8 key lessons towards an Economics of Happiness

To celebrate the emerging worldwide localization movement and strengthen it through more international collaboration, we look to Local is Our Future, written by founder of Local Futures Helena Norberg-Hodge.

World Localization Day is on 20th June, with a week of online events – inspiring talks, panels, activist workshops and more. In support of the local food movement, a key way to take part is through hosting a local food feast wherever you are in the world, either in person or online.

To celebrate the emerging worldwide localization movement and strengthen it through more international collaboration, we look to Local is Our Future, written by founder of Local Futures Helena Norberg-Hodge.

Imagining a very different world, here are 8 key lessons and inspirations from the book:

  1. Globalization is fundamentally an economic process

It is about deregulating trade and investment. This has been done through trade treaties that allow big businesses and banks to extract wealth from local markets worldwide – they can move in and out of national economies in search of cheap labour and resources, low taxes and places where there are little or no environmental and social protection measures. These trade treaties also enable corporations to sue governments (through Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses) if they pass policies which might hinder or reduce corporations’ ability to make a profit.

  1. The global economic system is built upon trillions of dollars of debt

All money in circulation today is backed by nothing but debt. Through the deregulation of finance, capital has become hyper-mobile, flowing in and out of nations at the click of a button. Currency and commodities markets have been turned into a global casino with speculative bets that can make billions for investors and multinational businesses. These corporations are unaccountable to any electorate. They are so big they wield more economic and political power than national governments.

  1. The costs of globalization are deep – economic, social and environmental

They include: Loss of livelihood – jobs are lost when a global corporation displaces local businesses such as small farmers. Advances in technology also mean jobs are undermined, ultimately discarding one of the most abundant natural resources: human energy and creativity. Declining health – physical and psychological. Dependence on fossil fuels, energy use through global trade, pollution, sedentary jobs, the loss of community among others are negatively impacting our wellbeing. Ecological collapse – ecosystems and biodiversity across the Earth are in sharp decline. Increased CO² emissions through global trade and wasteful transport – it’s important to note that emissions from thousands of cargo-carrying ships and planes do not appear in any nation’s carbon accounting. Erosion of democracy – decision-making has become centralized into bodies like the World Trade Organisation. Individual votes are undermined by political parties following the wishes of corporate and banking interests. Loss of food security – thousands of local crop varieties have been abandoned for a few suited to monocultural production and long-distance transport. The rise of conflict, violence and extremism – the global economic system creates artificial scarcity and pits individuals and countries against each other in cut-throat competition.

  1. Our global capitalist economic system is the underlying driver of more than environmental and social justice issues – the inhuman scale of techno-economic monoculture affects every aspect of our lives

Many people blame human nature or overpopulation for the destruction we see in our world, rather than the economy. As the global economic system has grown bigger, we can’t see what’s actually happening. Many things we purchase have criss-crossed the planet, so we’re unable to know what their impact is.

  1. Localization is a process of economic decentralization that is cultivating more empowered, more diverse and more resilient communities and democracies worldwide

Over the last few years there has been a rapid proliferation of localization projects – the localization movement is enabling diverse human values and dreams to flourish. It’s reconnecting us to each other and to the natural world. It’s regenerating community. It’s helping societies withdraw their dependence on distant, unaccountable monopolies by creating local production and systems that are small enough for us to influence. Through this we embed ourselves within a web of reciprocal relationships.

  1. Grassroots community-based projects reweave the social and economic fabric in ways that meet the needs of nature – both wild and human

Local energy is on the rise. Many towns around the world have invested in community-owned decentralized energy installations, and microgrids (interconnected networks of distributed energy producers and users) are becoming more common. Local food is one of the most inspirational movements across the planet – through community-supported agriculture projects, farmers’ markets, veg box schemes, permaculture growing principles that mimic the diversity and resilience of natural ecosystems. Community banks and credit unions allow people to invest in their neighbours and communities. Place-based education and alternative schools are recognizing the need for children to play freely, explore outdoors, interact with people of different ages and nurture curiosity.

  1. Local food is a fundamental part of localization

Practices in agroecology, holistic resource management and regenerative agriculture demonstrate how we can alleviate or even reverse the global food system’s worst impacts: biodiversity loss, soil degradation, energy depletion, toxic pollution, food insecurity and massive carbon emissions. Local food economies have a wide range of benefits:

  • Reducing the distance food travels and minimizing the need for packaging, processing and refrigeration
  • Producers sell direct to consumers, boosting community
  • Eliminating monocultures
  • Supporting the principle of diversity by favouring regionally-focused growing suited to particular climates, soils and resources
  • Small farms produce more food per acre than large-scale monocultures
  • Strengthening food security
  • Healthier more nutritionally-dense food – it’s much fresher than global food and isn’t laced with toxic chemicals through the use of pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers
  1. Localization is about bringing the economy home, to our hearts and happiness. It’s about reconnecting and promoting the small scale on a large scale

Working together we can bring about an economic shift from global to local, creating a structural basis for community and participatory cultures with stable livelihoods. Moving from the ‘I’ to the ‘we’, localization reweaves the fabric of interdependence, promoting daily contact with others and with the plants and animals around us. Localization is moving us from a fragmented and confused world dominated by almost invisible, distant economic forces towards an interconnected and diversified world that is the foundation of happy people, peaceful societies and a healthy planet.


Tasha Silva is an author currently living in Bristol, after spending time in London, Cornwall and most recently southern Spain, where she was an English teacher.

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