A friend sent me a link to the Locallectual web site, along with a suggestion (or was that a hint?) that I blog about it. I’ll admit that upon seeing the term, I wasn’t very inclined to agree with my friend, but after poking around the site for a bit ... well, here I am.
My initial response was curiosity as to the name, so I first visited the “who we are” page in hopes of gaining an understanding. Here’s a summary:
[I]n our mind it refers to someone who has the intellect and the drive to shop local, buy local, eat local, and support local businesses and the local economy. ....
[W]e’re the first to proudly call ourselves Locallectuals. We’re forward thinking, we’re smart, and we’re tired of being disappointed by country of origin labels. We know that there’s power in what we buy, and we’re looking to harness that influence to benefit local economies–and more importantly, the planet.
It seems to me there is an inherent contradiction in pursuing a localist strategy while espousing a goal of benefitting the planet (however one might conceive of accomplishing that). Moving on in the overview, I went to the “locallectual terminology” page. A few bits from it (emphasis in original):
locatecture: a style of architecture which provides a strong counterpoint to globalism, built by utilizing local skills and materials, in a way that responds to local climate, manifests local mems, and embodies local stories
slow design: a style of design in which the time is taken to do things well, responsibly, with local components, and in a way that allows the designer, the artisan, and the end user to take pleasure from it.
agro-tourism: a type of eco-tourism which allows visitors to experience agricultural life first-hand.
locasexual: a person who chooses to date sustainably by dating someone who lives in their region, avoiding the carbon output of frequent air travel related to a long-distance relationship
And, showing that they can play the fear-mongering role too, a few snippets from the “why buy local?” page (formatting from original; hyperlinks not included):
CAN HELP TO HEAL THE PLANET: combat global climate change by decreasing your carbon footprint.
IS OFTENTIMES SAFER: Many countries that produce enormous amounts of consumer goods have less than stringent safety standard for the products they produce.
OFTEN MEANS FEWER CHEMICALS: Local produce grown on a small scale is often safer to eat as small farms tend to be less aggressive than large factory farms with chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides. Also, fruits and vegetables from overseas may have been produced in countries with weaker environmental standards
IS A SAFER FOOD SYSTEM IN THE EVENT OF A NATIONAL EMERGENCY: The decentralization of the food system is a matter of national security.
Okay, now that I’ve dispensed with an overview, I’ll start opining. First and foremost, I have deep problems with some of the foundational positions, e.g. that current changes in climate are primarily manmade, and that they are threatening the planet. I also have some definitional problems with their words. Since we are talking about individual actions and choices viewed at an aggregate level, who defines such terms as “local”, “often”, and “small scale”? My family currently lives in an area rich with agriculture, both plant and animal. In our explorations, I have yet to see some of the factory-type operations I’ve observed traveling across the country; yet I regularly see farmers around here spraying their fields before and after planting.
Even with the abundance available to us locally, I simply don’t see how my doing without nutmeg, or pepper, or bananas or olives or lemons is going to help anyone. What is inherently wrong about someone choosing to bring those items here, to meet the demand for them? That demand is not a new thing, by the way: it was trade, especially of spices and silk, that drove a lot of exploration of the world centuries ago. People enjoy new and unusual things. Travelers like to be able to bring some of the exotic things they experienced home to share with family and friends, and if they’re well received, will likely want to obtain more. That genie (or monster, if one prefers) ain’t going back in the bottle. I suppose the conflation of size and safety doesn’t apply to the good ol’ USSA—the largest economy in the world, and a major exporter of agricultural products.
The hubris infusing some of the statements on the Locallectual site amuses me. One might think that quality and care taken in thinking and crafting simply were not possible before the localist political correctness came along. How is it that some textiles, furniture, pottery, and even complete buildings have withstood centuries to become valued heirlooms without the slow design concept guiding their creators? And the idea that agro-tourism allows tourists to “experience agricultural life first-hand” is simply laughable. A few days—or even a month—in a remote locale hardly captures the challenges, or the full rewards, of a life tied to the land. Visitors rarely (if ever) face the full spectrum of living elsewhere, primarily because their mindsets are precisely that of a visitor: they know they’ll be moving on at some point.
While I understand the focus on physical distance, the concept of “locasexuality” embodies the shallowness and narrowness of such thinking. The internet has enabled like-minded individuals from around the world to connect. How in Thor’s thundering hall can that be considered a bad thing? And, despite seeing examples of the negative effects of differently-minded individuals butting ideas that are regularly served up in the mainstream schnews, I think that there have been more benefits than problems there, too. A person who can set aside groupisms of any basis, and who can engage respectfully and thoughtfully with another respectful, thoughtful person experiences an expansion of his world that is simply not possible in an insular, closed community. Children who are exposed to a variety of cultures learn that there are many ways to accomplish a certain goal, a variety of ways of thinking, doing, and valuing; and I think that helps them grok the fundamental truth that underneath all generalizations one ultimately finds individuals—personal values, choices, decisions, and preferences.
Besides, this buttinskiness in the guise of doing good is just that: butting in to others’ lives. If Jorge and I decide to exchange coffee beans and blackberries, and we bear the costs of the transaction ourselves, how does it become someone else’s business? I am wholly uninterested in implicitly or explicitly laying a guilt trip on someone because his choices don’t align with mine—and yes, that’s what this localism nonsense seems to me to have at its base.
All my ramblings should not be taken to mean that I think everything is peachy–keen and groovy, and nothing can be improved. That’s far from the truth. The fascism [corporatism suffused with statism] masquerading as free markets is one of the deepest roots of the problem. But retreating to a hundred-mile view is not going to help kill it.
An accident of geography may be a sufficient basis on which to build a community, but I do not think it is the soundest basis. It is instructive to note that whenever mankind has developed a better means of transportation, he has quickly availed himself of it, reaching out to others—on the other side of the river, the mountain, the mountain range, the ocean, the planet. While I understand some of the concerns and fears underlying the localist movement, I think it is an unwise and ill-timed choice. Retreating into ourselves never helps us understand others, never enriches our thinking and methods and tools. This doesn’t mean I think that constant outreach is wise either; one can easily overdo it, again especially on the ‘net. Balance is good. And for me, striking that balance includes trading with others whom I find, who I think are doing good ... whether they’re 1.1 or 100.1 miles away from me.