seize the moment. Even if particular actions below have reached completion, please check back with the organizations to participate in their latest campaigns!

  • Work towards a ban on pesticide applications in your town with the help of the Pesticide-Free Towns Campaign of PAN-UK and PAN-Europe, and Beyond Pesticide's Tools for Change (US).
  • Pressure your governments to adopt the policy recommendations outlined in this position paper by Pesticide Action Network Asia-Pacific for shifting support to small-scale agroecology while eliminating dependence on pesticides in agriculture.
  • Join the campaign led by Pesticide Action Network International pushing for a global ban on Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) by signing your organization onto and using this statement (scroll to the last page), urging your governments to support a legally binding treaty for such a ban, and in the US, signing this petition to lawmakers and government officials.
  • Support campaigns by Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific to ban specific pesticides.
  • Learn about the specific harms of endocrine-disrupting pesticides from this backgrounder by Beyond Pesticides, and send this letter demanding that the US Environmental Protection Agency ban these pesticides now, to protect people and wildlife.
  • Recent scientific studies have demonstrated the urgency of banning entire classes of pesticides. Some of the most concerning are:
    • Organophosphates. This class of pesticides includes the highly controversial chlorpyrifos. Read about recent scientific calls to ban them all here and here, and in the US, urge your legislators to sponsor and support the "Protect America's Children from Toxic Pesticide Act of 2020" that would ban not only all organophosphates, but also paraquat and neonicotinoids (see next).
    • Neonicotinoids. This class of pesticides has become notorious for devastating pollinator populations.
      • In 2018, the European Union enacted a ban on 3 neonicotinoids, and later that year, France went further to place a ban on 5. Help defend, implement and expand this ban by joining Pesticide Action Network Europe's Save the Bees campaign.
      • In the UK, help ensure the EU ban continues post-Brexit with resources from the Soil Association and Friends of the Earth UK.
      • In the US, read about how legal action by the Center for Food Safety and others forced the government to withdraw 12 neonics from the market. This is a great start, but an outright ban of all neonics is needed, which is what the "Saving America's Pollinators Act" would do. Urge your legislator to support this bill today, and sign this petition by Food & Water Watch demanding that the EPA ban neonics. In the states of Vermont, Maryland, Massachusetts and Connecticut, activist pressure has led to bans on consumer uses of neonics, a great start, but not enough, as explained here by Beyond Pesticides.
      • In Canada, the government reneged on a proposal to ban neonics. Demand that the ban go forward by signing this letter to parliament, by the David Suzuki Foundation.
  • The toxic herbicide glyphosate has already been banned or restricted in numerous countries and municipalities. Learn why this chemical is so dangerous and why a global ban is urgently needed in Carey Gillam's book, Whitewash, and in this mythbuster by PAN-UK.
    • Despite bold bans by countries like Luxembourg and The Netherlands, a Europe-wide ban is needed. Urge the EU to ban glyphosate with this petition by SumOfUs, and sign this petition to support Austria's proposed ban.
    • In early 2021, Mexico moved to ban glyphosate, but this bold action is under threat from US trade officials and chemical companies using free trade provisions (see the Policy action: Oppose "free trade" agreements under the 'Business' sector of this guide). Defend the ban against this pressure by signing this petition from Greenpeace Mexico.
    • In the US, sign this letter from Food & Water Watch demanding that regulatory agencies ban glyphosate, as well as another widely used toxic herbicide, dicamba.
  • Learn about the unconscionable practice of corporations exporting pesticides that are banned in their home countries to the global South in the documentary film, Circle of Poison, and in the report, Banned in Europe, by Public Eye and Unearthed. Take inspiration on fighting this from Public Eye, whose investigation led to a law prohibiting exports of five toxic pesticides from Switzerland (there are many more to be banned!).

Get inspired

Policy action: Ban pesticides.

The industrialized, monocultural, globalized agriculture system rests on numerous destructive practices and technologies, but arguably none worse than synthetic, toxic pesticides. There is no place for these poisons in a sane, healthy, nourishing local food future, and the only meaningful solution is to ban their production and application outright, rather than regulating warning labels or substituting one toxin for another as the industry would prefer. The below actions focus, where possible, on entire pesticide classes, but also point to campaigns to ban specific particularly harmful and ubiquitous chemicals. Note this is not an exhaustive list, but an entry point into this important sphere of activism.

Take action

Note: the nature of political action is fluid and dynamic, and it's necessary to seize the moment. Even if particular actions below have reached completion, please check back with the organizations to participate in their latest campaigns!

  • Work towards a ban on pesticide applications in your town with the help of the Pesticide-Free Towns Campaign of PAN-UK and PAN-Europe, and Beyond Pesticide's Tools for Change (US).
  • Pressure your governments to adopt the policy recommendations outlined in this position paper by Pesticide Action Network Asia-Pacific for shifting support to small-scale agroecology while eliminating dependence on pesticides in agriculture.
  • Join the campaign led by Pesticide Action Network International pushing for a global ban on Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) by signing your organization onto and using this statement (scroll to the last page), urging your governments to support a legally binding treaty for such a ban, and in the US, signing this petition to lawmakers and government officials.
  • Support campaigns by Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific to ban specific pesticides.
  • Learn about the specific harms of endocrine-disrupting pesticides from this backgrounder by Beyond Pesticides, and send this letter demanding that the US Environmental Protection Agency ban these pesticides now, to protect people and wildlife.
  • Recent scientific studies have demonstrated the urgency of banning entire classes of pesticides. Some of the most concerning are:
    • Organophosphates. This class of pesticides includes the highly controversial chlorpyrifos. Read about recent scientific calls to ban them all here and here, and in the US, urge your legislators to sponsor and support the "Protect America's Children from Toxic Pesticide Act of 2020" that would ban not only all organophosphates, but also paraquat and neonicotinoids (see next).
    • Neonicotinoids. This class of pesticides has become notorious for devastating pollinator populations.
      • In 2018, the European Union enacted a ban on 3 neonicotinoids, and later that year, France went further to place a ban on 5. Help defend, implement and expand this ban by joining Pesticide Action Network Europe's Save the Bees campaign.
      • In the UK, help ensure the EU ban continues post-Brexit with resources from the Soil Association and Friends of the Earth UK.
      • In the US, read about how legal action by the Center for Food Safety and others forced the government to withdraw 12 neonics from the market. This is a great start, but an outright ban of all neonics is needed, which is what the "Saving America's Pollinators Act" would do. Urge your legislator to support this bill today, and sign this petition by Food & Water Watch demanding that the EPA ban neonics. In the states of Vermont, Maryland, Massachusetts and Connecticut, activist pressure has led to bans on consumer uses of neonics, a great start, but not enough, as explained here by Beyond Pesticides.
      • In Canada, the government reneged on a proposal to ban neonics. Demand that the ban go forward by signing this letter to parliament, by the David Suzuki Foundation.
  • The toxic herbicide glyphosate has already been banned or restricted in numerous countries and municipalities. Learn why this chemical is so dangerous and why a global ban is urgently needed in Carey Gillam's book, Whitewash, and in this mythbuster by PAN-UK.
    • Despite bold bans by countries like Luxembourg and The Netherlands, a Europe-wide ban is needed. Urge the EU to ban glyphosate with this petition by SumOfUs, and sign this petition to support Austria's proposed ban.
    • In early 2021, Mexico moved to ban glyphosate, but this bold action is under threat from US trade officials and chemical companies using free trade provisions (see the Policy action: Oppose "free trade" agreements under the 'Business' sector of this guide). Defend the ban against this pressure by signing this petition from Greenpeace Mexico.
    • In the US, sign this letter from Food & Water Watch demanding that regulatory agencies ban glyphosate, as well as another widely used toxic herbicide, dicamba.
  • Learn about the unconscionable practice of corporations exporting pesticides that are banned in their home countries to the global South in the documentary film, Circle of Poison, and in the report, Banned in Europe, by Public Eye and Unearthed. Take inspiration on fighting this from Public Eye, whose investigation led to a law prohibiting exports of five toxic pesticides from Switzerland (there are many more to be banned!).

Get inspired

Policy action: Ban GMO seeds and crops.
Expand Action
Policy action: Ban GMO seeds and crops.

GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds and crops have been developed and deployed principally by transnational agrichemical corporations, with traits that create dependency on agricultural chemicals produced and sold by the same corporations, which has led to dramatic increases in chemical applications in places where GMOs dominate agriculture. Further, GMO seeds and crops undermine local seed and food sovereignty, agrobiodiversity, and agroecological production methods in favor of industrial and large-scale methods, increasing corporate control. For these reasons and more, small-scale organic farmers organizations around the world are working to ban these products of increased corporate control of agriculture and food.

Get started

Get inspired

Policy action: Ban GMO seeds and crops.

GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds and crops have been developed and deployed principally by transnational agrichemical corporations, with traits that create dependency on agricultural chemicals produced and sold by the same corporations, which has led to dramatic increases in chemical applications in places where GMOs dominate agriculture. Further, GMO seeds and crops undermine local seed and food sovereignty, agrobiodiversity, and agroecological production methods in favor of industrial and large-scale methods, increasing corporate control. For these reasons and more, small-scale organic farmers organizations around the world are working to ban these products of increased corporate control of agriculture and food.

Get started

Get inspired