5 July 2007

Time for trade

There are many reasons to yearn for a relocalisation of our economies. Beyond the immediate importance of reducing the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the pointless transport of goods across vast distances when those goods could be made domestically, there is also the building of community that emerges when we engage in economic relationships, and the increased awareness of our environment that comes when we use its resources to meet our needs.

Although the barriers to rebuilding local economies seem great, they are in fact mainly mental barriers. We are no more useless than our ancestors: we could make the things we use in our everyday lives. The reasons we exploit Chinese people to do this work for us, leaving them poor and ourselves alienated and unskilled is merely because we go along with the rules of this economic game. We need to step outside the game.

One important first step is to think of what we do when we make useful things as a hobby rather than a job. If we operate according to the 'time is money' mantra of capitalism we would never do anything, since it will always be cheaper to buy stuff from a corporation that employed children poverty wages to make it somewhere in the Far East.

Next we need to decide what our role will be in the new local economy. It is no good bemoaning the loss of local economies and repeating how much you would like to buy more local products. If you are not a producer as well as a consumer the local economy will not happen. Deciding whether you are to become a forestry manager or a cosmetics manufacturer is necessarily a rather intuitive process! Go with your passions, backed up by a little smart thinking about unused local resources. If your product is made from something other people locally view as waste, so much the better.

And finally, you need to exchange with others locally. The Argentinian model of the barter market is useful for this. It is something like a table-top sale but where exchange takes place in local 'money' or coupons you have produced yourself rather than in pounds sterling. This recreates the genuine markets of old, and is a fun and sociable way to buy stuff, as well as meeting our ancesteral longing for flocking and foraging!

So get creative! Get active! And most of all: get trading!