Localisation: ‘systemic solution-multiplier’ – Helena Norberg-Hodge, extracts and link

Brief extracts from the 16 page action paper entitled Climate Change or System Change?

isec Localisation bok 2 coverThe most effective steps to reduce CO2 emissions were never discussed in Paris. Instead, delegates quibbled over piecemeal quasi-solutions while leaving the systemic root causes of the problem unchallenged.The International Alliance for Localization offers an opportunity to unite diverse single-issue campaigns across the social and environmental divide: to create a movement powerful enough to bring about a fundamental economic shift. This argument is more fully fleshed out in Localization: Essential Steps to an Economics of Happiness, Local Futures 2015.

Insufficient attention has been paid to the ways in which multinational corporations have distorted the climate debate from the beginning.

Recent headlines, for example, revealed how Exxon-Mobil steadfastly denied the reality of global warming even though internal memos reveal that the company was aware of the problem in 1981 – seven years before it became a public issue – and formulated strategies to respond to and even profit from it. Along with other fossil fuel corporations, Exxon spent millions funding scientists willing to argue that global warming is an unproven and “controversial” theory unsupported by the evidence. Corporate think tanks, lobbyists and PR firms have used more subtle and insidious strategies, many of which remain deeply ingrained in the public discourse:

Strategy 1: Blame the individual

People were told to change their light bulbs, use less hot water, inflate their tires properly, etc. – reasonable steps to be sure, but even in the aggregate hardly enough to make a dent in overall greenhouse gas emissions. Attention was deflected from its systemic causes, obscuring the role of industrial emitters of greenhouse gases. There was no mention of the advertising pressures that turn children into mindless over-consumers. There was no mention of the way the government focus on GDP encourages growth through overconsumption, nor the way our taxes are used to subsidize fossil fuels and global trade.

Strategy 2: Promote market-based solutions

Corporations have been very successful at convincing the public that free-market transactions, rather than global regulation, are the best means of reducing carbon emissions. This approach not only preserves the power of TNCs, it augments it. Carbon trading, for example, essentially gives industries the right to pollute, for a price – making the atmosphere on which all life depends a commodity that can be sold to the highest bidder.

Strategy 3: Use North-South agreements to block divisions

Giving the poor countries the right to emit more GHGs is little more than a back-door ploy to allow global corporations to continue producing, marketing and profiting from trade in goods whose manufacture entailed the burning of massive amounts of fossil fuels. Thanks to “free trade” treaties, corporations are now producing where labor is cheapest.

Five ways that globalization leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions, headings:

  1. Globalization promotes unnecessary transport
  2. Globalization promotes rampant consumerism
  3. Globalization is making the food system a major climate-changer
  4. Globalization replaces human labor with energy-intensive technologies
  5. Globalization promotes energy-intensive urbanization

Moving towards the Local

Localization is a process of economic de-centralization that enables communities, regions, and nations to take more control over their own affairs. It does not mean encouraging every community to be entirely self-reliant; it simply means shortening the distance between producers and consumers wherever possible, and striking a healthier balance between local markets and a monopoly-dominated global market.

This translates into more community gardens, more farmers’ markets, more local shops, more local finance and investment. Localization does not mean that people in cold climates are denied oranges or avocados, but that their wheat, rice or milk – in short, their basic food needs – do not travel thousands of miles when they can be produced within a fifty-mile radius. Rather than ending all long-distance trade, steps towards localization reduce unnecessary transport while strengthening and diversifying economies.

A worldwide localization movement has emerged, which – especially in the area of local food – has grown exponentially in recent years. The seeds for change have been planted at the grassroots. If governments can be persuaded to re-regulate global trade and finance, those seeds can grow, flourish and spread. Around the world, the pressure on policymakers is building. The task may seem monumental, but it’s not impossible.

Globalization is actively promoted by less than 1 % of the world’s population – the free marketeers.


The remaining 99% are ready for change. This is not only about the climate, it is about our livelihoods, our health, our children’s future.