Here are responses to some of the common questions people have asked us – about this guide in particular, and about localization in general.
About this guide
How do I navigate through this guide?
At the heart of this guide are the action cards, each containing a suggested action with an introduction; a list of toolkits, guides, and resources; and inspiring examples from around the world. You can find these action cards in two ways:
- Theme pages (food, energy, business, etc.) contain a list of topics, a few highlighted actions, and an essay explaining how that theme fits into the big picture. Nested in the theme pages are more detailed Topics. For example, the Food theme links to pages on urban farming, food policy, wild foods, and more. Each of these pages contains Action cards, as well as audiovisual, written, and policy-related resources on the topic.
- Actor pages show actions that are suited for people working in specific settings. It's possible to take certain actions on your own, while others are most effective with a community group, in collaboration with your local government, or within an institution such as a school, hospital, or office.
Why are some important local economy themes missing?
In future updates, we intend to include resources and actions on additional themes such as education, healthcare, planning, housing, and ecology. The above subjects, and more, are essential aspects of localization that we couldn’t manage to cover in this first release.
Likewise, we intend to cover nonprofits, civil society organizations, and networks in our Actors menu, which already includes more place-based "community groups." Even though we have not yet created this page, the work these kinds of organizations do is prominently featured throughout the guide.
We’ve woven material related to climate and environmental crises throughout the guide, as we believe that reducing the scale of the global economy is key to reducing our collective ecological footprint.
Until our next site update, please visit our main Local Futures website, in particular our Planet Local and Activist Tools resources, for content on these themes. And feel free to suggest topics for the next update of the guide using our Suggestion Form (see below).
How can I suggest something to add?
We plan to add new content in 2022 to cover additional aspects of localization, and to continue improving the current content. We’d love for you to be part of that process! If you have ideas for new themes, topics, and actions, or you know of toolkits, guides, and examples you think we should include, please let us know via our Suggestion Form. (Please report bugs or broken links here, too.)
We will periodically review submissions as part of our regular updates, and we’ll try to include as many as possible within the limited space of our guide.
In the meantime, we encourage you to share about your projects on the International Alliance for Localization and/or by tagging us on social media.
Why are there no photos?
The internet generates around 4% of global carbon emissions, more than the airline industry, and is growing by around 5% per year.
Low-carbon web design promotes access for all by enabling the website to load quickly on mobile phones and by people with limited internet bandwidth, and is an act of solidarity for the climate and biosphere. Our design studio Hey Low chose not to embed photos or videos because they greatly increase the financial and ecological cost of digital information exchange; the value added by multimedia content is often not worth it.
We are currently working out ways we can add beautiful, meaningful images to the Action cards while keeping the website’s ecological footprint as low as possible.
To learn more, read the article How to Revise Our Consuming Love Affair with Electronics by Katie Singer, and take action to minimize your digital footprint with the toolkit Digital Declutter for Businesses from Wholegrain Digital.
Why are most of your resources from the Global North?
For starters, and with full disclosure, the Local Futures team who wrote this guide are all based in the US. Many examples are drawn from Local Futures’ networks, and reflect our staff's familiarity with certain geographic regions – the US, UK, India, Australia, and Indonesia, among others. For the resources we found on search engines, results tended to be from or about the US because search engine results are biased based on country (see the Search Atlas project to learn more).
Second, to a large degree, the need for and existence of written, online guides, toolkits, reports, videos, etc. – the majority of the resources in this guide – is most prominent in regions where the global economy has made the deepest inroads. Cultures that are still largely self-reliant have less need for guidance on economic localization. And, in these settings, the dissemination of alternative ideas and practices does not rely as much on written guides, much less ones that exist only in cyberspace.
Finally, because this guide is written in English, it draws primarily upon English-language resources, which also biases it towards regions where English is (for various reasons rooted in colonialism) a dominant language of instruction and official use. Please see the next question for more on this point.
Nevertheless, precisely because of the rapid pace and spread of corporate globalization, consumer culture, and the like, we believe that the resources included in this guide can be valuable to activists all over the world, if they are adapted to place-based contexts. We have consciously selected actions with broad relevance, and have made an effort to include as many examples as possible of initiatives in the Global South – as long as they have been written about in English, on the internet – so that readers elsewhere can also learn about and get inspired by them.
We hope that readers who are underrepresented in this guide will help us make it more geographically and culturally diverse and relevant by using our Suggestion Form.
Why is everything in English? Will you translate the guide?
This guide is written in English and draws on English-language resources not simply because that is the authors’ first language, but because that is the primary language of Local Futures’ work – even as we actively translate our materials into as many languages as possible, and have been committed since our founding to the protection and promotion of biocultural diversity. The loss of linguistic diversity, and in particular the rise to global dominance of English, is one tragic outcome of corporate globalization. We simultaneously mourn this fact and work within its reality, using that same globalized language to push back against the very process that made it dominant, and in support of the cultural, ecological, and linguistic diversity it is wiping out.
This is a difficult dilemma to resolve, and one that we are acutely aware of. Eventually we hope to work with regional partners in many parts of the world – not to simply translate this guide into local languages, but to populate it with local resources and examples – even while retaining those actions from elsewhere, including the Global North, that are becoming relevant everywhere as globalization advances. Please contact us at info [at] localfutures.org if you’d like to be part of this effort!
How do I know if a resource is applicable to my area?
We’ve tried our best to focus on toolkits and guides that are useful for a wide range of cultural contexts. Some toolkits, especially those impacted by policy, are only applicable to one or a few countries. These are marked with parentheses like (US), (UK), (India), etc.
Even with actions that are widely applicable around the world, their application in your place will be highly dependent on your context. We welcome suggested additions to the guide on our Suggestion Form, especially those that are relevant to diverse contexts.
What is localization?
Localization is a process of bringing the economy back to a human scale, by creating economic structures that enable communities to obtain more of the goods and services they need locally and regionally.
Localization starts with the economy, and its benefits go far beyond the economic: it can strengthen community cohesion, improve human health, reduce our environmental impact, lessen the power of multinational corporations and banks, close the obscene gap between rich and poor, strengthen democracy, and support both cultural and biological diversity. Localization also has psychological benefits: by creating networks of place-based relationships, it affirms the basic human need for connection to others and to the earth.
It’s important to note that localization doesn’t mean isolation. In fact, the process of rebuilding healthy local economies requires international collaboration, both to address global problems like climate change, and to scale back the rapacious power of global corporations and banks. Nor is localization about eliminating all trade. Just as cultures have done for millennia, localized communities can still export surpluses once local needs are met, and they can still import goods that can’t be produced locally.
How do I learn more about globalization and localization?
Local Futures has lots of resources for those who want to dig deeper:
- The Local Futures website is a treasure trove of information. You can find a curated bibliography of recommended books, organized by topics like Challenging Consumerism, Critiques of Globalization, Local Food vs. Global Agribusiness, and more; an extensive list of Films for Change, collated into easy-to-navigate categories; Planet Local, our curated collection of inspiring examples of localization initiatives from around the globe; and links to hundreds of activist Organizations for Change organized into categories like Corporate Power, Local Economies, Food and Agriculture, Sustainable Living, Engaged Spirituality, and much more.
- Helena Norberg-Hodge’s book Local Is Our Future provides a thorough grounding in the theory and practice of localization, as well as the many problems stemming from the increasingly globalized economy. Read an excerpt from the first chapter here.
- Our award-winning documentary film The Economics of Happiness provides an excellent overview of the global-to-local argument. You can get even more out of the film by viewing it in a group in conjunction with the Discussion Guide and Companion to the Film. This free 74-page booklet deepens the arguments and amplifies the examples in the film, and suggests questions to stimulate discussion.
- If you enjoy engaging in ongoing discussions with others, a Roots of Change Study Circle may be just the thing. The curriculum, comprised of articles, essays, and excerpts from the writings of exceptional thinkers from around the world, takes readers on an intellectual journey from indigenous cultures through to the modern era, revealing the root causes of our many crises, as well as steps towards positive transformation.
How can I connect with people around the world who are focused on localization?
Consider joining the International Alliance for Localization (IAL). This network is comprised of individuals, organizations and small businesses committed to improving their communities and local economies by shifting from global to local. Members receive regular updates on issues and events of interest, and can communicate with others via a moderated listserv. Over 1,800 people and groups from 58 different countries have joined the IAL to date.
In addition, this guide is full of links to organizations you can engage with, both to resist the onslaught of corporate capitalism, and to renew local economies and communities.