Big Picture Activism - Renewal at a Local Level

Big Picture Activism

There are countless grassroots projects already underway in our country reflecting the 'localisation' movement  and  it is reassuring to know that we are simply part of a worldwide trend in reaction to the global economic situation. 

Whether it's farmers markets, community supported agriculture, community gardens, renewable energy initiatives, buy local campaigns or climate change awareness we are, whether some of us like it or not, intrinsically linked by the Localisation movement which encompasses all of the above.

So it is reassuring to have the Localisation Movement put into words by Helena Norberg Hodge. Contrary to some of the news around Globalisation we hear,  this is good news.  

I want to share it with you in the hope you might venture further and discover what is happening out there.     

A little about the lady:

Helena Norberg Hodge is an Australian based international speaker. She  has gained a reputation as the pioneer of the local economy movement.  Her latest booklet titled Essential Steps to an economics of Happiness makes essential reading for those wanting a greater appreciation  about local food economies and for those who are keen to have their assumptions challenged.

She is author of Ancient Futures, Bringing the Food Economy Home and From the Ground Up: Rethinking Industrial Agriculture and she produced and co-directed the award winning The Economics of Happiness.  Her focus is on local economies which enable cultures to meet the modern world without sacrificing social and ecological values. 

Helena refers to Big Picture Activism and depending how deep in the woods you are, you will either be interested in knowing more or fearing knowing more.

So what is Localisation

Localisation as a noun consists of the removal of fiscal and other supports that currently favour giant transnational corporations and banks. It reduces dependence on export markets in favour of production for local needs.

It does not mean isolationism, protectionism or the elimination of trade.

Localisation as a verb enables you and your community to be more self-reliant and food secure.  It enables you to shop locally for produce and products grown or made locally, or regionally. Decreasing the distance between the producer and consumer is central to localisation.  It provides a healthier balance between local markets and monopoly dominated global markets. It encourages more ethical use of the land and the environment, stronger and healthier communities, diversity and more localised control over resources.

Localisation can obviously mean different things to different people. After all some cultures have been around longer than others with more time to create some history of culture.    

Perhaps in your neck of the woods you consider the locals as being regressive and perhaps you could convincingly argue that the shift of the youth to the city makes total sense to you.  Perhaps you consider Farmers Markets as being the threat to your local area as you may perceive they threaten your  way of life.   

Both arguments are to some extent what Norberg Hodge refers to as ‘single issue’ .

Single Issue vs Bigger Picture

Single issue gets in the way of the bigger picture. Many of us are guilty of this often with a little help from the mainstream media.  Single issues can make us impatient, wanting action now on any given pet subject whether it's plastic bags, coffee cups, clean water or animal agriculture.  We can lose the perspective if there was any.  So Norberg Hodge urges us to challenge our mental blocks, our preconceived ideas on how or why things may appear as they are. She challenges Dogma.


Dogma is a view that is based upon assumption.  Whether it is a scientific view, religious or one based upon some kind of education or training we can still make assumptions and consequently uphold beliefs which have no foundation.  

So you have got this far..

Norberg Hodge stresses the importance of acknowledging our common ground which may include accepting the negative economic influences that are behind environmental and social justice problems. 

She cites trade treaties like the TPPA, unregulated business activity which enables large transnational corporations and banks to invade and absorb the markets of smaller locally orientated businesses. taxpayer funded business subsidies, debt and deregulation of trade and finance as contributing to the ever expanding corporate rule now on a global scale.

Ignorance or Greed

Ignorance she says is  based upon the long held views (dogma. Ed)  that countries  and governments need to keep growing and expanding trade and that they have no ability to contemplate the overall impact of these actions.  

There is a blind faith in our export industry which we rely on so heavily which as an example imports 3794 tonnes of Australian tomatoes and also exports 3366 tonnes of tomatoes to Australia. Efficient trade? 

Deregulation and Free Trade

Globalisation as a noun means  the deregulation of trade and finance in order to enable businesses and banks to operate globally. It encourages the emergence of a single world market which is dominated by transnational corporations. These include banks, the corporate media and processed food corporations.

Globalisation as a verb is an economic process which ultimately leads to free trade agreements by deregulating trade and investment. It enables big businesses and banks to enter local markets and dominate worldwide.  It has been referred to as a code name for corporatization. 

The Global Community

Global Community is a term which simply means the community of the largest banks and corporations in the world. 

Globalisation encourages and enables industrial production of everything from food to fossil fuels by means of deregulation of trade, little regulation of big business and subsidies for big businesses.  It means cheap food from cheap ingredients at the expense of nutritional content and environmental damage.  It is not about local sustainable communities.

It is a given in some sectors of our community that Globalisation with its deregulation of trade and finance enables corporations to operate globally at the expense of local culture, small businesses, local communities and our environment. 

Local vs Global

The ideas behind the localisation movement seek to reshape and ultimately decentralise the economic power that the big corporations and industries hold over us in our everyday lives.  The juggernaut that is consumerism for the sake of consumerism is destroying many parts of our communities. People's access to real food and lack of knowledge about real food are small examples. 

Policy Shifts

In Europe more than 80 international networks of organisations  and individuals  oppose further deregulation of trade.  A Draft Alternative Trade Mandate was created with 193 candidates for parliament pledging to support the mandate's aims.  This included 'allowing countries, regions and communities to regulate the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services... to prioritise local and regional food systems over global agricultural trade... and to hold corporations accountable for the social and environmental impacts of their operations."   

For more  Google: Five Star Movement.

Norberg Hodge talks about communities being lost and losing their control. Yet we could easily be blind to any of this depending upon our level of awareness.

Localisation strives to take more control over the things that affect how we are able to live by offering people an alternative.  

The problem is not everyone will want this kind of change. 

Place Based Businesses

Farmers Markets are place based.

There is no tyranny of distance in the trade of food at your farmers market or purchasing  direct from your grower.

Statistics tell us that there are a significant number of jobs associated with food markets, the local area becomes food resilient, the community is diverse, the food is likely to be healthy, the farming practices likely to be sustainable, the community learns about food and the environment which in turn has to be for the good of the whole region socially, politically and environmentally.

It is indeed a win win situation. 

The number of farmers markets in the US has grown from 1,755 in 1994 to over 8,268 in 2014, and in the UK from zero in 1996 to around 750 in 2012.

A related trend is the demand for local organic food. Although big industries are tapping into this demand by growing organics on industrial scale farms, local small intensive farms are conducive to local food markets, organic methods  and diversified production for local communities.

Other consequences of locally based food economies include Farmland Trusts, Community Media without corporate sponsorship, education initiatives around local food and farming, Healthcare with a nutritional foundation and community building including community gardens.  Locally based food economies  do not include multi national food industries who rely on industrially produced ingredients and products, factory farming  and a business model reliant upon a cheap labour force. (Even though they may try and tell you otherwise).  

Local Food Connects Communities

Communities based around a healthy local food economy are more able to reclaim local democratic decision making power.  After all shouldn’t we have a say if or what multinational business set up in our region? 

Local Food Connects us with the Global

Big picture activism enables us to connect with the food we eat with how we or others live.

It encompasses how we can make a livelihood,  the condition of our environment, our country's food resilience, the state of our democracy,  the ever increasing gap between those who have and those who don’t, how we keep warm and can cook in our kitchens, the policies behind the establishing of a small business, the commercial and urban sprawl, how our land is farmed,  our food security and dependence on supermarkets, the presence of junk food chains and industrial farms who receive government subsidies, our state of health, our mental health and indigenous cultures who have lost to western influence.   

Localisation is more than just a single issue.                                                                          

It encompasses our very existence in these increasingly globalised times.


It is another given that food, something which we need every single day, is core to the Localisation movement. 

Food is proving to have the ability to connect us in more ways than we could possibly realise. 

That connection is via people power. Not to be confused with terrorism or riots.  

In fact you see it in action at your Farmers Markets throughout the world.


Local Finance, Local Business, Local energy, Local food and farming.... 

Norbeg Hodge calls for change to top down policies.  A global to local shift.

A local shift that requires diverse, local, bottom up initiatives.

Small scale steps - of which your Farmers Market is one.  


So if we were looking for a model of local renewal then you could start here.

If you want to read more you can download the whole document.


Thanks for reading

Rose  Thorne