Livin' La Vida Localism

<p>In this article from <em>Metropolis</em>, dystopian author and urban critic James Howard Kunstler riffs on localism.</p>
April 7, 2008, 5am PDT | Nate Berg
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments

"At the moment, the ideas bundled under the rubric of "localism" are regarded as a lifestyle choice, which is to say a fashion statement of environmental concern, practiced by those with the time and means to follow fashions. 'Locavores'-who make a point to eat ­locally-are represented overwhelmingly by college-educated, high-income baby boomers who buy those $6 pint baskets of boutique blue potatoes at the farmers' market as much to make a statement of principle (and derive moral comfort from doing so) as to eat nutritionally sound, good-tasting food. Meanwhile, the rest of America keeps driving to the ShopRite for tubes of frozen ground round, jugs of Pepsi, and bags of Cheez Doodles made (grown?) God knows where. So the stylishly fit locavores end up looking like stuck-up moralistic snobs while the majority follows the mindless corporate programming du jour like the overstuffed lumbering TV zombies they have become. By the way, locavores also overwhelmingly drive to the farmers' market (as I have observed in my town), usually in motor vehicles the size of medieval war wagons."

Localism in this sense is very much related to the current craze for styling one's endeavors as "green." Thomas Friedman cheerleads for "green" globalism in his New York Times column while Time magazine runs "GreenCast" programs on its Web site, and all kinds of specialists design green cars, green lightbulbs, green toilets, green campuses, and green corporate headquarters (all the better for hawking those Cheez Doodles). Much of this activity can be described, to borrow a locution from public relations, as blowing green smoke up our own collective ass. Such, alas, is the sorry state of our culture nowadays that just pretending to mean well, for most people and institutions, is good enough."

"A reality-based view of all this suggests that localism and green economic practices will be taken up more broadly and earnestly only when we don't have a choice about it and can no longer manage our bad old ways. My serene personal conviction is that we are much closer to reaching that point than most Americans realize. The romance of climate change currently holds the nation's attention because it's more like a made-for-Hollywood horror-movie plot. Plus, there are a lot of secret side benefits. Will Connecticut become more like South Carolina? Surely some of the denizens of Fairfield County, Connecticut, wouldn't think that was such a bad deal. Will the grain belt move 800 miles farther north, into Canada? Very well then; Canada's our bitch anyway. Will there be more tornadoes in Nebraska? Who cares-God made the place only so movies could be shown on airplanes."

Thanks to Jon Cecil, AICP

Full Story:
Published on Monday, March 3, 2008 in Metropolis Magazine
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email